Skiers and riders love to talk about the weather, and where to find the perfect storm of great snow and value tops the SnoCountry.com news for 2017.
Tons of Snow in the Sierra
It took 270 days before Mammoth Mountain reluctantly put an end to its 2016-2017 ski and snowboard season on Aug. 6.
West Editor Andy Dennison chose the Sierra’s epic winter as his top story. “Fueled by record snowfall during the regular winter season – and a large snowstorm in June – the southern California resort kept going and going and going well beyond its competitors in the West. Squaw Valley-Alpine Meadows closed down on July 15, their latest date ever.
“A series of weather systems known as atmospheric rivers blasted the Sierra Nevada this winter and even into early spring, resulting in impressive snowfall totals. During two weeks in January alone, Mammoth got 34 feet – or more than 400 inches – the deepest snowpack in 22 years for the region,” says Dennison.
Final tallies had 618 inches of snowfall at the base, and more than 800 at the summit.
Up around Lake Tahoe, some 60 feet fell during the season.
The record snowfall tamped down a five-year drought but water supplies still need a couple more average years in order to catch up.
Aspen-based consortium takes on Vail Resorts
“It took Vail Resorts nearly two decades to build a portfolio of 14 winter resorts around North America and beyond. It took a Colorado-based group less than a year to catch up," says Dennison.
He adds: “A heretofore unnamed partnership between Aspen Skiing owners the Crown family and KSL Capital Partners capped off a furious buying spree this summer with the purchase of Utah’s high-end Deer Valley – situated, conveniently, right next to Vail’s mega resort Park City Mountain. That came on the heel of a deal to buy six Intrawest resorts and a quartet in Southern California – bringing its total to 13.”
So get ready for a multi-resort season pass war to end all. Vail’s Epic Pass has been ruling the roost but now, with all those mountains under its wing, the Aspen consortium is expected to flex its financial muscle next season.
The Aspen-based joint venture now owns California resorts of Squaw Valley-Alpine Meadows, Mammoth, Snow Summit, Bear Mountain and June Mountain; Colorado’s Steamboat and Winter Park; Utah’s Deer Valley; Blue Mountain in Ontario and Mont Tremblant in Quebec; Stratton Mountain in Vermont, and Snowshoe Mountain in West Virginia -- plus the four Aspen resorts that will be run independently for the time being.
Vail Resorts has Afton Alps in Minnesota and Wilmot Mountain in Wisconsin; Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge and Keystone in Colorado; Heavenly, Kirkwood and Northstar in California; Mount Brighton in Michigan; Park City Mountain in Utah; Stowe in Vermont; Whistler Blackcomb in British Columbia; and Perisher in Australia.
And Vail comes East
The fact that Vail’s reach has spread to Vermont tops the news for the East, says East Editor Martha Wilson.
“Long considered a western phenomenon, Vail’s purchase of Stowe’s iconic slopes emphasized Vail’s big influence on the skiing and riding experience and our ability to shop around for the perfect fit.
“Epic Pass holders can now count Vermont as one of their destinations, and the Northeast is watching to see how this new pass offering will play out amidst the many other options for skiers and riders looking to maximize their time on the snow. M.A.X. Pass and Mountain Collective mountains continue to be competitive in the market, as season pass prices across the region hold steady or even drop,” says Wilson.
Whether you’re proud of your local independent ski hill or happy to have the flexibility of following the snow across the country (and the world), options continue to expand for getting on snow.
Also big news in the East, the return of the Audi FIS Women’s Alpine World Cup to Killington brought an international audience back to Vermont for the second year in a row, and once again the Beast of the East broke attendance records for an event that hadn’t been held in the east since 1991. Greeted by the roar of more than 18,000 fans on Saturday and 16,000 on Sunday at Killington, hometown favorite Mikaela Shriffin finished second in the Giant Slalom and first in the Slalom.
Jumping returns to Midwest
The Midwest continues to advance the sport of ski jumping, which was huge around the turn of the last century across the upper Midwest. Copper Peak, Michigan’s UP, is coming back to life with funding help through the state providing $1.2 million a year to fund needed renovations. A new jumping hill is being constructed near Red Wing, Minnesota, which will cost around $7 million. Both will be suitable for world-class competition. These two new facilities join two active facilities in Iron Mountain, Michigan, and Westby, Wisconsin, which will give the Heartland the most competitive jumping facilities in the Lower 48.
The historic Telemark Resort, near Cable, Wisconsin, that legend Tony Wise founded in 1947, is getting close to reopening. This was where the first American Birkebeiner, today one of the largest cross country ski races in the world, was held in 1973. The race today runs between nearby Hayward and Cable and attracts over 6,000 participants. The event is held in late February.
Otsego Ski Club the nation’s oldest active ski club formed in 1939 near Gaylord, Michigan, has decided to go public for the first time this season opening its slopes to all. The resort offers Old World lodging and facilities, four terrain parks scattered across the slopes, and five chairlifts. It overlooks the scenic Sturgeon River Valley.