Spacin' at the Basin • live webcam
The Buzz: Ski Area News
hosted by Rick Bolger • with correspondents throughout the world
4/1/2012 Except for some lingering turns at Jay Peak, Wildcat, Sugarloaf, Sunday River, skiing in the northeast is virtually done...pleased to report that Women's Overall World Champ Lindsey Vonn will not require knee surgery, just lots of rest...Julia Mancuso got the spotlight this past week at the National Championships in Winter Park...as of today, New York's Belleayre goes under the control of the Olympic Regional Development Authority. Hopeful they don't try that dreadful wine bar they have at Whiteface...speaking of New York, the future of Oak Mountain in Speculator is up in the air right now, unsure who or if anyone will operate the hill in the future...Utah's mighty Snowbird hoping to stay open until late May, talking about going to a weekend schedule on May 18, if they make it...Colorado Ski Country says visits were down 7.4 percent this season...so where's the good news? Taos Ski Valley, which will close this weekend, is about 10,000 visitors ahead of last year....speaking of Sugarloaf, the mix-up with the EMTs and the patrol from the fatality a couple months ago has been investigated, and apparently no wrongdoing, just an unfortunate maelstrom of circumstances and confusion.
3/19/2012 With apologies to Horace Greeley...Go west, young man...two feet of fluffy stuff fell over the last 24 hrs at Snowbird and Alta...simply incredible conditions around Tahoe and the high Sierras; 19" in the last 24 reported by Sierra-at-Tahoe; even Boreal has half a foot of fresh...and our fave Arizona Snow Bowl in Flagstaff has 17" in the last 24...Taos Ski Valley got just under a foot of fresh, and it's snowing right now...notice I haven't said anything about the east...World Cup championships wrapped up in Schladming this weekend; Lindsey Vonn of course got the overall and I guess the only real story is that she fell just shy of 2000 points with 1980. Marcel Hirscher won the men's overall as well as GS; best USA on the men's side was Ted Ligety with 9th. Klaus Kroell got the DH globe, Swede Andre Myhrer got SL, Aksel Lund Svindal got SG, and Ivica Kostelic took Combined. FIS also lists season totals for that side-by-side slalom called City Event; Alexis Pinturault won that. Oddly enough 2nd place overall Beat Feuz came away from his outstanding season with no crystal. Back to the ladies, Marlies Schild won SL, Viktoria Rebensburg won GS, and Julia Mancuso took the City thing. Super Jules was also 4th in the overall. Vonn won everything else, garnering crystal globes for overall, DH, SG and Combined...With all the big snows, there's some sad news from California this weekend. A 30-year-old snowboarder died in deep snow at China Peak Mountain Resort; apparently he fell face-first and couldn't wrangle his way out for air, suffocated. Then a 54-year-old skier died at the aforementioned Sierra-at-Tahoe when he fell into a hole created by water running under the snow...and some bad news for Maryland's Wisp, hosting a cardboard derby this weekend, had 14 people in some kind of box contraption that strayed off the tubing lanes and into some pipe works. Thee adults and two children injured in the melee...and finally, 47-year-old John Denapoli of Lunenburg, Mass., was found dead on a lift at Cannon yesterday, said not to be skiing related, I'm guessing heart attack but only a guess...plenty of northeast areas banged it up this weekend, and it seems Pico will close mid week and reopen next weekend, then bang it up....even New York's Belleayre, which often goes well into April, is only operating on the upper mountain right now...my advice? go west.
Lift Tickets at Discount: This is a "clearinghouse" of sorts that many ski areas use to raise cash by selling discount tickets in advance, called Liftopia . If you haven't used this service, it is important to know for certain that you are going on a specific date. The deeply discounted tickets must be purchased in advance; generally up to two days out. The sticking point is that some ski resorts only make a limited number of tickets available to Liftopia for any given day, so they might be sold out if you wait too long...so, as soon as you are absolutely, positively sure that you will be skiing on a certain day, click this link to get deeply discounted tickets . I've used this service many times, but again, ONLY when I am absolutely certain I will be skiing on a specific date. You need to have access to a printer to print out your receipt, and you have to take identification with you to the mountain. I've knocked a third off the price of some tickets. Not every area participates, but it's well worth checking if you've got a date nailed down.
3/13/2012 -- Outlook for the rest of the season is rather grim in the east; New Jersey's Mountain Creek has shut down the lifts and is offering some hike-to terrain to placate disgruntled passholders...some snow fell over the weekend at New York's Gore and Whiteface, but temps are soaring...Pennsy's small-but-mighty Bear Creek has banged it up for the season, estimating a $3.5 million loss. The resort is currently dozing and covering its snow reserves, hoping to host a snowmobile event on March 24th...NCAA Championships this past weekend in Montana, Alpine held at Bridger Bowl and Nordic at Bohart Ranch, two terrific venues. Pleased to report that the University of Vermont Catamounts are National Champs, with University of Utah Utes second and the University of Colorado Buffs third. UVM put seven athletes on the roster of 1st Team All-Americans, which is quite impressive...biggest news out of World Cup is that Swedish great Anja Pärson is retiring after the season finals in Schladming. A two-time World Cup Overall champion, Pärson is the first ever to win World Championship gold in all five disciplines. Earlier this season I called for her retirement, but was pleased to see that "The Bomb from Tärnaby" was able to show a few brief glimpses of her former speed. We wish her a long, healthy and happy retirement. Pärson is a class act and will be missed...so the men raced this weekend and Ted Ligety won the GS in Kranska Gora; Beat Feuz maintained his tenuous lead in the overall when Hirscher DNFd the Slalom event. In other world cup news, Austrian Mario Scheiber announced that he's hanging it up at the end of the season...Olympic gold medalist Hannah Teter suffered a concussion in a half pipe snowboard competition crash at Stratton over the weekend. Teter fell upon landing a 900...and last but not least, Park City Mountain Resort is suing its next-door neighbor ski area, The Canyons. Canyons is now owned by Talisker Land Holdings LLC or something like that, which happens to own some of the land upon which PCMR operates. So they're all sort of squabbling about stuff.
3/9/2012 -- Have to start off with the biggest news in the sport, Lindsey Vonn has clinched her 4th overall world title by winning (!) a GS race in Åre Sweden this morning. Ardent race fans find this even more amazing, because Linz had never won a GS event prior to this season; fact is she never had a GS podium until last March in Spindleruv Mlyn. With just five races remaining and 554 points behind, it is mathematically impossible for Tina Maze to catch up, even if she wins all five and Vonn sits out. So anyway, back to the GS event, Italy's Federica Brignone finished 2nd with GS champ Viktoria Rebensburg 3rd. Well, Rebensburg has one race to go -- the final in Schladming -- and she would need to DNF and Vonn would have to win the race. Not likely to happen on Viktoria's home turf. and Rebensburg DNFs, Vonn would have that globe. The men meanwhile are in Kranjska Gora Slovenia, with Swiss speedster Beat Feuz holding a tenuous lead over Austria's Marcel Hirscher for the overall. Problem is the two events this weekend are SL and GS, and Feuz has no podiums for purely technical events. He is a threat to score points in the GS, however he's nursing a sore knee. Ivica Kostelic is theoretically within striking distance, if he can come back from knee surgery. I'm doubtful. Fact is, if he hadn't been injured, Kostelic would've run away with it. Before we leave the World Cup circus, have to point out that Julia Mancuso is in 6th place overall, which means that Super Jules is one of the world's best in case you didn't know. Too bad she -- and everyone else -- is skiing in Vonn's shadow right now. And one other little teeny tiny note, Resi Stiegler finished 13th in the GS race this morning in Åre. It's worth noting because Resi (rhymes with "Crazy") hasn't had a decent GS finish since 2007. If she can stay healthy, Stiegler just might put the USA back in the hunt for slalom glory. And if she doesn't, you still have to give her kudos for battling back the way she has. Keep being awesome, Resi!...halfway through the NCAA Championships has the surprising University of Vermont ahead of the University of Utah and University of Colorado...in Flagstaff the Arizona Snowbowl plans to make snow as early as next week based on their Federal approvals; they'll attempt to extend their season and I wish them much success. I don't think they've completed the pipeline to use the reclaimed water just yet. Not sure on that. Regardless, this is a good thing for the sport and for the spirit of fairness...kudos to New Hampshire's Loon Mountain, hosting the 23rd annual Kostick Kup tomorrow at 10:00am. It's a fundraiser for New England Disabled Sports, which is hosted at Loon Mountain. The event is in the memory of Lorey Kostick, an early supporter of New England Disabled Sports. 400 skiers and guests are expected this year, and we offer a very big "thank you" to all...sad to report two skiers were killed by an avalanche on Ranger Peak in Grand Teton National Park. The men were backcountry skier and blogger Steve Romeo and longtime Jackson Hole Mountain Resort employee Chris Onufer...and 18-year-old high school senior Patrick Sievert of Pewaukee died of skull fractures when he crashed into a valve shed yesterday at Copper Mountain in Colorado. Sievert was wearing a helmet...waiting to hear how a judge rules on the case of Basalt CO skier Ryan Bradley, who is suing SkiCo for an incident that occurred on the Deep Temerity chairlift at Aspen Highlands in 2010. Bradley was lined up to load the chair, but the liftees didn't notice that a metal patrol sled "jake table" was strapped to it. Bradley was in the middle of two other skiers, who dodged successfully to avoid the oncoming iron. The liftees were grilling hot dogs at the time. Bradley was struck, but seemed to shrug it off. The three men were offered "lunch" as an apology -- vouchers, not dogs -- and rode the chair. Bradley later claimed that he suffered an anterior-to-posterior tear in his shoulder, required surgery, suffered ongoing maladies, etc. SkiCo says that Bradley's waiver on the seasons pass means that they aren't liable. Bradley’s attorney says SkiCo violated the Colorado Ski Safety Act and the state’s Passenger Tramway Safety Act. Hey, if they charge a fee for the service, they've got to operate a safe lift. We'll see how the ruling comes down.
