In The Spotlight
Memorial Day Weekend is the official kick-off to summer, but don't tell that to Mother Nature!
More than a dozen ski resorts are currently open, or re-opening, for Memorial Day Weekend and beyond from California, to Colorado and Vermont. Thanks to a series of storms rolling through the Western U.S., Memorial Day Weekend conditions will feel more like February than May. Mammoth Mountain has received more than 700 inches of snow at the summit this season and expects to offer skiing and riding into August. This weekend, Mammoth will have more than 40 trails open for skiing and riding, in addition to the Unbound Terrain parks where you can catch a glimpse of the more than 50 U.S. Snowboard and Freeski Team members training and dialing in tricks for the 19-20 season.
In the Tahoe Region, Squaw Valley has also received more than 700 inches of snowfall this season and will offer more than 50 open trails this weekend. Squaw is scheduled to close out the season July 7 with the Lake Tahoe Freedom Fest - a five-day festival of music, paying tribute to the 1991 concert by the Jerry Garcia Band that took place at Squaw. Plue, more music at the High Camp pool & hot tub and a free show at KT Base Bar with Paul Oakenfold and a fireworks display.
Utah's Snowbird Resort is also encroaching on the 700-inch mark too, with 690 inches of snowfall this season. The Bird has a 116-inch mid-mountain base and will be open May 25-27.
In Colorado, Aspen Mountain re-opens for Memorial Day Weekend, offering 130 acres of skiable terrain, and the start of Aspen Mountain’s summer operations with access to sightseeing and food/beverage options at the Sundeck restaurant. There will be a live DJ outside on the deck Saturday and Sunday.
The #aMAYzing season continues at Purgatory Resort in Southwest Colorado, which re-opens for Memorial Day Weekend, and conditions will be outstanding following more than a foot of snow this week. Plus, the 48th Annual Iron Horse Bicycle Classic Road Race ends at the resort on Sunday.
Arapahoe Basin will also be open this weekend, and the area nestled on the west side of Loveland Pass just announced that The Legend will remain open until at least June 9 thanks to a foot of snow this week and an 80-inch mid-mountain base. The Festival of the Brewpubs also takes place Sunday with dozens of local breweries participating and live music.
After a record-breaking winter season and an abundance of spring snowfall, Breckenridge Ski Resort plans to extend the 2018-19 ski and snowboard season for two additional weekends beyond Memorial Day. The resort will remain open daily through Memorial Day, May 27 as planned, and then will shift to a weekend schedule, offering skiing and riding on Saturdays and Sundays June 1-2 and June 8-9, weather and conditions permitting.
“It has been one of the best winter seasons I can remember during my more than 25-year career, and we are thrilled to keep it going for our guests and passholders,” said John Buhler, vice president, and chief operating officer at Breckenridge Ski Resort.
Meanwhile, in Vermont, winter and summer are colliding at Killington Resort. The ski and snowboard season is still going strong on Superstar, plus the Bike Park, Golf Course and Adventure Center will all be open too.
Utah ski resorts saw their best season ever in terms of skier days in 2018-19 with a total of 5,125,441 visits. The state also saw one of its best snow years on record, with every ski resort recording above normal amounts of The Greatest Snow on Earth.
“It was a great season to ski and ride in Utah, and our visitor numbers reflect that,” said Ski Utah President & CEO Nathan Rafferty. “Snow is a big business driver and snowfall numbers across the state were some of the best we’ve seen in recent years. Our resorts invested in programming and capital improvements to elevate experiences on and off the mountain. We also gained new visitors through expanded season pass options. This record season speaks to the strength of Utah’s ski industry and its role in winter tourism for our state.”
Utah’s skier days for 2018-19 were 12% higher than the state’s previous record of 4.58 million in 2016-17 and up 24% from the 2017-18 season. The National Ski Areas Association (NSAA) released preliminary numbers at the end of April putting the 2018-19 season as the fourth best ever on record with over 59 million skier visits nationally. All regions saw an increase in visitation, with the Rocky Mountain region setting a record of 24 million visitors.
Locals and visitors alike undoubtedly took advantage of the copious amounts of snowfall that fell throughout the season, allowing resorts to open plenty of terrain and maintain top-tier conditions. From November 15 to April 15, at least one Utah resort saw measurable snowfall on 111 days.
“One of the key factors that made this season so memorable was the consistency of snowfall,” said Evan Thayer, local forecaster for Open Snow. “Since the resorts opened, we went no more than seven days without snowfall. We also avoided long stretches of high pressure and warm temperatures, which meant that the snow quality remained high for the duration of the season.”
Utah’s ski industry is a major contributor to the state’s economy. The 2017-18 season was the state’s second-best season from an economic standpoint with $1.322 billion in total visitor spending. Out-of-state skier and snowboarder spending ($1.068 billion) resulted in the creation of more than 21,000 total jobs and $226.4 million in state and local tax revenue. Updated economic impact numbers for the 2018-19 season will be available later this summer.
Warmer temperatures usually signal the end of the ski season, but for athletes on the U.S. Ski Team, winter never truly ends and warmer temperatures mean chasing snow around the globe. The U.S. Moguls Team held their first on-snow camp at official U.S. Ski & Snowboard training site Squaw Valley, May 2-15. With 682 inches of snow so far this season, Squaw provided an ideal return to snow with perfect spring skiing conditions, allowing the team to train 12 days during the two-week camp.
The focus of this camp was skill development. “This is a chance to break down the athletes’ ski skills and rebuild them without the pressure of competition,” explained U.S. Ski & Snowboard’s Head Moguls Coach, Matt Gnoza. By analyzing last season’s scores, and training, and competition skiing videos, Gnoza and his team worked to address issues that needed tackling in the off-season.
Training days started early with an 8 a.m. lift load to take advantage of the morning conditions before the afternoon temperatures really started cooking things up. The team had access to an exclusive 250 meter moguls course next to a groomed run of the same pitch, making the transition from flat work to moguls very smooth. Skills focused on during this camp included absorption, timing and edging. After formal training, athletes took advantage of Squaw’s amazing terrain and free-skied off of the KT-22 lift.
Vermont's Killington Resort still open for skiing Skiers eager to hold on to winter hit the slopes over the weekend at Killington Resort in Vermont.
And it wasn't the final weekend for the Green Mountains ski facility.
On Saturday, the resort reported on its Facebook page that it was day 203 for the skiing season. The ski patrol even reopened some terrain on Friday after 8 inches of fresh snow fell earlier in week.