The Biggest SnoCountry News Of 2016
North America's largest resort Whistler Blackcomb is now owned by Vail. (Whistler Blackcomb/Facebook)
Consolidation of ownership, ticketing and even between mountains highlighted the winter resort news of 2016 – all giving skiers and riders more bang for their buck.
West Editor Andy Dennison picked the biggest stories of the year in the West: “The biggest splash was Vail Resorts’ purchase of Whistler Backcomb in Canada, the largest resort in North America and Vail’s second acquisition outside of the United States (Australia’s Perisher was first) – increasing choices to 13 resorts for Epic Pass holders.
“More regionally, Durango (Colo.) investor James Coleman bulked up his portfolio by buying town hill Ski Hesperus and San Juan Untracked snow cat powder service. Concurrently, the PowerPass season ticket just got bigger,” says Dennison.
Dennison also notes that on the slopes, Vail installed the two-way Quicksilver Gondola to officially connect Park City Mountain with former Canyons Resort. And, Coleman opened new lifts at Purgatory, Sipapu and Arizona Snowbowl. Additionally, the Mountain Collective Pass added Telluride and Revelstoke to its consortium.
Owners were also in the news in the East. “When news hit that the Securities and Exchange Commission filed a civil suit against Jay Peak and Burke Mountain owners for numerous counts of fraud, many Jay Peak and Burke faithful wondered how it would affect operations at these resorts,” notes Editorial Director Martha Wilson.
“Fortunately, under the purview of court-appointed receiver Michael Goldberg and Leisure Resorts Hotels, Jay Peak and Burke are thriving.
“Natural snow has set up Vermont for a strong start. Jay Peak has begun working with the Doppelmayr/Garaventa Group to update the iconic Tram. The opening of the new Burke Hotel was a triumph for many who have worked hard to create a vibrant four-season resort, and Burke has been designated by the U.S. Ski Team as an Official U.S. Ski Team Development Site,” added Wilson.
As their popularity continues to grow, hopes are high that these beloved resorts find stability in the future.
Midwest Editor Mike Terrell says winter weather, or the lack of it, was again one of the top stories for the Midwest ski season. “It got off to a slow start with little snow until mid-January, which affected winter sports enthusiasts with limited choices over New Year’s holidays. The winter season also ended earlier than normal for lower Heartland ski areas.”
Weather wasn’t the only big news in the Midwest, however. “Wisconsin’s Wilmot Mountain received a $13 million upgrade, slopes and facilities, courtesy of new owner Vail,” Terrell added. “Minnesota’s Buck Hill opened North America’s largest artificial ski slope to begin the season in September. Mount Bohemia, Michigan’s UP, opened the first cat skiing operation east of the Rocky Mountains, and Boyne Highlands in Lower Michigan suffered a massive fire that took out close to half of their main hotel right before the holidays. They still managed to open and take of guests over the holidays.”
SnoCountry’s Tom Horrocks says the biggest story of the year for ski racing fans wasn’t another injury suffered by Vail’s Lindsay Vonn, or her charge toward becoming the winningest racer in history, but the return of World Cup ski racing to the Northeast for the first time in 25 years when the Audi FIS Ski World Cup circuit came to Vermont’s Killington Resort Thanksgiving weekend.
“As a bonus, fans were stoked to cheer on one of their own - Mikaela Shiffrin, who grew up in New Hampshire and attended Vermont’s Burke Mountain Academy,” says Horrocks. “In front of a huge hometown crowd and her entire family, Shiffrin shone under pressure to win the slalom at Killington, and capped off a successful weekend in the east coast that will impact ski racing in the United States for decades to come.”