3/7/2012 -- NCAA finals get underway today in Bozeman Montana; defending champs Colorado are ranked 2nd to the University of Utah, with University of Vermont and Dartmouth right behind. Utah won the event held earlier this season at the same venue...Positive news in the industry is coincidental to my last report, when I was looking forward to visiting Magic Mountain VT. (The skiing was superb, BTW) End of last week Magic "sold" the target 333rd share in its cooperative, which means that they've raised almost a million bucks. That's going to be invested in snowmaking, mostly. If ever a ski area picked itself up by the bootstraps, Magic is it. I expect to see much bigger crowds in the future...on the opposite end of the spectrum, Vail Resorts weighs in with a net profit on the 2nd quarter of $46.4 million, down 15% from one year ago...weekend World Cup action was a two-part shocker in Ofterschwang Germany, where Canadian Erin Mielzynski topped the podium in slalom, first Canadian to win in the discipline since the Paleozoic era. Second half of the shocker was our own Resi Stiegler finishing second, her best ever and quite an achievement considering her plague of injuries in recent years. There were a couple other races we could care less about, all of which were won by Viktoria Rebensburg on her home turf. Lindsey Vonn garnered a 2nd place on Saturday, her second podium of the season in GS. Prior to this year she had a career total of zero in that discipline. Vonn is still some 500 points ahead of Tina Maze in the overall...the men were in Ringebu Norway (or something like that) notable that home boys Kjetil Jansrud and Aksel Lund Svindal finished 1-2 ahead of Swiss star Beat Feuz. Feuz is about 140 points ahead of Austrian Marcel Hirscher for the overall...speaking of Vail Resorts, interesting case involving Heavenly has hit the courts. A resident of The Netherlands, legally residing in Nevada, was allegedly clobbered by an off-duty Heavenly employee from Brazil. Ready for a shocker? The employee is a 20-year-old snowboarder. Yeah, neither was I. Anyway, the suit alleges that on February 22, 2012 the employee/boarder wacked into Elly Benschop, knocking her unconscious and leading to $75,000 in medical bills, plus all sorts of other fees and difficulties. Benschop's suit says Heavenly (a unit of Vail Resorts) should be held liable, because they lure foreign employees with free skiing, and “are not provided with liability insurance, at least not by Vail or Heavenly, so after they crash into other resort guests, seriously injuring them, and return to their home countries, the injured guests have no recourse against the foreign employees who caused the injuries.” Vail Resorts, naturally, offers no comment on the suit. Oddly enough, the incident occurred on the very same slope where another Heavenly employee snowboarded into a skier last season. That boarder was on the clock, and I believe Vail coughed up. Personally I despise our litigious society, but I have to say that a lot of people are getting mangled by out-of-control snowboarders. I was personally involved in a very close call at Gore Mountain this season. I would view a ruling against Vail Resorts as a step in the right direction -- a wake-up call that ski areas must do something about the plague of out-of-control snowboarders. Now before you go saying "there he goes again, picking on snowboarders," no, that's not the case. By speaking out against the reckless few, I am not condemning an entire sport, just as speaking out against drunk drivers is not a condemnation of the entire driving public. If police merely shrugged at the mention of drunk drivers, you'd be mighty pissed off. But when the resorts merely shrug off out-of-control kids on boards, people just accept it. Not me. The resorts accept money from these kids, and deliver them to the top of a mountain so they can careen down like a runaway train. They have to start taking responsibility for their role in the carnage.
3/2/2012 -- And so the ski areas finally have a season, well at least some of them do. But as I said yesterday, it is too little too late to turn this thing around. Hardcore skiers are but a small portion of the revenue stream, and the people who funnel in the money -- occasional skiers -- have moved on. But for the rest of us, it's good, mostly...Minnesota's mighty Lutsen Mountains has weighed in with 21" of fresh over the past couple days...same number, but in a single day, at New York's Gore Mountain which is now finally at 100% open for the first time this season...Vermont's southern monster Mount Snow has everything open but Beaver Hill, which is a quasi-connector at the base of the mountain and probably means there's construction or something odd...speaking of Vermont, here's a good time to talk about Magic Mountain, which has certainly had its ups and downs recently. Well despite the crummy season the throwback area is generally "up", light-years ahead of where they were ten years ago. Anyway, the "Magic Faithful" may not be a large group of people, but their passion for their mountain is bigger than any other on the planet. Unlike those of us who avoided this place like the plague during the down years, the ardent Magic fans held their noses and remained fiercely loyal. Now that the trend is up, they are starting to say "I told you so" and rightfully so. Take a look at this 11 second video, shot yesterday at Magic Mountain, and we'll rejoin you below...
3/2/2012, continued -- Looking around, we got 16" of fresh yesterday at Utah's unheralded Powder Mountain. But it doesn't really matter what fell yesterday, because you can still find untracked from whatever fell last week without too much effort...World Cup this weekend, ladies completed a GS this morning in Ofterschwang, no suprise that Germany's Viktoria Rebensburg topped the podium, with Slovenia's Tina Maze second and Italian Irene Curtoni third. With that finish, Maze gained a bit on Lindsey Vonn for the overall, although with a 10th for Vonn it's still a gap of close to 500 points....men are in Norway, just finished a Super G on the Kvitfjell and a victory for Beat Feuz of Switzerland. The win has put Feuz ahead of Marcel Hirscher for the overall, this will probably go down to the wire....from the newswire, New Yorkers Lawrence and Ann Cohn filed suit this week against Four Seasons Resort in Jackson Hole. The Cohns claim that rentals from the Four Seasons "inexplicably" failed to release during a "routine fall" back in 2008, which caused Mrs. Cohn's tibia to break into 40 pieces. Yikes. Remember folks, there are no golden guarantees when you click into a ski binding...and we just got word that an as yet unnamed 29 year old male skier was killed by an avalanche while skiing out-of-bounds near Alpine Meadows yesterday.
Davy Jones...we thank you for a lifetime of entertainment
3/1/2012 -- March indeed roars in like a lion...moving from left to right, in the Sierras the snowline is down to the 3,000' level, this thing is churning pow and wind and could leave as much as five feet in the upper elevations. Only real downside other than the difficult travel is that winds might get into 100 mph gusts. Alpine Meadows, Boreal, Kirkwood, Squaw Valley and Sugar Bowl are all in the 12-20" range, and that's just yesterday's totals. Sierra-at-Tahoe, Northstar, Heavenly and Homewood all got up to a foot yesterday, with Mt. Rose and Diamond Peak claiming 2-6" Wednesday...too little, too late; Mammoth just laid off 75 full-time employees...upper midwest the small but mighty Ski Brule checks in with two feet over the last 24 hrs...City of Duluth now has four of its six XC trails groomed and open. And the Chester Bowl is open, always a good sign. North of town the free Boulder Lake trails are open to skiing, but there are no classic tracks set as the groomer is on the fritz...up to a foot of snow across much of the New England areas; big winner in all this is Magic Mountain which went from having a handful of runs to being almost fully open...still snowing in Maine; places like Attitash NH finally have some legitimate tree skiing this season...even NY's Catskills got in on the action; Plattekill should be opening tomorrow with fresh tracks throughout...don't want to rain on this parade too much, but this just isn't going to be enough to turn the season around...Gunstock NH has some sort of Telefest this weekend.
2/29/2012 -- Happy Leap Day! Neglected to mention Monday that Arapahoe Basin was finally able to get the Montezuma Bowl open this weekend, at least part of it anyway. Still no East Wall...chairlift fell off the rope at Boyne Highlands over the weekend, fortunately it was only six feet off the ground when it dropped. Supposedly an instructor and young girl were on the wayward chair but Boyne Highlands manager Joe Breighner isn't saying who, only that they "take this incident very seriously" and they "wish our guests that were affected a full and speedy recovery." Now it gets even weirder: Mark Doman, manager of ski and amusement safety for the state of Michigan, with the Bureau of Commercial Services, Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs said they inspected the Camelot Lift after the incident, deemed it fit for duty or whatever it is they call it, and that was that. When asked why the chair derailed, Doman said it was caused by a misload. Then some other dude in that same bureau, a Mr. Barrington Carr, added that it was an accident and not a problem with lift integrity. At this point the crack reporters at the Petoskey News-Review asked Carr to clarify, and he responded that they could go ahead and file a request under Michigan's Freedom of Information Act. In case you missed the first Boyne spokesperson saying that they "take this incident very seriously," yesterday morning Boyne's director of communications Erin Ernst said "We are taking the incident very seriously"....speaking of weird, Aspen Mountain just got approval from Pitkin County to sell champagne off a sled on Ajax. According to SkiCo attorney David Bellack, “What we’re planning on doing is, we had constructed a portable bar that can be towed by snowcat and we are proposing to sell champagne in certain places.” It will have yellow umbrellas and a solar-powered sound system. Seriously....Maine's Sunday River offered up $29 tix today in honor of Leap Day; I'm told a few other resorts did the same...the season has had its ups and downs and I keep touting the southwest as the region that got the best snow, well I have firsthand reports that Whistler-Blackcomb is skiing spectacularly right now. Recall their dearth of snow during the Olympics a couple years back, reminds us just how up-and-down winter can be. Right now, Whistler is definitely UP....and we'll end with a respectful note that 52-year-old Cindy Mulcahy of Willow Glen CA (that's part of San Jose) died last Thursday on an intermediate run at Northstar-at-Tahoe when she jumped and landed with a very hard impact that somehow resulted in a ruptured aorta. Mulcahy was an expert skier, and past captain of her college race team. Our thoughts and prayers are with her family.
2/27/2012 -- Parts of New England finally got some real snow over the weekend, arguably the finest destination was the seldom-mentioned Saddleback in Maine, skiing on everything including the famed Muleskinner trail...Sugarloaf got enough pow to open the Brackett Basin section, finally...Killington and Pico got a foot of fresh, skied very well over the weekend...although Pico did have a bit of a hiccup with a lift derailment Saturday; some 130 skiers and boarders had to be roped down, which was accomplished safely. Kudos to Pico patrollers for that. The lift, Pico's Summit Express, is back online today...back to the storm, even New York got some winter love; Belleayre has been able to expand its terrain a bit...that proposed "interconnect" for Salt Lake City and Park City ski areas cleared its first hurdle this morning by passing something called the "Senate Workforce Services and Community and Economic Development Committee" in the Utah state house. I hope they run the Beehive State more efficiently than the way they name their committees...more state government maneuverings, this time in Wisconsin, where State Sen. Pam Galloway, R-Wausau, is co-sponsoring a bill that would make Cheese State ski laws more like other states. In other words, ski area operators will be liable when skiers are on ski lifts, and skiers are responsible for their own safety when they're headed down the hill. That's not to say it isn't already like that, it just isn't clearly spelled out in Wisconsin...Bode Miller out for the season, that nagging knee injury is nagging too much right now...world cup action in Crans-Montana Switzerland this weekend had Swiss speedster Didier Cuche win a Super G on Friday, then back on the Super G course Saturday we saw Austrian great Benni Raich top the podium for the first time in that discipline. GS action yesterday had Massimiliano Blardone of Italy atop the podium, with defending discipline champ Ted Ligety a disappointing 9th and trailing Austria's Marcel Hirscher by over 100 points for that globe. Hirscher is leading the mens overall as well. Bansko Bulgaria cancelled the womens downhill competition Saturday; doesn't much matter as Lindsey Vonn has already clinched that globe. Linz extended her overall lead yesterday with a win in Super G competition, with Liechtensteiner Tina Wierather and Italian Daniela Merighetti rounding out the podium. It was Merighetti's first podium in Super G. Tina Maze and Maria Höfl-Riesch finished 4th and 6th respectively, allowing Vonn to increase her lead in the overall. Austrian Anna Fenninger has a mathematical shot at the Super G globe, which means she has to win and Vonn has to DNF in Schladming
2/23/2012 -- Last night a TV feature on MSNBC gave an in-depth look at the rising number of fatalities in extreme skiing, with an attempt to understand the psychology that makes the competitors risk life and limb. If you missed it, you may view it here. I look at this as very much the same as auto racing was in the 1950s. Like extreme skiing and halfpipe competitions are today, top-level auto racing speed and performance had advanced significantly in a very short period of time, light years ahead of what it had been in the pre-war era. Drivers were racing for small purses, with a lot of risk. Safety measures were virtually unchanged from what they had been in 1920, but the danger had increased five-fold. In 1955 in particular, multiple racing fatalities occurred almost every single weekend in the USA and in Europe. The roster of surviving recent Indy 500 winners was smaller than today's list of surviving US Presidents. When we look at those vehicles today, we scratch our heads and wonder how anyone got into those machines. We look at auto racing today, and while it is still dangerous, it is infinitely safer than 60 years ago. But it's not because the psychology of the drivers has changed, it's because enough carnage occurred that the sport policed itself. (Formula 1 took awhile, but that's a story for another day). For that matter, consider FIS World Cup skiing. Think of the netting, multiple catch fences, and advanced helmets that have saved multiple lives, considering how much speed and performance has increased since the 1960s. There were some fatalities, some horrible accidents, and the sport took measures to protect its own. I believe that history will repeat itself with halfpipe and extreme skiers, and I believe that years from now, halfpipers and cliff huckers will look back and say, wow -- look how dangerous it was back then. The only remaining question is, how much more carnage will it take to initiate change.
