April 15, 2021

Covid – NOT – Well we are feeling pretty good about the season!  Most ski resorts across North America have remained open for the duration until their planned closing dates. The exception is some resorts in British Columbia. The government in British Columbia closed Whistler/Blackcomb and several other BC resorts closed due to lack of Covid free staff (See our prior piece that outlined developments in BC – BC Resorts Close. Note also that as of this writing less than 2% of the Canadian population had been fully vaccinated and British Columbia had one of the lowest vaccination rates in Canada!) And somewhat surprisingly to us, ski related lodging has largely remained unaffected with limited Covid outbreaks. CA had very restrictive lodging limitations early in the season that drastically reduced skier visits during the holidays, but those were preventative measures that seem to have paid off.  This last weekend is closing weekend for the majority of name resorts in North America except for the diehard areas (think Killington, Snowbird and Mt. Baker for example) that always try to distinguish themselves from their brethren by extending their season into May.

VT Update – as we have reported on throughout the season, VT imposed very restrictive travel limitations during the ski season. While a tad more complicated, essentially out of state skiers were to quarantine for 14 days once they entered the state. As we have noted before, we question how many folks strictly complied with these requirements, but clearly it didn’t help the state’s ski industry. In addition, the Canadian/US border has been shut to nonessential travel for the whole season. Often French is the official language of the Jay Peak tram! Other VT areas heavily reliant on the Canadian skiers include Smuggler’s Notch and Stowe.

If there was any question of the impact of these limitations on the VT ski industry, the numbers are in. It isn’t pretty. Skiing is estimated to bring at least $1.5 billion to VT every year but early estimates indicate that Covid has taken a $100m bite out of this cash influx into VT from late last winter through this winter. See this piece from the VTDigger (a great VT news source) Brutal Year for VT Ski Industry. The VT government has tried to assist by directing over $5m in grants to the VT ski areas (with hopefully more to come), but however you slice and dice the numbers the effects of Covid on the state’s ski industry are ugly. See the VPR article Money for VT Ski Areas

Big Sky Tram Limitations – We reported recently on Arapahoe Basin limiting season passes and tickets sales for next season. We love Big Sky (minor complaint – it often needs more snow to cover up the Montana spines) and one reason is the summit tram that accesses some of the narliest lift serviced terrain in North America. But have you ever waited in THAT LINE when it is cold and windy?!?! The tram only holds 15 people so the wait can be long.  But now even the resort itself has recognized the problem and announced that beginning next winter the only pass holders that will have unlimited access to the tram without paying an additional amount will be Big Sky Gold Pass holders ($1,900 for most adults with access to Big Sky and all Ikon and Mountain Collective resorts). This means that regular season pass holders, Ikon and Mountain Collective pass holders and day ticket holders will pay up to $80 a day to access the tram. While this unfortunately seems like a step in the right direction, the bad news is that even the resort admits the lines may still be long. The GM stated in his letter to the Big Sky community – “Our goal is to improve the guest experience and get the tram line back to 30 minutes on average consistently.” But hey, once at the top the terrain is so impressive that you forget that you can no longer feel your extremities.

Saddleback Film – As you  may have noticed we at conSKIerge like ski flicks. We will preface this recommendation with a caveat – the film about Saddleback is too long (37 minutes) and tells you more than you wanted to know. Saddleback Film But stick with it. It tells of the up and down history of the ski area and the Rangeley Lakes area of Maine. And perhaps most interestingly, it tells the story of the purchase of the area by the Boston investment firm, Arctaris Impact Fund. The fund is focused on reviving the economy of the Rangeley area and providing year round employment and benefits for local workers. There is more going on here than reopening one of the iconic New England ski areas.

John Fry Film – Ok, so if you don’t have 37 minutes, how about 9.5 minutes? John Fry passed away in 2020 at the ripe old age of 90. (While we are losing many of the North American ski icons, the good news is that the ski life seems to be connected to longevity!) Even if you don’t know his name, John Fry impacted your life. He was chief editor of Ski magazine for years and eventually became involved in lead roles at Skiing and Snow Country magazines. He was also one of the founders of the NASTAR racing system. John Fry Film

conSKIerge co-founder

Kevin Dennis is a life long ski bum with a 34 year legal career on the side. Now retired, he skis 80+ days a year. While he lives in Alta UT in the winters, he has traveled extensively through skiing and has skied almost every major resort in North America (and many you have never heard of). He continues to hit the road often throughout the western United States and Canada and trips over the last several years have included ventures in British Columbia, Montana and Colorado. Whether you want to know about the behemoths like Aspen or Squaw or are interested in the road less travelled (Lost Trail Powder Mountain in Montana or Whitewater in BC anyone?), Kevin has been there, has an opinion and you will most likely have to tell him to shut up after a half hour!