The largest ski and snowboard resort owner in the world enters its second decade of its expansion with a modest slate of on-mountain upgrades and a couple of portfolio-wide improvements.
For skiers and riders who’d like to sample some of Vail’s 14 resorts, but aren’t ready to commit to a full $939 season pass, Vail Resorts is now offering “Epic for Everyone,” a day-ticket option that puts lift access as low as $106 for a day of skiing.
The wind is blowing snow across the mountaintop. Temps are well below zero. Visibility is bad.
“This is an adventure,” said Chris Jarnot, sidestepping in his K2 skis up a narrow ridge, heading toward Crested Butte Mountain Resort’s precipitous, powdery Teocalli Bowl.
Sometimes rapid growth isn't all it's cracked up to be. Arapahoe Basin has found that to be true and, because of it, announced it will no longer be part of Vail Resort's season pass portfolio next season.
As long as the snow stays on the hill, Breckenridge has announced it will stay open through Memorial Day this season – and all seasons going forward.
The sale of the lease and operating agreement of New Hampshire’s Mount Sunapee to Vail Resorts was discussed at a public information session Wednesday night at the resort's Sunapee Lodge. Many attendees of the meeting came for reassurances that the new owners of the lease would continue stewardship of the state park’s natural resources and protection of affordable outdoor recreation.
Vail Resorts launched another salvo in the battle to own the winter destination market and a larger slice of the ski marketplace with the purchase of Vermont’s Okemo Mountain Resort, Mount Sunapee in New Hampshire, Crested Butte in Colorado and Steven Pass in Washington Monday.
Epic Pass expands your horizons. (Epic Pass/Facebook)
The initial price of $899 is the same, but there’s plenty to choose from as the major multi-resort players put their best face forward in the season pass wars.
Wilmot Mountain in the early days. (Wilmot/Facebook)
Steeps can be had with Epic Pass. (Telluride/Facebook)
Telluride has become the latest ski and snowboard resort to enter the season pass fray with the recent announcement that the southwest Colorado mountain will be part of the Epic Pass program.
Vail Resorts is working to keep Northstar snowy. (Vail Resorts/Facebook)
Vail Resorts will aggressively pursue a comprehensive sustainability commitment, called “Epic Promise for a Zero Footprint.” This undertaking commits to zero net emissions by 2030, zero waste to landfill by 2030 and zero net operating impact to forests and habitat.
The Epic Pass now offers unlimited, unrestricted access to Stowe. (Stowe/Facebook)
Vail's purchase of Stowe will mean more pass options for Eastern skiers. (Stowe)
Managing Steamboat under ASC wasn’t fun, but reviving it under Intrawest worked out. (Steamboat/Facebook)
So what’s it like to have chased the dream of a job in the ski industry?
Having worked for North America’s first-three major ski conglomerates, Chris Diamond was in a unique position to share his experiences and insights. So after retiring in 2015, he penned his 44-year ski-industry memoir, he told SnoCountry.com.
SKI INC. is a fast and fascinating read which describes not only players who shaped modern ski history but also the challenges resorts face, mistakes made, and keys to success and profitability. Add observations as to the future of skiing and how Vail Resorts came to have a dominant role as the world’s largest ski company and the insights are as instructive as they are surprisingly optimistic for skiing’s future.
From ski bum to career
A part-time bartender in Killington during college, Diamond had a short but effective stint in Killington’s marketing department working under the legendary Foster T. Chandler before service in Vietnam. In 1972, he continued his ski career as assistant to Killington Resort founder Pres Smith, which enabled him to be part of the tremendous growth of the ski area and its parent company’s acquisitions.
At the helm of Mount Snow from 1977 to 1994, Diamond then became vice president for Business Development and president of the Vermont resorts for S-K-I Ltd. He was part of the team that saw S-K-I become the first successful ski industry giant after going public in 1985.
Diamond shows how companies become successful but also notes missteps, writing: “Looking back at these early experiences at Killington and Mount Snow, there is one clear regret I have relative to their status today as regional resorts versus ‘what might have been.’ While the outside perception of the ski business insists that the core financial driver is real estate, nothing could be further from the truth. Well-run resorts make money on operations. That said, real estate is very important for destination ski resorts in that it can support or enable the strategic vision.”
His explication of being at a competitive disadvantage without a modern bed base is intriguing and his observation that “in Vermont, government is the enemy” is only part of his answer as what happened.
In 1999, Diamond became president of Steamboat under the American Skiing Company, which had purchased S-K-I to become the new largest ski company. Diamond praises founder Les Otten for his many contributions to skiing while denouncing the spending spree that cost him his company.
Steamboat’s revival under new owner Intrawest provides a look at what was then North America’s largest ski conglomerate until the bottom fell out of real estate.
The most intriguing chapter explores Vail Resorts’ amazing success. While he never worked for Vail, Diamond knew the players and offers an astute analysis that includes the ramifications of the Epic Pass and his opinion that “it’s just a matter of time” before Vail enters the Northeastern market.
SKI INC. is must reading for anyone interested in snow sports and is now available from skidiamondconsulting.com and from Amazon in January.
Future just got brighter for Whistler Blackcomb with purchase by Vail. (Whistler Blackcomb)
Holders of Vail Resorts’ Epic Pass will have to wait a season before adding another 8,000 acres to their winter portfolio, after Vail Resorts announced the purchase of Whistler Blackcomb for more than $1 billion.
Longtime Midwest Ski Areas Association (MSAA) Executive Director Chris Stoddard has stepped down after 25 years, and Amy Augustine Reents, who has been active in the Midwest ski industry for the past 25 years, has been named the new President/Executive Director.
Vail Resorts, which purchased Wilmot Mountain, located between Chicago and Milwaukee, in January, has announced that they will spend $13 million to completely transform the guest experience at one of the nation’s oldest ski areas. The ski area first opened in 1938.