I was gone last week on walkabout. Drove to visit friends in Ketchum, Idaho (including Brooke and Mike McKenna) before meeting up with friends in Deer Valley, Utah and then back home.
I hadn’t been back to Ketchum (home of Sun Valley Ski Area) in almost 15 years. Had never visited Deer Valley.
A Sun Valley ski season pass costs $2,450, so my friends Kelly and Richard Feldman are typical in how they cobble their ski seasons together.
They bought 2018/2019 Mountain Collective passes for $509 each. That gave them two days each at Sun Valley. Additional days cost 50% of retail, or approximately $90.
They had visited Jackson Hole the weekend before (also getting two complimentary days each on the Mountain Collective).
Richard is also a volunteer of the local fire department, which has two transferable passes that department volunteers and employees (and family members) can use.
He and Kelly use those passes on midweek days when they are available.
When I asked Kelly about the skier demographics at Sun Valley, she just laughed. “We’re the three youngest people on the mountain today,” she guessed. And we’re all over fifty.
For 2019-2020, however, Sun Valley announced this week that it will partner with Vail’s Epic Pass. That pricing has not been announced.
McKenna says Sun Valley is pretty tight-fisted when it comes to handing out complimentary ski passes. He’s the local director of the Chamber of Commerce but hasn’t skied for three years, in part because his kids play hockey every weekend, and in part, because he’s not one to go around begging favors.
Deer Valley is on the Ikon Pass, and it’s definitely worth a visit.
My only image of it prior to arrival was that it was a chi-chi place where they groom everything, the chi-chi image reinforced before my arrival by news of some guy suing Gwyneth Paltrow for $3.1 million for crashing into him on the slopes at … Deer Valley.
So this is what I liked about it – outside of the three-to-four feet of fresh snow.
1.) Complimentary on-mountain ski storage. When you leave for the day, they’ll store your skis for you at no charge.
2.) Terrific ski lodges with terrific food. And it doesn’t feel like a cattle call. There’s no music playing and no televisions blaring. You can sit in the lodge and enjoy the hum of actual conversation.
3.) They don’t have chip readers for your ski tickets. They use the good, old-fashioned hole punch on printed tickets. And have incredibly friendly staff managing lift lines that largely don’t exist because they limit daily ticket sales to between 7,500-8,500.
Tickets sold, in fact, are not limited due to terrain but to food-and-beverage (lodge) capacity.
It was a far superior experience to Park City/Canyons, the neighboring resort owned by Vail, where it seemed as though they had planned out the real estate first and then filled in the ski terrain. You seemingly have to travel sideways A LOT before you get to the downhill parts at Canyons.
It was instructive to drive versus fly just so … I wouldn’t hop from well-appointed mountain town to well-appointed mountain town without exposure to the flagging interior of this country.
I was a reporter at the Elko (Nev.) Daily Free Press in 1993-1994. At the time, mining was booming and seemingly everybody in town was driving a new Ford F350.
When I passed through last week, I was shocked to discover that the Casino where I used to live (I had an upstairs room at the Commercial Hotel and Casino for $150/month) was shuttered. I didn’t realize that things could get so bad where casinos could actually fold.
And on the east end of town, there was a mall whose anchor tenants included Sears and JC Penney. On Tuesday morning, there was not one car parked in front of either store, and I walked into both just to make sure they were indeed open.
And if you think Bishop has commercial vacancy issues …
Locally, there was some grumbling in regard to Mammoth’s delayed opening of upper terrain on Wednesday after Main Lodge was closed Monday and Tuesday due to the storm.
The grumbling wasn’t in the delay, per se, as a few select folks were skiing the top of the mountain. Just not the masses.
CEO Mark Brownlie explained that Wednesday was a “fulfillment” day for prizes auctioned off at the Mammoth Invitational last year. That people had bid more than $10,000 for unfettered access to the top of the mountain on a powder day, and that this was a fundraiser for local students and athletes.
In addition, the Mountain used the opportunity to shoot its own “media content.”
As Brownlie observed, “People were super-excited about the pow day, but once they knew what we were doing, they were mellow about it.”
In terms of skier visits over the past week, Brownlie said Mammoth hosted 14,000 skiers last Saturday and approximately 8,000 last Sunday despite the worsening weather.
With Main Lodge closed, Mammoth did about 3,500 skier visits combined on Monday and Tuesday before rebounding with more than 7,000 on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Mammoth’s commercial air traffic continued to lag in January.
Enplanements were off 50% in December, from 3,777 in 2017 to 1,865 in 2018. Some of this was attributed to the transition in carriers from Alaska to United.
In January, Mammoth Yosemite reported 2,574 enplanements, down 38% from the previous year’s 4,144.
If there is a silver lining, it’s that the 2,574 number is slightly above the number Mammoth did in its last snow-pocalypse year of 2017, though it is far below Mammoth Yosemite’s January record 5,766 enplanements set in 2013.
P.S. The New England Patriots were the first team since the 1972 Miami Dolphins to lose a Super Bowl one year and then win it the next year. And the first team since the 1993 Buffalo Bills to make it back to the Super Bowl after losing the previous year. Now that’s resilience, Brady Haters.