In The Spotlight
When visiting a ski resort for the first time, most people check out the trail map to plan their day. But whereas 30 years ago it was a paper map, today it is likely to be on a smartphone or computer.
For those of us who still enjoy a paper map, the good news is that the traditional printed trail maps “will always have a place in delivering guest information,” notes mapmaker and lifelong skier Gary Milliken.
A cartographer who helps us find our way on mountains from Stowe to Squaw Valley, Milliken has created trail maps for 36 ski resorts in the U.S. and another 12 worldwide. (He’s also produced some 70 maps of amusement parks, zoos, and other leisure activity resorts.)
But he doesn’t just visit and sketch an area and produce a hand-painted acrylic map the old-fashioned way.
Thanks to being introduced to Adobe Illustrator in 1993, Milliken pioneered the use of digital-based art for creating trail maps.
From Painter to Computer
After graduating Parsons School of Design (1985), Milliken was a self-employed house painter until one rainy day in 1989 he visited Sitour North America (near his New York home) and walked out with a job.
“Their map displays were hand painted and when they required updating, I would travel to the resort and on each map, handpaint the required changes. I also produced mountain renderings in pencil that were used as the reference to produce the large displays which were painted in Austria,” Milliken told SnoCountry.com.
When he saw the possibility of creating a new form of trail-map illustration by using a computer, he left Sitour, bought his first Mac, created maps for Whiteface, Gore and Mt. Van Hoevenberg (1994), and formed VistaMap.
When creating a map, Milliken uses many references, including existing maps, topographic maps, aerial photos, site plans, resort visits and talks with resort personnel. “I ski the entire mountain and take my own photos,” he noted, stressing “the value of skiing the terrain. Nothing provides the feel for the terrain and imprints the resort layout like exploring it. When I'm back at the desk doing the actual rendering this experience really helps.”
Deskwork entails using “vector graphics.” Unlike bitmap images comprised of individual pixel-driven squares that become noticeable when the image is enlarged, objects in a vector-based image are defined by algorithms that retain clarity. There is no limit to this scalability; therefore the maps can be printed at any size without loss of quality.
“These objects are further defined by adding color and in some cases additional texture — you're just adding more information to the digital ‘description’ of the object, so each object (trees, rocks, buildings, shadows, everything) remains an individual object and the description can be changed at will. Any object can be added, removed, altered in size, location, color, or orientation independently of all theother objects in the rendering,” Milliken explained.
Areas often have characteristics that make it challenging to produce the map. They can involve unique features like a trail network extending over different opposing faces like that at Mt. Baldy and Vail or major expansions like at Arapahoe Basin.
Large or small area, Milliken is proud of producing the accurately scaled maps that assist a skier in finding their way.
“The VistaMap is unique in creating a complete product that integrates the mountain rendering with all of the vital info like base facilities and services, emergency/safety info, lifts and trail ratings. By providing information that is easy to read and understand,” Milliken said he hopes to enable guests to “more easily find their way and enjoy their valuable leisure time.”
The state of Texas has long been a large market for ski and snowboard resorts across the West. So it makes sense to have a preseason expo in Dallas.
The first Mountain Time Expo & Forum will open up Oct. 19 and run through Oct. 21 at the Dallas Market Center near uptown Dallas just off I-35E.
Attendees will find 60,000 square feet covered with exhibitors representing ski and snowboard resorts, equipment and apparel manufacturers, travel experts -- plus mountain real estate agents and summertime vendors, too. And, visitors get to view the only Texas showing of legendary ski filmmaker Warren Miller’s “Face of Winter” – his 69th preseason film of his career.
In conjunction with the product show, the inaugural Mountain Time Forum will convene at nearby Hilton Garden Inn Dallas with presentations by ski and snowboard industry heavyweights to invitees from the Texas travel-trade and media markets.
"Acceptance has been phenomenal," says organizer/director Julien DuPont. "Marketers haven't had anything like this in over a decade. And we want to reflect the evolution of winter ski resorts to year-round destinations with an array of activities and adventures."