2/22/2012 -- Happy 280th birthday to George Washington...Vail Resorts (NYSE: MTN) announced today that it is buying yet another Tahoe area resort, this time Kirkwood Mountain Resort, for $18 million from the Mountain Springs Kirkwood. The other Vail properties in the region are Heavenly and Northstar. Although most of Kirkweed is on USFS land, Vail gets some privately-owned parcels at the base, which are sure to be developed into a sprawl of condos, townhouses and grossly oversized mountain villas targeted to Silicon Valley wealth. Major upside? Passholders at Heavenly and Northstar will have access to Kirkwood, and Kirkwood pass holders can ski Heavenly and Northstar, said to be "effective immediately" according to CEO wunderkind Rob Katz...other Vail news, longtime executive John Garnsey is its new “president-international” according to an SEC filing Friday. Garnsey will “focus his efforts on international growth opportunities for the company" blah blah blah...Ski Leavenworth is hosting a memorial torchlight run tonight to "honor the spirits" of the skiers killed in the weekend avalanches; details here...season continues to be very trying for resorts in the east; Killington just announced a 4-ticket for $199 with no blackout dates, good for the rest of the season, and Saturdays at big resorts are starting to show up on Liftopia ...bright spot of sorts from NY's Gore Mountain, running a daily ski train this week from Saratoga Springs up to North Creek. Special deal for school kids on vacation, they get round trips all five days for just $99. Question: Assuming they have a season's pass, what do you call it when you can get rid of your teenager for an entire week for less than a hundred bucks? Answer: A bargain...the World Cup circus has the women headed for Bansko, Bulgaria, while the men are en route to Crans Montana, Switzerland....speaking of World Cup, neglected to report that Scotty Bahrke of Squaw Valley, CA won his first FIS Freestyle Aerials Cup event last Friday in Kreischberg, Austria, first US mens skier to top the podium in that event since Ryan St. Onge three years ago...Middlebury College Snow Bowl was the site of a horrible crash this weekend involving Chinese national Chen Li, a boarding student at St. Johnsbury Academy in VT. A member of the school's alpine race team, Li was practicing when he crashed and suffered a serious head injury. He's in critical condition at Fletcher Allen Health Care in Burlington....if this crappy winter has you down in the dumps, I herewith present the Wolf Creek Colorado live webcam, which is sure to cheer you up. Just click here for the good vibrations.
2/21/2012 -- Happy Presidents Day, and happy vacation week to all who are enjoying one...speaking of Presidents, First Lady Michelle Obama spent the weekend with the First Daughters at the Buttermilk hill in Aspen...the World Cup circus moved to Moscow this weekend for a side-by-side pseudo-slalom race held on a snow covered ramp in the middle of the city. Fans showed up by the tens to watch Alexis Pinturault of France edge Felix Neureuther of Germany, with Swede Andre Myhrer beating Romed Baumann to settle 3rd and 4th place. The results propelled Marcel Hirscher of Austria into the overall lead. Meanwhile, in the ladies event, surprise winner was Julia Mancuso, beating Michaela Kirchgasser. In the race to decide third place, Lindsey Vonn added to her overall by beating Maria Hoefl-Riesch down the hill. Mancuso seemed most excited by the possibility that this counts as a "slalom" event, which she's never won at the World Cup level. "Does this count as a slalom win?! Knowing the FIS, they probably weren't prepared for that question...that back-country avy in Tunnel Creek Canyon, Washington State is all over the news. It involved a group of fifteen skiers. Three were killed, including Stevens Pass Resort marketing director Chris Rudolph, Freeskiing Tour official Jim Jack, and a local named Johny Brennan. Pro skier Elyse Saugstad survived thanks to an airbag deployment. All had beacons, shovels, blah blah blah, but they don't really help when the thing kills you. Meanwhile a snowboarder was killed about 20 miles away near Alpental/ Snoqualmie Pass, skiing out of bounds whne an avy hit...other fatalities this weekend include 15-year-old Hannah Randolph of Wellesley, MA, who hit a tree on the CDL's trail at Copper Mountain. CDL's is a single diamond run off the Excelerator lift...Our thoughts and prayers are with the many people suffering from these losses...happy ending sort of for that Belmont, Massachusetts woman who was missing over the weekend at Pat's Peak in New Hampshire, found safe and unharmed yesterday walking in Hillsborough NH. Authorities say she has a history of mental illness...we'll wrap up on a happy note; more snow received at Steamboat which adds to a record dump of 27" a few days ago.
2/17/2012 -- News from Vermont has Bromley closed today, officially due to a power outage. Site claims they'll be open for business as usual tomorrow...expensive news from Mt. Werner Colorado today, where the walk-up single day ticket price at Steamboat was increased to $105. effective this morning...and sad news at Keystone, which saw one of its own killed in an avalanche yesterday near Wolf Creek. The gentleman was a first-year, exchange ski patroller from New Zealand who was skiing on his day off. Two other skiers were caught in the avy but survived with relatively minor injuries. The snowpack is dangerous in much of Colorado right now...back to Vermont, Mad River Glen ski instructor Andrew Stewart, 51, of Fayston, was found dead yesterday morning wedged into a window in the MRG ski school building. The medical examiner's office said Stewart died of positional asphyxia. In other words, he got stuck, breathing was cut off, and there you go. I half expected to read that he wasn't wearing a helmet...news from the midwest: both Nub's Nob and Boyne Mountain report that the backyard effect hasn't been too bad. In other words, even though people don't see snow and think snow, they're still heading to those resorts. Spokespersons say business is down, but not by much and certainly not like other parts of the country. Businesses that are really suffering in Michigan recreation country are those related to snowmobiling, which obviously requires natural snow...World Cup news, add reigning overall womens champ Maria Höfl-Riesch to the list of skiers singing the praises of Sochi’s Krasnaya Polyana downhill course...apart from the avy and asphyxiation deaths, Dr. Robert Johnson of the University of Vermont College of Medicine thinks that bad conditions are playing a big role in the high rate of on-slope injuries and fatalities this season, saying skiers are getting tossed by ice and what have you...Pennsy's Nemacolin Woodlands Resort has indeed reopened after a devastating fire that destroyed their classic base lodge...Washington State areas like Summit at Snoqualmie are staring down the barrel of a storm that is expected to dump 6" - 10" this weekend, which is very welcome news...and in that region, Leavenworth Ski Hill is putting on a terrific event this weekend called the Bakke Cup, a big regional thing featuring ski jumping, xc, and alpine competitions.
2/16/2012 -- New chair has been announced at Jackson Hole; replacing the Casper triple with a high speed quad this summer. This should elevate Jackson Hole quite a bit as a destination resort, assuming you have deep pockets of course. Reason? JH has plenty of intermediate terrain, but with the clunky triple, it's an arduous process. The detachable will give the average skier a lot more bang for the buck...in World Cup action the ladies are now prepping for the Rhosa Khutor slopes, site of the upcoming Sochi Olympics. Italy's Johanna Schnarf had fastest practice yesterday, while today's DH training run was cancelled due to too much snow and not enough workers to ready the course. Sounds like the Sochilians will need to address that...speaking of expensive, 8" of new snow this week at Vail...northeastern skiers are looking at a weekend not known for affordable skiing; I say the best bargain out there is Sunday afternoon at New Hampshire's biggie Wildcat Mountain. The Cat lowers its Sunday tix price to thirty bucks at noon...Peak Resorts' flagship property, Hidden Valley Resort in Missouri is scheduled for $2 million worth of improvements this summer, including a quad lift and a new trail said to become the area's longest...New York State is finding out just how much the ski area business can suck. Through this past weekend, state-owned Belleayre had half as many paying customers as it did the same time last season, while Gore and Belleayre together are down a total of 41,000 bodies with an 11% drop in revenue. Belleayre doesn't usually suffer so much because it has one of the highest base elevations in the northeast, but this year has been tough. Gore and Whiteface, on the other hand, haven't had much snow but at least they've had deep enough temps most of the time.
2/14/2012 -- Happy Valentine's Day! Looking ahead to the weekend, this is definitely the day to ski, as many resorts offer "Bring your sweetheart and get two for the price of one" and that sort of thing, particularly since this is such a crappy season. There will be no such discounts this weekend, but there may be some opportunities through Liftopia ...and so there are places with plenty of open terrain if you know where to find them. In the northeast, where this is particularly troubling, Attitash is one of the big surprises this season, virtually 100% open and offering a fine product. Same goes for Loon. In the Boston metro area, Crotched has a lot of terrain open, with good cover. New Yorkers would do well to head for Windham or a place that is often off the radar, Elk Mountain in northeast Pennsy...in Colorado, it's gotta be Ski Cooper, and then south to Purgatory in Durango, both at 100%. And the best kept secret of all? Definitely Wolf Creek in Pagosa Springs, absolutely buried with 11" of fresh powder overnight. Check the webcam here, and if you check today, you'll see untracked pow and empty chairs rolling by. So let's not whine about conditions, let's just deal with it and be glad we're healthy and fortunate enough to ski...and Tahoe is finally done digging out from Sunday's storm; Sierra-at-Tahoe got 9-14 inches at various places on the hill; Kirkwood grabbed a foot, Boreal and Alpine Meadows fell in around the 10" mark, Heavenly, Homewood, Squaw Valley and Sugar reaped a bit over 6", while Diamond Peak and Mt. Rose collected a couple inches...parts of the Midwest are dying, but upper is in generally good shape, friends at Ski Brule report 100% open and snow in the woods as well...sad news from Terry Peak Ski Area, located in South Dakota's Black Hills region, where 24-year-old Tina Heilman of Sioux Falls died Saturday after crashing into a lift tower on a novice slope; no helmet...also regret that 29-year-old Sylvan Walton of Cambridge, MA died while boarding at Jay Peak VT on Saturday. He was wearing a helmet when he crashed into a tree, but the force of the impact was simply too much...yikes, it goes on...local snowboarder Nathanael Soules, 38, was killed yesterday by an avalanche in the Bear Creak area, sort of a side country to Telluride Resort...bad news continues...Minnesota's Coffee Mill Ski Area, which is a great little hill in the southeast part of the state, had a chair fall off a lift this weekend, injuring three people. On the bright side, those injuries weren't serious and the folks have been discharged from the hospital...the fire that burned the beloved lodge at Pennsy's Nemacolin Woodlands Resort was apparently quite a doozy; local officials called it the worst blaze they'd ever encountered. Still no word on what caused it. And finally, kudos to nearby resort Seven Springs Mountain Resort, which has offered to loan a bunch of equipment to their torched neighbor, including some 250 pairs of rental skis and boots. I'll end on that positive note.
