Let's start at the top. The biggest news story of 2014 rolled out of Utah's Wasatch Mountains. No other news story across the nation matched it for continuing drama. It began rumbling in the spring, resonated in the courts all summer, and didn't culminate until shortly before the snow flew. Here's how SnoCountry.com's West Editor Andy Dennison describes it:
"Story of the year is unquestionably the transformation of the Wasatch – and the infusion of cash and excitement that came with it. The biggest story was Vail Resorts purchasing Park City Mountain Resort (PCMR), and unveiling plans for a lift between Park City Mountain and Canyons Resort that would create the largest ski area in America.
"Deer Valley took control of Solitude and Powdr Corp., former owner of PCMR, bought into Snowbird. Ski Utah refined its Wasatch ONE plan so that skiers and snowboarders might someday ride lifts all the way from Alta-Snowbird to Solitude-Brighton to the Park City resorts."
The Northeast’s biggest story of the year centers around the community rallying support around New Hampshire state-owned Mount Sunapee Resort’s proposed West Bowl expansion. Here's how SnoCountry.com East Editor Martha Wilson tells it:
"Citing the importance of everything from family traditions at Mount Sunapee to the economic impact of a vibrant and growing resort on the state and local economy, more than 70 percent of the comments submitted to the state were in support of the expansion. The public clearly has an interest in industry growth and is willing to put their trust in thoughtful investment and development in hopes that skiing will continue to be a dynamic and vital part of the Northeast’s economy and culture.
"Evidence for the public’s support for the ski industry can be found elsewhere, from the crowdfunding campaigns that have kept alive small mom and pop ski areas like Lost Valley in Maine, to the continuing hopes that industry legend Les Otten can revive Northern New Hampshire’s economy and bring the famed Balsams Resort in Dixville Notch back to life."
SnoCountry.com's Midwest Editor Mike Terrell was torn on the Heartland's story of the year. Ultimately, he chose the non-stop record-shattering winter weather as it affected so much of that wide ski region. Here's his take:
"The winter of 2013/14 may have brought the most snow in decades to the Heartland, breaking 100-year-old records, but it also had a downside with its stunning cold temperatures. Many ski areas closed on some of the coldest days, and cold weather made the Martin Luther King and Presidents’ Day weekends, normally huge weekends for business, challenging for many ski areas. The season started off with great promise. Many ski areas opened the earliest ever, and then the so-called Polar Vortex moved in."
What made Terrell's choice so difficult were the dual announcements this month that both Granite Peak and Lutsen Mountains in Minnesota were investing many millions of dollars into years-long expansion programs. But the weather won out.
Snowmaking along the cross-country ski trails capped SnoCountry Cross-Country Editor Roger Lohr's top newsmakers.
"While snowmaking is an old and tired story for alpine ski areas, the fact that about 40 Nordic ski areas are now employing snowmaking to cover the trails and guarantee programming is a significant story for the cross country ski world. With machine-made snow, these operations can schedule a seasonal opening and plan programs for fitness, kids, gear demoes, and more.
"When the seasonal rain or warm periods hit, the machine-made snow can withstand the weather. When cold temperatures return, the operator can make snow to cover thin areas along the trails."
The world of ski racing is always filled with high drama and certainly the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Team's exceptional medal count at Sochi, Russia in February (9 gold, 7 silver, and 12 bronze - second only to host Russians) is a more than worthy contender for competition story of the year. But...
... We at SnoCountry.com can't get past the absolutely stunning comeback over the past few weeks by alpine speed skier and American superstar Lindsey Vonn. It has to be our story of the competition year.
The Vail-based racer came back from a horrific leg injury on a training run at the 2012 World Championships and then reinjured it early last season forcing her to miss the Sochi Games. Superwoman is back. Vonn has just won consecutive downhill World Cups at Lake Louise, Canada and Val d'Isere, France and is one podium top away from tying the all-time World Cup victory count of 62.
RealSkiers.com's Jackson Hogen, whose equipment blog appears here weekly, tabs the biggest story in his realm, is the emergence of lightweight construction materials in skis. Here's his pick:
"Ski makers are always on the lookout for lightweight materials, so it’s no surprise the ski biz is among the first to industrialize grapheme, carbon that’s one atom thick and 150 times stronger than steel. For now, Head is the only brand using grapheme, but its advantages as a ski material could make it a commonplace component a decade from now. To get an idea what the future might look and feel like, I recommend both men and women take a ride on Head's Great Joy at the earliest opportunity.”
How about fashion? PCSkiGal Jill Adler, a regular blogger and feature writer at SnoCountry.com, picks those bright and bold colors as top story.
"You’re probably noticing it all ready. The slopes are adorned with color this season. Everything is bright and bold. The jewel tones, blacks, whites and reds of years past have been replaced with golden rod, pinks, royal blues, limes, and yellows. If you own a black, red or navy jacket, put it away for a couple of seasons. It’s like a fruit basket out there right now. Like placing a pineapple next to a pear, designers are using a mix of fabrics and textures to replace the crazy prints we saw over the past two seasons. Down and wool, poly and wool, poly and down."
What It Means: News in our winter world can be big, little, or in between, but if it affects you -- our readers and avid skiers and riders -- we'll bring it to you every single day of 2015. Don't miss any of it. We thank you for visiting us so often and wish you a very happy, snowy and fun-filled New Year.
Photos -- Top To Bottom: Plenty of powder at Park City Mountain Resort in December (PCMR); New Sun Bowl Express at Mt. Sunapee (Mt. Sunapee/Facebook); Wintry weather in Midwest (SnoStar); American superstar Lindsey Vonn; Head Joy Skis with grapheme; Bogner's colorful Kate D jacket (Bogner)