Tickets can be purchased online for $15. Friday’s session will run 5 to 10 p.m.; Saturday’s doors stay open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; and Sunday’s session runs 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Kids 12 and under get in free and can enjoy a climbing wall, skateboard demo, obstacle and more activities.
Indeed, more than a million Texans head north and west during the winter for skiing, snowboarding and other mountain sports, according to expo statistics, either by car or airpline to the mountains of New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, Idaho, California and the Pacific Northwest.
For more information on the Mountain Time Expo & Forum, click here.
Just before the 2008 recession, Grand Targhee unveiled plans for major changes to the western Wyoming resort, but they didn’t get much farther than that. Now, 10 years later, they are back.
Resort officials have brought their ambitious plans back to the U.S. Forest Service and Teton County in hopes of moving them toward approval – and, ultimately, development of both on-mountain upgrades and base area renewals.
On the mountain, those improvements for winter include new skiable terrain, five new chairlifts and two magic carpets, increased snowmaking, two restaurants and warming huts, and a permanent tubing hill. Summer visitors will also get more trails for hiking and biking, plus ziplines and canopy tours.
“(The) return rate (of visitors) to Grand Targhee Resort ranks among the highest in the nation,” the resort said in its master plan. “However, while repeat guests are evident, skier visits have barely increased in the last 10 years. This stagnation is primarily due to a lack of lodging, resort services, parking, and amenities resulting in under utilization of the mountain.”
According to the plan, Grand Targhee averages 160,000 skier-days a year, on the lower end of the scale for Western resorts.
The plans separate out between the base area and the mountain. Around the base, they call for the 120-acre “resort parcel” to built out to 450 dwellings, 150,000 square feet of commercial space, a transportation plan aimed to handle 70 percent ridership, and employee/affordable housing.
On the mountain, planned improvements include new Lift 6 -- a high-speed quad on Peaked Mountain; new Lift 7 -- a fixed grip chair on Lightning Mountain; and new Lift 8 that will run from the bottom of Sacajewea to the base area.
Located on the western slope of the Tetons nearly on the Idaho-Wyoming border, Grand Targhee opened in 1969 with two lifts and a base lodge. It has grown to four lifts serving 2,400 vertical feet – plus a reputation for light, deep powder brought on by Pacific moisture funneled through the Snake River Plain.
Picture this: having an entire ski mountain all to yourself. No lift lines, no huge crowds, fresh tracks, and familiar faces all around. That's just what skiers and riders get when they rent New York’s Plattekill Mountain for the day—exclusive mountain use for a range of purposes, from corporate events to birthday parties, or even a "sick day" from work to enjoy the snow with friends.
Plattekill has been offering private mountain rentals since 2013, but only in recent years has the idea really begun to catch on. It all started one weekday when a group of skiers arrived to ski, only to find the doors locked tight. When they asked how much it would cost to get the lifts running for them, "that's how the idea started," explains owner and General Manager, Laszlo Vajtay.
He continues, "We put a price tag on it that would allow us to cover expenses and make it worth it to open, and they took us up on it." As one can imagine, the result was a day that that group of skiers will not soon forget, and thanks to them, private mountain rentals are a reality.
The idea of renting an entire resort property has started gaining some traction with other recreational businesses throughout the U.S. However, starting at $3,500 per day for new customers, Plattekill Mountain remains one of the most affordable options offering this kind of customer experience. Guests enjoy exclusive use of the mountain, including all open ski trails and lifts. The rental fee provides up to 250 lift tickets (more available at a drastically discounted rate), optional private use of the snow tubing park, and group discounts on equipment and lessons. Plattekill’s team can also arrange custom catered meals and beverage options too, ensuring a truly unique day for each customer.
In the off-season, Plattekill Mountain is a popular location as a destination wedding venue that offers private use of the entire resort throughout the entire week leading up to the wedding (no other mountain activities or guests). Now, with winter private mountain rentals, couples can enjoy a private wedding any time of year.
Dates for the upcoming 2018-19 winter mountain rental season are filling up quickly, but customers can secure their date with a $500 deposit. The rental fee starts at $3,500, but will go up to $4,500 if booked after October 31, 2018.