2/13/2012 -- Sad to report that legendary ski racer Jill Kinmont Boothe passed away this weekend; former national slalom champ who crashed at Alta in 1955 and was paralyzed by the accident. She became a proficient artist and inspirational teacher. We celebrate her 75 years and if ever someone proved that there is life after skiing, it was Ms. Kinmont...8" of new snow is making great conditions on the open terrain at Arapahoe Basin, but it still isn't enough to drop the ropes on East Wall and Montezuma...famed Sundial ski lodge at Nemacolin Woods in western PA burned to the ground last night, terrible loss and quite a mess, but the resort says it will offer skiing & boarding next weekend as usual...things are still bleak in the northeast. The "occasional" skier has no compulsion to ski, so business is down, resorts are putting their snowguns away, so the reports look work, compulsion lessens further, and the whole thing snowballs. Except there's no snow in the this snowball, just a mess of crap...Mount Snow is suing AlliSports, promoter of the Winter Dew Tour, after being dropped from the schedule. Apparently AlliSports didn't notify Snow of its plans, or rather lack of plans, within the time specified by their contract. A judge will decide. Anyway, the Dew Tour says Snow needed to enlarge its halfpipe, but the resort countered that they needed more time for the approval process and whatnot. Interesting thing is that the southern VT biggie generally had the biggest crowds on the entire Dew Tour, mainly because of its proximity to eastern population centers...in World Cup news, first from freestyle, Hannah Kearney won her 15th straight competition, this time in Beida Lake, China. A couple weeks back I wondered if her 13th was some sort of record -- it wasn't -- but 15 is, besting the mark set by none less than Ingemar Stenmark, who racked up 14 consecutive GS victories back in the late 1970s...tough news from mens alpine competition in Krasnaya Polyana Russia where overall leader Ivica Kostelic limped off after winning the super combined, and underwent surgery today on his right knee. No word yet on if he can come back this season. In the much anticipated men's downhill earlier during the weekend, Swiss star Beat Feuz won the inaugural event, followed by rising Canadian star Benjamin Thomsen and France's Adrien Theaux. Bode Miller, who was somewhat mercurial in his comments about the course, finished fourth. Discipline leader Didier Cuche finished 12th. Feuz will likely close on Kostelic for the overall...in women's action from Soldeu Andorra, Austria's Marlies Schild won the slalom race Saturday, and French skier Tessa Worley won the GS yesterday, followed by Tina Maze and Maria Hoefl-Riesch. Lindsey Vonn finished 8th, allowing Maze to gain about 50 points in the overall. Linz is still 410 points ahead, but Maze has done very well at some of the remaining courses, including Åre Sweden...update on Kostelic: surgery was on a torn meniscus. Reports say he could return in time for Kranjska Gora Slovenia in March...Alpine at Dartmouth Skiways and nordic at Stowe were the locales the weekend's Dartmouth Winter Carnival, which is arguably the grand-daddy of big time ski competition in the USA. Normally the Dartmouth Carnival wouldn't host a competition on the University of Vermont's home turf, but conditions precluded use of Oak Hill XC. The UVM Catamounts ran away with the event, beating the "home" team...and in Michigan, the 2012 Pine Mountain Continental Cup jumping competition was held yesterday in Iron Mountain. High winds limited the event to just one round, but that was enough for Germany's Marinus Kraus to fly 465' on his 1st jump and 436' on his 2nd, for 292.3 points and the victory. 45 jumpers from 10 different nations competed on the 54 meter jump.
2/10/2012 -- Possibility of some snow hitting the northeast this weekend; that will be welcome to those snow-starved areas...looks like the long-planned Montana mega-ski resort/housing project Bitterroot Resort is getting the final nail in the coffin; a sheriff's sale has been ordered for the historic Maclay Ranch where the resort was underway. Owner Tom Maclay couldn't get USFS approval to put trails and lifts on the upper 11,000 acres of Lolo Peak, and is now some $23 million in the hole. The property will be sold next week to satisfy the debt...after getting quite a bit of press for criticizing the layout of the Rosa Khutor downhill in Sochi, Russia, Bode Miller held a press conference to clarify his opinion on the Krasnaya Polyana course: “I think the hill itself is maybe, if not the best, then one of the best hills I've ever seen for a natural downhill – a set-up for a natural downhill where you almost don't have to put in any gates in the whole course. There's only maybe six or seven places on the whole course where you need one gate or two gates to control just the direction that the athletes come through...You could run that exact course out there, and leave every gate in the same place that it is right now, and run it as a World Cup Super-G or an Olympic Super-G – and it would be maybe one of the best Super-Gs we've ever had," he said. In other words, the hill itself is awesome for a downhill, but the course-setter blew it. So Bode likes the hill, he just doesn't agree with the gates. For downhill. Got that? Will be interesting to see how he does...in the Utah statehouse, HB201, passed by a unanimous vote yesterday, officially making skiing and snowboarding the official sports of the Beehive State. Well, duh....third fatality at Keystone this season, 72-year-old William Pemberton of Stonington, CT suffered a broken neck and brain injury yesterday afternoon on the Geronimo trail. He was wearing a helmet...this doesn't get much play in the east and midwest, so I'll mention it here for those of you who live in those parts: Sarajevo Olympic Downhill champ Bill Johnson is in a bad way. You're probably aware that he suffered a debilitating brain injury during an aborted comeback a few years ago; he's since suffered a series of strokes and is unable to do much for himself, now in assisted living. We'll long remember his incredible run while the Austrians steamed...oh boy, Squaw Valley USA has opened the world's first ski-in, ski-out Starbucks. You can look forward to some idiot texting while holding a steaming cup of coffee crashing into you on the liftline...I'll wrap up on a positive note: Sanity prevails! Three judges on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled firmly yesterday in favor of the Forest Service and Arizona Snowbowl to make snow with reclaimed water, calling the efforts of the Navajo Nation Plaintiffs, "a gross abuse of the judicial process." Chalk one up for the good guys. Snowbowl will have the pipes ready to go next season, and will add some 40 acres of new terrain.
2/9/2012 -- The religious statue at Whitefish Mountain Resort continues to be in the news, now a group of atheists are suing the USFS...some parts of the Banana Belt are doing better than others. We mentioned the difficulties at Wintergreen in yesterday's report; I can tell you that places like Hidden Valley NJ are in rough shape as that resort's signature Browse Along trail is yet to open for the season...times continue to be tough in Central Pennsy at Tussey Mountain, still scraping by with just three trails...better if you go just a bit west in the Keystone State. Blue Knob and Seven Springs both received snow this week, and both have plenty of terrain open...recent research shows that about 53% of all skiers are "active" with social media websites such as Facebook and Twitter...you can tell this season sucks when I'm talking about Facebook in early February...Yesterday when Russian sports minister Vitaly Mutko announced that all of the World Cup athletes were "delighted" with the course at Rosa Khutor, he must've missed the musings of a certain Bode Miller, who basically said that, as downhills go, it isn't really a downhill...speaking of World Cup action, Austrian slalom ace Marcel Hirscher has his eyes on a bigger prize, saying he's going to add Super G to his resumé. Hirscher is within striking distance of overall leader Ivica Kostelic, and thinks that if he can garner a few points from speed races, he'll be in the hunt. Some technicians make the jump, some don't.
2/8/2012 -- Kudos to Randy Barrows, snowmaking manager, and Steve Foster, snowmaking supervisor from Mount Snow, who worked almost around-the-clock this past weekend to help the Harris Hill Ski Jump in nearby Brattleboro, VT prepare for their annual competition later this month. Soaring temps and a dearth of natural snow have made things especially difficult, but the big resort in West Dover stepped up. They've gotten a lot of things right since Peak Resorts took over...speaking of difficulties due to the crappy season, Wintergreen Virginia normally has deep pockets right around now, but is eyeballing a $2.5 million loss through the end of January. Bandits -- sorry, Bank of America has cut off Wintergreen's $3 million line of credit, which is making things worse. The Big WG is always facing some sort of weather issues, but this is well beyond the norm. Two dozen trails are usually open by now; the count stands this season at 13. So the skiers are staying home, and the whole thing gets amplified. The resort employs about 1,000 during peak season. Talk now is the possibility of raising $6 million from investors in a private debt offering. Top brass are also pursuing a new line of credit with different bandits...in Michigan, rumors are swirling that the municipally-run Gladstone Ski Hill is closed for lack of snow, which is not the case. Although the base ain't great, the area is indeed open...the Cloud Nine Alpine Bistro at Aspen Highlands has imposed a 3-drink limit and eliminated the hard stuff, saying too many patrons have required assistance to get down the mountain. Seems they've had to call snowmobiles up to ride sloshed skiers down, and they ain't gonna do it anymore...speaking of Bank of America, seems the fellow who died of chest trauma after skiing into a tree at Sugarbush Saturday was a BoA Vice-President from Lexington MA, 41-year-old James Wong. Again, they report that he was wearing a helmet. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family...add an unidentified 37-year-old from Missouri to the list of this season's tragedies; he was on the Berries trail at Vail yesterday, also wearing a helmet...Russian sports minister Vitaly Mutko announced today that the World Cup athletes are "delighted" with the course at Rosa Khutor. As mentioned previously, it's the site of both mens and womens action this weekend, and for the Alpine events scheduled for the Sochi Olympic Games. Here's his exact quote: "Now all of the athletes are on the course. All of them are delighted, both with the course, and the organization. If the weather stays the same for the days of competition, there will not be any problems at all.” Sounds like a former Soviet mouthpiece who is proving to be a quick study on FIS-speak. All kidding aside, it seems like everything is looking good. Course designer is none less than Bernhard Russi, which ain't too shabby.
2/7/2012 -- Well it appears that 13-year-old Jacob DeGroot of Kaukauna, WI will make a complete recovery from the near-fatal injuries suffered at Nordic Mountain a couple weeks ago when he crashed headfirst into a tree. Kudos to Nordic Mountain ski patrol and to Dr. Karl Greene, neurosurgeon at the Appleton-based NeuroSpine Center of Wisconsin...elsewhere in the midwest, my Nordie friends are headed to Northern Michigan's Pere Marquette State Forest for Saturday's 36th Annual North American Vasa, where the top athletes will be competing in 12k, 27k, and 50k freestyle and classic races. The Vasa also offers other, less competitive events...wow: a paraplegic skier named Josh Dueck completed the first ever backflip on a sit-ski, skiing off a booter prepared for the event by Powder Mountain Heli & Cat Skiing located near Whistler, Canada...speaking of Whistler-Blackcomb, the western giant booked a $2.8 million loss for the last three months of 2011, which is technically the first quarter of its 2012 fiscal year...ready for collegiate slopestyle competition on boards and skis? Well they just completed one at Virginia's Wintergreen, won by Liberty University from nearby Lynchburg...World cup skiers are descending for the first time on the Rosa Khutor resort in Russia, which will be the site of Alpine competition for the 2014 Sochi Olympic Winter Games. This weekend's competition will see both the men and the women on the same hill, although only the slalom event is on the same run...sad to report that Matthew Falco, 53 of Staten Island, NY died after skiing off the Upper Warpath trail and striking an embankment at Windham Mountain Saturday morning.
