As we bid a fond farewell to 2018, the editors at SnoCountry take a look at the news that shaped skiing and riding at mountain resorts across North America over the year.
Early in 2018, the passing of skiing icon and former SnoCountry contributor Warren Miller was a loss felt by generations of skiers and riders who came to love his humor and genuine passion for the sport. For more than 60 years, his annual feature film inspired countless fans to hit the slopes, leaving his legacy of love of freedom and adventure.
West Editor Andy Dennison noted the expansion of the Epic and Ikon season pass reach. “Colorado-based Vail Resorts and Alterra Mountain Co. kept pace with resort purchases. Upping the Vail/Epic Pass portfolio to 20 were acquisitions of Okemo and Mount Sunapee in New England, Crested Butte in Colorado, and Washington's Stevens Pass. Alterra brought Washington's Crystal Mountain and Utah's Solitude into its Ikon Pass fold – for total of 15 resorts. Each company has begun major investments at most of its resorts,” said Dennison.
Also in the West, Dennison noted that Durango-based Mountain Capital Partners dipped into Utah to operate Nordic Valley, bringing its holdings to six resorts in the southern Rockies. Its Power Pass is now free to those 10 years or younger.
“New money funded improvements across the West, none more significant than the first high-speed, detachable lift at Taos Ski Valley, which also opened its first luxury hotel, The Blake,” added Dennison.
Amid big skiing's buying sprees and pass wars, notes East Editor Martha Wilson, smaller and independent resorts are still making skiing affordable and accessible. “Programs like Ragged’s Mission Affordable, Magic’s White Out Pass, Loon’s First Class Beginner’s Weekends, or the many kids learn-to-ski programs like Ski Vermont’s 5th Grade Passport, all make skiing and riding a sport everyone can enjoy.”
According to Midwest Editor Mike Terrell, the big news in the Heartland was the improvement of skier visits, which grew by 17-percent last season to 6.4 million visits. “That was a nice improvement over the soft 2016-17 season. Much of that improvement can be attributed to the winter weather, which provided a good start to the season and a great finish with record April snowfall across much of the region,” Terrell said.
He added, “Six ski areas managed to stay open through the first weekend of May - Boyne Mountain, Ski Brule, Mount Bohemia and Big Snow, all located in Michigan, and Granite Peak in Wisconsin and Lutsen Mountains in Minnesota. Many other ski areas were able to stay open into mid-April.”
Terrell noted that strong investment continues across Midwest ski country, including Wyndam’s partnership with Pine Mountain Ski and Golf Resort in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Detroit-based Wisconsin Resorts Inc. deal to purchase Canada’s Searchmont Resort for $2 million, and Traverse City, Michigan, city-owned ski area Hickory Hills receiving a $4.1 million facelift.