2/6/2012 -- A boarder had to dive out of the way of a crash-landing glider yesterday at Heavenly. Glider touched down on First Run, pilot and passenger were unhurt. Heavenly management is rightfully up in arms; imagine if the snowboarder had been slashed in half by the wing...Just found out the the much talked-about high speed quad at now-defunct Ascutney Vermont has indeed been sold, to revitalized Crotched Mountain across the river in NH. Crotched will use the detachable to push higher up the mountain, opening more terrain and vertical. It will replace a fixed-grip, which is said will go to another Peak Resorts property, one rumor mill says Brandywine OH while another says Peak's home resort of Hidden Valley, MO. Crotched's vert will now be just a shade under the magic 1,000' mark. Install scheduled for this coming spring/summer...Carson National Forest has opened up the public comment phase regarding the impact report concerning Taos Ski Valley's propsed improvements. The roster of hoped-for upgrades includes a pair of new lifts, updates of three existing lifts, a tubing facility, dedicated snowshoe trail, and allowing lift-served mountain biking in the off-season...Big weekend in World Cup action, perhaps most notable from the dual moguls competition Saturday at Deer Valley where Hannah Kearney continued her win streak, now stands at 14, nothing short of amazing...another milestone for Lindsey Vonn, this her 50th career World Cup win, Saturday at Garmisch-Partenkirchen...and yesterday we saw Julia Mancuso top the podium in the super-combined. Austrian Anna Fenninger was second, while Tina Weirather was third. The two top contenders for the overall, Vonn and Tina Maze, DNFd. Vonn is still the runaway leader overall, although two days of 4th place finishes by defending champ Maria Hoefl-Riesch of Germany may indicate a surge if something unforeseen happens...on the mens side, Saturday's downhill in Chamonix was won by -- surprise -- Jan Hudec of Canada, a great speed events competitor who has been plagued by injuries in recent years. Hudec says he woke up pain free Saturday morning, and edged a surprised Romed Baumann of Austria. Now get this: third place went to Canadian Eric Guay, while fifth was snagged by Benjamin Thomsen, also waving the Maple Leaf. Return of the legendary Crazy Canucks?! Baumann roared back yesterday with a win in the Super Combined. Ivica Kostelic leads the overall...in collegiate action, Dartmouth beat the University of Vermont at UVM's own carnival, however the Catamounts had most of their top alpine women in Colorado for an invitational...sad to report that 58-year-old Odo Lessacher of Griffin, GA died of chest injuries at Keystone yesterday when he hit a tree on North Peak. Summit County Coroner inexplicably reported that Lessacher wasn't wearing a helmet, but neglected to say whether or not he was wearing chest armor.
2/3/2012 -- Finally seeing more snow in the Rockies; this morning Arapahoe Basin cranked up the Pally chair for the first time this season. No word yet on Montezuma Bowl. I'm thinking they need about another foot to get that ready for the public...Down the road Vail did one better, dropping the ropes on the Back Bowls and Blue Sky Basin...new snow over the past couple days in the Pac Northwest is equally welcome; plenty of events scheduled this weekend at places like Schweitzer and Stevens (jumping around a bit there, I know)...wicked cool banked slalom snowboard race scheduled for Mt Baker...fact is this coming weekend has taken on a life of its own in the Pac NW, with most ski areas hosting some sort of festival or fun event...in the east, Blue Mountain of Pennsy has all sort of stuff going on, including a luge event in which you ride a luge...in Vermont, Stratton had some snow guns on last night...speaking of snow guns, in New Hampshire, Attitash announced last week that they were done making snow for the season. Oddly enough, they had guns on through last weekend and they still do as I type this...exciting World Cup mens action in Chamonix this morning, where Austria's Klaus Kroell edged Bode Miller by 1/100th of a second in downhill competition. The irrepressible Didier Cuche was 3rd, still leading the downhill title points in his farewell season...bit of friction in Michigan, where the rising popularity of snowshoeing is causing problems on XC trails. Seems the newbie shoers aren't aware of proper trail etiquette, which dictates that the clompers stay out of the tracks and off the skate area in the center, and many Michiganders are up in arms...backcountry Montana skier killed Wednesday by an avy in the vicinity of Jewel Basin and Camp Misery in the Flathead region. He was skiing with his brother and wearing a locator beacon, but perished nevertheless, body found yesterday...speaking of irrepressible, how about Hannah Kearney? Yes, I know it doesn't carry the glamor and prestige of Alpine competition, but darn, that girl won her 13th straight FIS freestyle competition on the moguls yesterday at Deer Valley. That must be some sort of record. And you could argue that moguls are every bit as tough as slalom, if not tougher. Go Hannah!
2/1/2012 -- That groundhog is due tomorrow, and if ever we needed more winter, this is the year...speaking of weather, much of the northeast boiled in a relative wave of sunshine yesterday, but I can tell you that the ski areas in the northern White Mountains and western Maine fared very well. With a 20º F temperature difference between North Conway and Boston, and 30º F colder than New York City, places like Wildcat, Black Mountain and Cranmore received snow. I personally saw it at Attitash, where an inch of fresh had fallen by 10:00 AM and US Route 302 was decidedly snow covered. So, all is not horrid in the northeast this winter...the Banana Belt is another story; places like Mountain Creek and Mt. Southington were absolutely baked yesterday...interesting news from Montana; the US Forest Service has re-read the United States Constitution (unlike the Associated Press) and determined that the Free Exercise clause will allow the war memorial statue to remain atop Whitefish Mountain; some folks protested the statue because it represents a religious figure...woman died after a fall from the High Meadow beginner chair at The Canyons Sunday morning...and some happy lift news from Sunday afternoon, a little boy was somehow left dangling from a chair at Hidden Valley Ski & Snowboard Area in Wisconsin, he was about 20 feet off the ground. A group of rescuers gathered beneath, and the decision was made to tell the boy to let go and drop -- where he was caught safely.
1/25/2012 - Finally have good news from the Golden State; snow has fallen on the Sierras and a few of the non-snowmakers are finally -- finally -- opening for the season. Dodge Ridge is most notable, spun the lifts yesterday with a 2-3 foot base enabling them to drop the ropes on 80%of their terrain...Yosemite's terrific Badger Pass opens today for its 77th season with 2' blanket the slopes...Bear has been open, but 3' of fresh will give them two more chairs by the weekend...and when you start to head north, it gets even better: Kirkwood added three feet, now spinning chair 10...three ski centers are opening today for the first time this season in the Tahoe area, they are Donner Ski Ranch, Royal Gorge XC and Tahoe Donner, which is also opening its XC offerings. A fourth area, Homewood, will reopen Friday...Boreal, Squaw Valley USA and Alpine Meadows are all coming up with more terrain, and Heavenly has 21 of 30 lifts going after getting smacked with three feet...the east, meanwhile, is trying to recover from a January mini-thaw; more rain due for the Banana Belt Camelback, Mountain Creek etc. but much of New England is looking for this to be in the form of snow...Need to tell our friends in the NY metro area that Catskills throwback area Plattekill is open today and tomorrow; they're normally closed midweek. It's skier appreciation week, and they're offering dirt cheap tickets...speaking of New England, this coming Monday (Jan 30) at Berkshire East is Food Pantry Day, bring a can of non-perishable food and get a $30 lift ticket. I happen to like that mountain, and also recommend their $10 Thursday night ticket all month long...hey we've been moaning about the lack of snow in the Sierras, but in fact the back of the Wasatch XC areas had been in rough shape until recently; snow fell over the weekend and as of yesterday morning, Mountain Trails Foundation reports that Quinn's Loops, Matt's Flat/Cammy's/Seventy 101, Two Pines, Lower RV Express, S.S. Connector, Silver Quinn and Ability Way were all groomed...and in Park City, White Pine Nordic Center added its 5K loop, while nearby Soldier Hollow has about 3 miles of manmade...every now and then I report XC in miles, just to piss off all the skinny people...Aspen hosting those nutty "Winter X Games" starting tomorrow, glad to report that they are planning a special tribute for Sarah Burke...Canadians are a bit stunned by the medical bills her family was facing; fortunately their online fundraiser efforts seem to have everything covered. Not so for the 700,000 American families who file bankruptcy each year due to healthcare costs. Meanwhile the politicians say, "well we don't want socialized medicine like Canada has!" to which I say, uh, they seem a lot better off with it...yesterday FIS slalom night racing action in Schladming Austria, where homeboy Marcel Hirscher won top spot. American Ted Ligety posted a respectable sixth place, and we saw family scion Seppi Stiegler make a decent, but non-qualifying first run...ladies meanwhile are gearing up for a downhill in St. Moritz. Austria's Elisabeth Goergl fastest in this morning's training run, which is virtually meaningless...Hopefully this will wrap up this week's on-mountain tragedies: and as yet un-named man died on the slopes yesterday afternoon at Taos, no details other than he was a long-time Taos skier...and sad to report that 32-year-old Aaron Easter, son of former University of Illinois Chancellor Robert Easter, died yesterday after a snowboarding accident at Steamboat on Monday...and lastly, Austin TX resident Donald Hinckley, 51, was skiing slowly at Copper last Friday when he collapsed and smashed his helmeted head on a tree stump. The helmet failed. Hinckley perished from a combination heart attack, traumatic brain injury, and broken neck...let's be careful out there.
1/23/2012 - Well I hate to keep beating this drum but Powder Mountain continues to see the snow fall, another foot yesterday. If this place had the trappings and shnizzle-shnazzle of a Sun Valley or even Snowbird it would be the number one ski area in the country...otherwise you'll do well to head for Washington's Crystal Mountain; a foot of fresh in the last 48 hours has this big resort showing absolutely awesome conditions...midwesterners are seeing great things in Michigan's Upper Peninsula this morning; Iron River's Ski Brule reports 8" of fresh and still falling...Michigan Tech's Mont Ripley, currently at 95% open, may go to 100% with this...fabulous snow in the mid-Atlantic Banana Belt; about 6" at Southern New York's small but mighty Mount Peter, unfortunately this is being washed away by today's rains throughout the northeast...speaking of the northeast, we mourn the loss of legendary Joe Paterno. In that neighborhood we visit Central PA's Tussey Mountain; find out the winter has been warm and rainy but they somehow are maintaining two routes down...elsewhere in Pennsy we have reports that the major Pocono resorts ("major" and "pocono" might be an oxymoron) are at or about 100% open, specifically, Jack Frost and competitor Camelback...also in the northeast, the "other" Black Mountain, properly known as Black Mountain of Maine finally opened to the summit this weekend. Cool thing about the folks in Rumford is that their first priority is to make snow in the woods by the base lodge. Huh? Yep, the cross-country trails. Place is a mecca for XC competition, and it keeps the area afloat. A lot of small ski areas could take a cue from this; growth opportunity in winter sports right now is in XC, not alpine. Yeah, snowshoeing is "easier" but I think it's just a little too dull for most. XC is the growth opportunity...Speaking of Black Mountain of Maine, (that's not something I write every day) it was the site of the latest "Carnival" for big-time northeast collegiate skiing this past weekend, well, at least the XC action. Alpine racing was held on Barker Mountain down the road at Sunday River. University of Vermont dominated, followed by Dartmouth and Middlebury...speaking of Vermont, what a difference a bit of snow makes; Mount Snow went to virtually 100% open almost overnight; the only things missing are legendary Ripcord and a few odds and ends...loss of Sarah Burke continues to send ripples through the ski world. Medical bills were originally reported at a half-million dollars, but the hospital apparently revised things and it dropped to $200K. Still a hefty thing for her family. Well the upside is some friends started a fundraiser site on GiveForward and there's already enough pledged to cover the bill...and the halfpipe skiers continue to fly higher; if you happened to see this weekend's Killington "Dew Tour" coverage on NBC you saw guys almost 4 stories high, doing the impossible, and we wonder how many more will be maimed and mangled before things get toned down. Indy 500 officials put restrictions on horsepower long ago, and the ski organizers should look at that. Once these skiers figure out that if they wear competition style clothing instead of baggy pants falling around their knees like some wannabe gangstas, they'll fly higher and spin even further...snow has been falling steadily in the Tahoe region, but the snowpack is still only a fourth of normal. Checking around the Lake, Squaw Valley has 8 of 170 trails, Alpine Meadows is about 5% open, Boreal has about a third of its terrain. Down by Mono Lake, Mammoth Mountain reports 51 of 150 runs open...Colorado this weekend we had a 13-year-old boy die on a closed run inbounds at Vail, and a tree-skier killed by a small but deadly avalanche in Winter Park...and the New York State Police report that New York state police say that Daniel McGovern, 25, from Carle Place, N.Y. lost control on the Excelsior trail at Whiteface last Friday, crashed 30 feet through trees and died. He was wearing a helmet...well the annual circus in Kitzbuehel didn't come off quite as hoped thanks to some inclement weather and cancellation of the men's Super G event, but the disappointment fell by the wayside when popular Swiss speedster Didier Cuche won the downhill in spectacular fashion Saturday, beating a whole bunch of disappointed Austrians. Croatian great and overall leader Ivica Kostelic won the Combined yesterday, ahead of Swiss Beat Feuz and Silvan Zurbriggen. Ted Ligety garnered a respectable 5th, and Ted the Shred is hanging on to 4th place overall, just ahead of Norse god Aksel Lund Svindal. Italian Christian Deville won the slalom yesterday, ahead of Austrian Mario Matt and the aforementioned Kostelic. The ladies meanwhile were in Kranjska Gora; French star Tessa Worley won the GS Saturday. Italy's Federica Brignone was second followed by German Viktoria Rebensburg, and then the points hungry trio of Lindsey Vonn, Tina Maze, and Maria Hoefl-Riesch in positions 4-6. In the slalom yesterday, Austria's Michaela Kirchgasser topped the podium, followed by Finn Tanja Poutiainen and Slovakia's Veronika Zuzulova. Maze racked up points with a 4th, but Lindsey powered her way to 7th place and seems like runaway freight at this point, leading Tina by almost 300 points in the overall. To add to the overall weekend excitement, turns out that Austrian ace Marcel Hirscher straddled a gate during his winning slalom run in Zagreb earlier in the month, and a hubbub has ensued. Good stuff...yesterday not the best day to be at Colorado's popular Copper Mountain; some sort of electrical SNAFU snarled lifts and stranded riders, requiring emergency generators to spin the bullwheels...remember rising British ski racer Chemmy Alcott, who mangled her leg in a horrible crash a couple years ago? She's starring on a popular British ice skating television programme, similar format to our Dancing with the Stars.
Sarah...We'll miss you with all our hearts.
1/19/2012 - Utah is the place to be, specifically, at underrated Powder Mountain where 14" of fluffy fell overnight. Webcam over there on the left...Washington got the goods; Summit at Snoqualmie has 7" of fresh...and in Oregon, snow to beat the band. Mt. Ashland has indeed reopened, spinning the lifts at 10 am for the first time since January 2nd. They've got over 6" of fresh, right now serving up excellent conditions...they are about at the end of their patience in Tahoe, where we find Squaw Valley serving up Pacific plate subduction from the Paleozoic era on KT-22. Down at Heavenly the batholith is interspersed with nice remnants of ancient marine rock, which almost looks like snow if you've downed a few pops and really squint when the sun hits it just so. Take heart, snow is on the way, finally...A quick look at that cam on the SkierNet homepage shows that 3-4" fell at Arapahoe Basin, but we regret to report that Pallavacini, East Wall, and the Montezuma backside are still too thin to open. I've seen East Wall closed this late in the season, but I can't recall Pally being shuttered after mid-January....over the hill at Loveland they got a little bit more, but only the core lifts are running...Let's look at New England...interesting that Mount Snow hasn't put any guns on the South Bowl or Ego Alley trails yet...in New Hampshire, Loon continues to impress and they're talking 97% open for the weekend...also have to give credit to Stratton, they have everything open except the natural snow trails, which is darn impressive. I guess they gotta do something to justify those ticket prices...somebody might want to point that out to the folks in West Dover...skier apparently seriously hurt at Sunapee yesterday afternoon, whisked to Dartmouth-Hitchcock but no further details...No more details yet on the allegedly wacky ambulance ride at Sugarloaf, in the aftermath of the poor gentleman from Nova Scotia who died there a week ago. But we are pleased to report that another Sugarloafer, 24-year-old Nicholas Jones of New Hampshire, will make a full recovery after his life-threatening crash Saturday on the King's Landing Trail. No, he wasn't wearing a helmet...Pinheads in the Carolinas are gearing up for a Telefest scheduled for Beech on Saturday...World Cup action, further training for the Hahnenkamm cancelled; promoters want to protect the snow on the Streif course...hold the phone, word from the race world is that popular downhill veteran Didier Cuche announced that he will retire at the end of the season. We're going to be sorry to see him go...local resident 30-year-old Gabrial Hilliard died yesterday while boarding at Aspen Highlands when he went off the Canopy Cruiser run and impaled his chest on a tree branch. For those helmet people who always ask: yes, Hilliard was wearing a helmet. In a separate incident, 42-year-old Keith Ames of Snowmass Village was killed by an avalanche while skiing backcountry on Burnt Mountain near Snowmass. Companions got him out within 10 minutes but were unable to revive him.
1/18/2012 - Big news of the day is from Duluth of all places, where municipally-owned Spirit Mountain received city council support and authorization of a $6.975 million in city-backed bonds to build a new chair and base lodge. Spirit already has both, but the lodge is not at the base (upside down) and the chair is old. New facilities will also be used to facilitate mountain biking in the off-season. If all goes well the bonds will be paid back with operating revenues and tourism taxes...finally some snow in Colorado; Wolf Creek almost 20" overnight. Aspen areas raked in over a foot, Steamboat just under a foot, and the front range players like A-Basin and Loveland got 3-4 inches. Elsewhere in the state Monarch got 7" and Ski Cooper tallied 5. More on the way...Don't look for our indemnified binding list today; the popular page is dark in protest of the SOPA/PIPA legislation...so glad to report that the wayward Mt. Rainier snowshoe guy was found yesterday; Yong Chun Kim, 66, of Tacoma stayed alive by moving around, building snow tunnels and burning stuff to stay warm...good news continues from Glacier National Park where cross-country skiers Mark & Signe Brust, of Kila MT were found yesterday after becoming lost overnight near Bowman Lake. Kudos to the volunteers on the Flathead County Mountain Rescue team...elsewhere in Big Sky country, we hear that University of Montana-Western and Dillon native Cory Birkenbuel recently completed the Montana Sweet 16, skiing all 16 state areas within 16 days. His quest was completed monday at Maverick Mountain, which is one of the great underrated ski areas in the country...Didier Cuche fastest in this morning's training run on the Streif course...American rookie Wiley Maple crashed but was unhurt in his first crack at the famed course...Swiss star Dominique Gisin will be out for a while; knee surgery revealed injury worse than expected...ditto for Swedish star Maria Pietilae-Holmner, tore some ligaments while training for the upcoming events in Kranjska Gora, Slovenia...Underwear update: following the Swiss protest of Slovenian Tina Maze's second-place finish at a World Cup super-G in Bad Kleinkirchheim, Austria, ten days ago, FIS bigwigs are set to re-write the rules concerning underwear. Apparently Tina's skirted the existing rules and of course the FIS claims to be doing this for athlete's safety...neglected to report that David Morse, 41, of Nova Scotia died at Sugarloaf last Thursday when he skied off Lower Timberline into some trees. He was wearing a helmet. Rumors are swirling about some sort of oddity with the ambulance that transported Mr. Morse to a hospital in Farmington, we'll hold off comment until more is learned. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family...as they are for Sarah Burke and her family.
1/17/2012 - Ski world waits, no update yet on Sarah Burke...Good news in southern Oregon, where Mt. Ashland is in the sights of a potential two-foot dump, planning to re-open Thursday. Ashland has been closed since January 2nd, no snow. Groomers will be on the hill tomorrow to build a base as the pow falls...western Montana also eyeing this system, calling for 20" at higher elevations...in New York, public officials in Hamilton County are trying to sell throwback Oak Mountain ski area, which they've been operating since a contracted operator couldn't. Located in Speculator, the mountain parcel includes some 200 acres, ski lifts and (small) structures, and income from a cell tower...getting some feedback on the new 6-pack lift at Mount Snow Vermont, word is the lines were a bit long, but the neighboring HSQ was ski-on...World Cup men at Kitzbuehel for the Hahnenkamm this weekend, competing in Super G, DH, SL, and a combined. In case you aren't familiar with it, "the 'buehel" is to ski racing what Indianapolis is to auto racing, and "the 'kamm" has the feel of Mardi Gras and the Super Bowl rolled into one. Even the training runs have crowds larger than most full-fledged events; a cacophony of cheers & cowbells awaits even the slowest no-name competitors at the end of each run. First training run this morning, a downhill on the legendary 2-mile Streif course, had Austrians Klaus Kroell and Mario Scheiber turning in the fastest times. They were followed by Didier Cuche and Bode Miller, and naturally the crowd went bonkers...New York metro area skiers looking for open terrain will find the best close-in offerings at Camelback and Shawnee right now...San Francisco had more street skiing last summer. It was broadcast last night on prime-time reality program The Bachelor, and featured leggy young ladies skiing in bikinis. Not a great moment in the history of our sport, but at least it was "easy on the eyes" if I may...and today we salute David S. Larrabee, retiring after 53 years on the volunteer ski patrol at Dry Hill in Watertown, NY. And what does a good volunteer ski patroller do in retirement after a half-century of service? In Mr. Larrabee's case, he's already volunteering to help on the cross-country trails, naturally. So here's to you David Larrabee, to a long and healthy "retirement".
1/16/2012 - Honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. today...one of the few winter holidays that does not see a crush of people on the slopes, simply because not everyone has the day off...place to be this morning is the Pacific northwest; Crystal Mountain has 7" of fresh, giving it 19" of new snow in the last 48 hours. Similarly, White Pass is rocking a powder day with 6" fresh and 17" in the past 48. Also we know The Summit at Snoqualmie and Stevens Pass both report about 5" of pow...place to be this past weekend was southern Vermont, no question. Skiers enjoyed fresh powder (that's right) and short lift lines at Bromley...in Maine, weekend started off great with snow at Sugarloaf, then turned less friendly with some icing and wind holds. But that's the northeast, and the Sugarloafers are quite used to that, thank you very much...in Pennsylvania Snö Mountain formerly Montage, just announced $10 Tuesdays for the balance of the season. Doesn't apply holiday weeks, but still, that's giving it away...World Cup action this weekend with the men in Wengen, had Croatian star Ivica Kostelic win the slalom, followed by Swede Andre Myhrer and German Fritz Dopfer. The downhill, on the famed Lauberhorn course, saw local Swiss star Beat Feuz top the podium, followed by Austrian Hannes Reichelt and Italian Christof Innerhofer. Bode Miller scored a respectable 5th place...the women were in Cortina, the downhill had Italian speedster Daniela Merighetti ahead of Lindsey Vonn by just 2/10ths, followed by reigning overall champ Maria Hoefl-Riesch; Slovenia's Tina Maze finished 4th. Pleasant surprise was American Stacey Cook in 6th, and Swedish legend Anja Paerson with a top 10. Yesterday's Super G action had Vonn, Hoefl-Riesch and Maze going 1-2-3. This put Ms. Vonn ahead of Austrian great Renate Götschl into 3rd place on the all-time win list...back to the northwest, the Paradise area at Mt. Rainier is closed today; rescuers are on day 3 of a search for lost snowshoer Yong Chun Kim, 66, of Tacoma. Mr. Kim was snowshoeing with a group when he inadvertently fell down a slope. He shouted up that he would walk ahead and meet the trail, rather than climb back up the slope...planned news conference today at University of Utah Hospital for injured Canadian star Sarah Burke was cancelled; doctors are running more tests and have no new news. Hospital statement: "The family wants to express their deep appreciation for the overwhelming support Sarah has received from all over the world. They ask that everyone continue to keep Sarah and Rory in their prayers"...In New York's Adirondacks, finally enough snow for Big Tupper to open. They're doing so today, and it's a ski for free day as a thank you to patient customers...in Colorado we're watching the weather closely, looking for more than a foot in parts of the state.
1/12/2012 - Huzzah! Snow! Across the midwest, it's falling heavy at humble Mt Crescent in Iowa, but they're closed due to high winds...on the opposite side of the state, near Dubuque, Sundown Mountain Resort is virtually 100% open and getting snowed on right now...don't say we don't cover Iowa skiing! And believe it or not that just scratches the surface of the Hawkeye State's lift-served opportunities...similar story out of Sioux Falls SD where Great Bear Ski Park has closed for the day due to extraordinary winds, but they got the snow guns cranking...In Upper Michigan Bohemia reports 5" and still falling, they're now 100% open on Mining, Haunted Valley, and Pirates Cove...New England finally getting that cold, white stuff that we've heard so much about but seen so little of. Big-time benefit to places like Berkshire East, which actually closed today due to the storm...Dumping like crazy at Bromley and Okemo...Outer Limits is now open at Killington...and in NH snowmaker Loon is being augmented by this natural stuff, and is looking to be just shy of 100% for the weekend...and it seems that it's finally worth buying a ticket at Attitash...in Minnesota, Lutsen grabbed a couple inches and is 75% open...Indiana's Paoli Peaks has no new snow, but those tower fan guns are cranking right now...hoping things turn around in Colorado, Vail Passis usually a haven for XC skiers and snowmobilers, but not today; go instead for great recreation opportunities like frisbee golf, hiking, and lawn mowing...getting bad, folks: about an inch-and-a-half fell up around the Eisenhower Tunnel this morning, and Loveland is acting like it's a powder day...in Tahoe, I'm told Heavenly might start offering rock collecting tours...just kidding...I hope...let's talk about the World Cup, Lindsey Vonn fastest in downhill practice at Cortina no surprise there, but noticed that fading Swedish great Anja Paerson was among the top five, perhaps she does have something left in the tank...back to the northeast, conditions have been pretty good for a few days now up at Sugarloaf in Maine...New Yorkers are finding a mix of weather at Belleayre, supposedly opening the west side lift but requiring shuttle service...ghastly weather in the banana belt, not sure how operations like Hidden Valley NJ are going to fare this winter; some of the junior race action has been shifted up the road to small but mighty Mt. Peter in NY...update on Sarah Burke, today underwent an operation to repair a torn vertebral artery. The operation was termed a success, but doctors say it's too soon to provide a prognosis.
1/11/2012 - As expected yesterday, while we were reporting allegations by a former USFS bigwig, the National Ski Areas Association filed a lawsuit in Denver. Suit claims the Forest Service has told employees to put wording in permits that allows the agency to seize resorts’ privately owned water rights at ski areas on USFS lands. The trade association is seeking an injunction to set aside the clause, claiming it exceeds the agency's legal authority...Ghastly turn of events yesterday at Park City when Canadian star Sarah Burke biffed a trick in halfpipe training, smacked her head and reportedly had to be resuscitated on the hill. She's in a coma in serious condition, and we're praying for her...same halfpipe where Vermont up-and-comer Kevin Pearce suffered a similar incident a few years ago. Pearce is back on a snowboard again, but by no means will he ever compete...coming up this weekend, World cup men are doing all sorts of contests in Wengen, while the ladies are doing a downhill and super G in Cortina. I'll go way out on a limb here and forecast good scores for Lindsey...another wayward chairlift rider yesterday, this time at Massachusetts' Nashoba Valley in Shrewsbury. 7-year-old girl leaned over to wave to a friend, fell 17' to the ground. Fortunately no apparent damage other than complaints of back pain, and the young lady was hospitalized as a precautionary measure...this year's International Paralympic Nordic Skiing World Cup will be held Jan. 23 - 30 at Telemark Resort in Cable, WI. Event will feature about 180 skiers from 15 different countries...tired of the lack of snow? If you got the funds, a visa, and a snorkel, head for the Solang Valley in Manali, India where the powder is the best in recent memory...you've no doubt heard that part of the Alps are in great shape; snow depth in the town of St. Anton is about 80"....snow depth in North Conway? Not so much...can you name the location of the only halfpipe in the northeast presently open to the public? You guessed it, North Creek Ski Bowl in upstate New York. Huh? North Creek what? I saw it Saturday; it's legit. Kudos to the NY Development Authority, or whatever it is, that runs Whiteface and Gore and built this thing. Kids were taking the shuttle down from Gore to make a few laps on the Village chairlift. With snow, you can ski between the two. I don't normally make pitches for specific destinations, but easterners would be smart to add the Gore/North Creek complex to their list of ski vacation destinations. It isn't glitzy, but damn, the ski/ice skate/tubing facilities are outstanding, with an underrated XC complex nearby, snowmobiling, ice fishing. Lodging and lift tickets are decidedly cheaper than you'll find at Stowe. As soon as winter arrives, it'll be great.
1/10/2012 - Big news rumbling in Colorado where former USFS ski area program head Ed Ryberg sez the ski industry used its tentacles in the Bush administration to make regulatory changes that were done without the required public input or review. We want to support ski areas, we really do, but we kinda want them to operate within the laws of the land...Unfortunately the Arizona Snow Bowl isn't as powerful as those Colorado resorts with their Potemkin villages; they're being dragged through yet another court case over the use of reclaimed water on the San Francisco Peaks near Flagstaff. This time, a circuit court of appeals or some such thing, coincidentally in San Francisco, California. Also coincidentally, the native peoples who are fighting the Snow Bowl aren't saying anything about the reclaimed water used at their own casino ski resorts....Devoid of snow, the northeast continues to to crank out the white stuff and wait for winter to arrive. It's a good news/bad news kind of thing. Good news at New York's Whiteface is that they just dropped the upcoming holiday weekend pricing if you buy through Liftopia ; the bad news is they still only have about half the terrain open...New Englanders will find the "most routes down" this weekend at Killington, and they'll also find the most bodies on the hill...place to be, no question is Taos right now, and I suppose this weekend at Mission Ridge in Washington State will be decent. Also skiing fairly well at the Mt Hood areas like Timberline...also bad in Europe, where next weekend's womens World Cup races slated for Maribor (Slovenia) have been canned due to lack of snow and warm weather to boot...Swiss great and former overall mens champ Carlo Janka is pondering a mid-season rest to relieve back pain...weekend's womens race in Bad Kleinkirchheim had Fabienne Suter of Switzerland atop the podium, followed by Tina Maze and Anna Fenninger, but the Swiss or the Austrians (one of those teams) filed a protest, saying Maze's suit didn't comply with the rule. No word yet. It's said that Lindsey Vonn wasn't feeling well, yet still put together an 18th place finish in the event. With Maria Hoefl-Riesch having an up-and-down season (mostly down) it looks like it might come down to Maze or Vonn for the overall...Well last week I said it was great to hear that Swedish all-timer Anja Paerson would be competing this weekend, I'm going to retract that because her effort was kind of like watching an old boxer take one punch too many long after he should've hung up his gloves. Yes it's an honor to see Paerson on the snow, but I'm afraid it's just too troubling to see how she skis these days. Here's hoping she realizes this, and enjoys a long and happy retirement with the accolades she deserves...Colorado's iconoclast Silverton mountain is practically giving away heli-skiing this weekend, just $50 a pop...Michigan DNR just announced it will groom 15 cross-country ski trails in various state forests this season, mostly by volunteer efforts...sad to report that Salt Lake City resident Adam Lawton, part of a group of backcountry skiers, was killed by an avy in British Columbia this past weekend, at a place called "Molars Bowl".
1/6/2012 - Colorado continues to be largely devoid of snow, however if you look south to Wolf Creek, 100% open and skiing well; Purgatory or Durango or whatever they call it now is 95% open, and even up in Leadville our favorite hidden gem Ski Cooper is skiing 100% of terrain. Places like Steamboat, however, the picture remains bleak for now...Huzzah! It is snowing this morning at Sugarloaf in Maine. I just wanted to say that, especially after all my doom and gloom the past few days...world cup quiet today as the final training session for the ladies' downhill in Bad Kleinkirchheim Austria has been cancelled due to high winds. They did complete a training run yesterday, so the DH will go on as scheduled tomorrow, followed by a super G on Sunday. Hometown speed ace Anna Fenninger was fastest in practice, while reigning overall champ Maria Hoefl-Riesch skied out. Her camp announced later that Maria is suffering from the flu and will sit out this weekend's events. Last time the girls skied on this course was 2006, when Swedish great Anja Paerson topped the podium. Pleased to report that Anja will be competing this weekend, and although she's not likely to be a factor, it does the sport well to have one of the all-time greats on the snow...did I mention that it is snowing at Sunday River this morning? YESS!....also in the northeast Killington continues to do an outstanding job getting terrain open under adverse conditions, now expanded to Bear base, which is open...Cherry Peak, that ski resort planned for the Richmond, Utah area, got no decision on its conditional use permit from the Cache County Planning Commission. Richmond is north of Logan, near the Idaho line. Yeah, I had to look it up also...did I mention that it is snowing at Gunstock in NH's lakes region...word from Ski Ward following the death of a young man two days ago is that Mass Department of Public Safety inspected the lift chair after the accident and found no problems. We didn't expect them to; the lift is in tip top shape and from what we hear, there was some sort of medical situation or seizure up on the chair. Very sad, and I don't like to dwell on this, but am compelled to report the State's findings re. the lift...The planned $250 million upgrade at Tahoe's Homewood Mountain Resort hit another stumbling block yesterday; The Sierra Club and Friends of the West Shore filed a federal suit against the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency and Placer County for approving what the suit calls "an ill-conceived, inadequately studied, and environmentally-disruptive development." The enviro groups also contend that it will have an adverse affect on US 89 traffic. If you haven't been on it, trust me, the road can get pretty snarled...happy to report from Wisconsin that free beginning and intermediate cross country ski lessons for children and adults, classic and skate, will be offered tomorrow at the Afterhours Ski Trail in the Brule River State Forest. Some discounted rental stuff will be available for those who need it. Kudos to the Brule Valley Ski Club, the Brule River State Forest and the Brule Lions Club!
1/5/2012 - For what it's worth, our unofficial 2011-2012 Indemnified Binding List is finally ready, with absolutely no help from the retailers association, thank you very much, and little or no help from the manufacturers. How stupid can these people be! Imagine the backlash if automobile warranties were trade secrets. Imagine if you tried to buy a used car with no published information, and only after you take it to the dealer they say, "we can't work on this car, it's no longer safe to operate." Uh, why didn't you make that information available before I bought it?!? And then because this took you completely by surprise, wouldn't you think that particular car brand must really suck? But that's the day to day reality with the ski industry, and as a result, people have no clue about the current usefulness or functionality of their skis. So they go to a ski shop, and get smacked upside the head. That's a great way to build repeat business! And what a fantastic pitch; the uneducated consumer hears it this way: "Hey those Markers you used twice are no longer safe to use, now you need to buy these Markers." No wonder sales are down, growth is flat, and when the average American father and mother finally do go to a ski retailer with their old skis and get hit with the cleaver, they say "screw this" and sign the kids up for junior hockey. The ski industry is coming off the rails, and somebody is sleeping at the switch. Fortunately for the manufacturers, sales are so dismal that the Chinese aren't interested. Otherwise they would start selling high volume, low-cost skis with mediocre performance, and the industry will contract even further. But like I said, there's no volume...this really pisses me off. Alright, on to the report...sad to say a young man suffered a seizure riding a chair at Ski Ward in Massachusetts last night; 18-year-old John Street of Upton fell 30' and died. Street was a senior on the Nipmuc Regional High School ski team. Looks like the lift is closed this morning for an investigation. Our prayers are with his friends and family...world Cup men are doing that night slalom shindig in Zagreb Croatia today (tonight there) and no surprise that Austrian Marcel Hirscher is in the lead after the first run, with hometown ace Ivica Kostelic in third. Ted Ligety is top ten...if you needed any further idea just how grim this season has been, we need only to check the magics. Magic Mountain Vermont is open with a white ribbon of death, while Magic Mountain Idaho has yet to spin the lifts this season...after a brief tease of cold the past couple days, northeast is looking ahead to a warming trend over the next week. It appears that winter will arrive for real sometime around the 15th...in Michigan, gnarly Mt. Bohemia still needs more snow but it will indeed open Saturday -- both chairs, but no tree skiing yet...where does it actually look like winter? Well, Holiday Valley in western New York, and Seven Springs in western Pennsylvania...Tahoe? Fuggedaboutit. Heavenly looks more like late October than early January. Gondy out of South Lake Tahoe doesn't cross a single snowflake on the lower mountain...so we might as well end with some happy news, two teenagers got lost on the Castle Creek side of Aspen Highlands yesterday, found themselves rimrocked on a cliff below the area. Quick work by Mountain Rescue Aspen and the Aspen Highlands Ski Patrol had the kids safely rescued, none the worse for wear. As bad as the ski manufacturing business is, it's my pleasure to say that -- nationwide -- the ski patrol and mountain rescue people are just the opposite. They keep getting better and better at what they do.
1/4/2012 - Finally some good news for St. Louis area skiers as Hidden Valley Ski Resort finally received a blast of cold air and will open this afternoon for the first time this season...Likewise, temps in the northeast have finally dropped again, resorts are looking for some sort of weather to hit this weekend. Small but mighty Ski Sundown in northwest CT is said to be the only resort open side to side...based on what I see, good option for the NYC skier this weekend will be Windham...conditions suck and blow in parts of the west as well; Skico has gone so far as to have the company President tweeting and tumblring that things aren't as bad as everybody says at Aspen. Sadly, he's an army of one, and Aspen was charging $108 for lift tickets over the holidays. OK, the resort has 3600 acres open -- I guess that's if you add up all the open terrain at Snowmass, Highlands, Buttermilk and Ajax? Not sure about that. Still, it ain't worth $108. Trying to justify the usurious ticket prices, Skico brass is doing their best impersonation of Oddball from Kelly's Heroes, telling local bloggers to "quit with the negative waves"...truth be told the snowpack in much of Colorado is at 40% of the annual average for this time of the year. The season started with snow at 70% of average, and I don't suppose you need a trend line to figure that out...rumour is that Winter Park actually had frustrated vacationers lined up -- at the tubing lift. Yikes...sad news out of Skowhegan ME where Eaton Mountain will not open this season after owner David Beers was run over while repairing a groomer back in December. Beers is recovering, and we wish him the best. The Beers operated a tubing lift last year, and were set to do so again while continuing to make strides toward eventually reopening a double chair for alpine skiing...report from Lake George NY area West Mountain is finally encouraging with more terrain set to open this weekend, after the first Christmas week in the area's history that they had zero natural snow...yesterday predicted that Marlies Schild would win the slalom shindig in Zagreb Croatia yesterday, or last night, or the night before last, or whatever it was since I get a bit befuddled by the whole time difference/international dateline thing. Anyway Schild easily scored her fifth consecutive slalom victory, becoming the first skier to win five straight World Cup races in one discipline since Lindsey Vonn won the first five downhills back in 2009-10. Schild smoked runner up Tina Maze of Slovenia by 1.40 seconds. Also interesting that Austria’s Michaela Kirchgasser garnered her first career podium in the technical discipline. Vonn for her part showed some amazing stuff by finishing 9th. Lins had DNF'd the Zagreb slalom for three straight years, and then appeared headed in the same direction after hacking and gacking her way down the first run following an all-night bout with a stomach bug. Somehow she managed a 24th in that first run, then positively aced the second to land in the top ten. The points have her 100 up on Schild for the overall, but remember, Marlies doesn't compete in the speed runs. Vonn's real competition for the overall is defending champ Maria Hoefl-Riesch, who left Zagreb with no points after skiing out in her second run yesterday. Or last night. Whatever...Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources usually holds some 30 candlelight XC ski events per season, 5 of them scheduled for this weekend. The DNR is reporting that these may be coverted to hiking events. I don't care what you believe; PRAY FOR SNOW.
1/3/2012 - Happy New Year! Conditions continue to suck through most of the nation, at least the east coast is getting some cold and has the hardware to blow snow and deal with this disaster...worse off is the Tahoe area, where Donner Ski Ranch was closed for the holiday week...Boreal seems to be the best option in that region, until the real stuff falls...southern Oregon stalwart Mt. Ashland closed until further notice yesterday. That notice will be in the form of lots of snow, when it arrives...better news out of the mid-Atlantic; temps have allowed VA biggie Wintergreen to pump snow like Ullr, and some of the real stuff has fallen in WV at Canaan Valley, Timberline, Oglebay, Snowshoe and Winterplace...World Cup ladies are racing slalom this morning in Zagreb. Actually it's night there, and they are under the lights. US up-and-comer 16-year-old Mikaela Shiffrin, who had her first podium over the Christmas break, DNF'd. Early leader is -- you guessed it -- Marlies Schild followed by Tina Maze. Race ain't even over but it's over...sad news out of Cook City Montana where 44-year-old David Lee Gaillard was skiing with his wife this weekend when he was killed by an avalanche...in Colorado a backcountry skier was buried Sunday by an avy in Berthoud Pass, fortunately managed to survive the ordeal with a few broken ribs and whatnot...we'll end with happy news out of New York's southern tier, where lake effect magic is welcome news at Kissing Bridge, which has snow and snow guns blazing, Peek 'N Peak in Clymer got about 10 inches yesterday, and Holiday Valley had near white-out conditions yesterday afternoon! Let's hope Ol' Man Winter spreads the love.
News from January thru December 2011 is located here. News prior to January 2011 is located on the Oct/Nov/Dec 2010 page. Previous season and earlier news has been deleted and moved to the skiernet news archive from 2009-2010, or for 2008 and older seasons click here.
* * * * *
Use this to get Lift Tickets at Discount: There is a "clearinghouse" of sorts that many ski areas use to raise cash by selling discount tickets in advance, called Liftopia . If you haven't used this service, it is important to know for certain that you are going on a specific date. The deeply discounted tickets must be purchased in advance; generally up to two days out. The sticking point is that some ski resorts only make a limited number of tickets available to Liftopia for any given day, so they might be sold out if you wait too long...so, as soon as you are absolutely, positively sure that you will be skiing on a certain day, click this link to get deeply discounted tickets . I've used this service many times, but again, ONLY when I am absolutely certain I will be skiing on a specific date. You need to have access to a printer to print out your receipt, and you have to take identification with you to the mountain. I've knocked a third off the price of some tickets. Not every area participates, but it's well worth checking if you've got a date nailed down.
A tiny portion of your Liftopia purchase helps fund this website, at no added cost.
Did you ever feel like those big money ski movies are often a big let-down? You get all pumped up for the new release from some ski film company, and it's mostly incredible footage of guys jumping out of helicopters and shredding down some un-named mountain on the far side of the globe. They're neck deep in powder, skiing lines that you'll never, ever see. If you want ski movies you could actually relate to, a bunch of guys called The Meatheads, from Burlington, VT have made a series of "Ski The East" films. They film at real resorts like Sugarloaf, Blue Mountain, Big Boulder, Mount Snow, Ski Sundown, Stowe, Jay, Mountain Creek, Killington, plus some backcountry New England stuff, as well as a few urban locations. It's simply fantastic -- and since it's the same terrain we can get to, it's inspirational!
Their most recent release is Wild Stallions, although the one that is probably their best is from a year ago, called Head For The Hills. Both DVDs have hours of "bonus" footage, so it's like getting three ski movies for the price of one. The links go to Amazon.com, which enables you to order and return if you don't like them. And a small percentage of the sale helps us pay the expenses of this website, at no extra cost to you.
Here's a preview, courtesy Youtube...