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U.S. Forest Service approves protection of Colorado’s Sweetwater Lake, but big questions remain

The White River National Forest’s request for Land and Water Conservation Fund money to permanently protect Garfield County’s Sweetwater Lake — a pristine oasis surrounded by public lands —  has been granted.

But the agency did not say how much of the requested $8.5 million from the fund will be distributed. That’s just one of several recent examples of foot dragging by Trump Administration land managers who have missed critical deadlines imposed by the Great American Outdoors Act, a sweeping public lands bill that President Donald Trump promoted to help buoy Republican senators facing tough re-election bids in the West. 

The Forest Service on Friday released its 2021 list of Land and Water Conservation Fund projects for state grants under the Forest Legacy Program and for land acquisition. The list was due Nov. 2 as part of the passage this summer of the Great American Outdoors Act, which promised to whittle down an estimated $20 billion in deferred maintenance on public lands and directed $900 million a year into the Land and Water Conservation Fund. (The fund is supported by oil and gas royalties paid by energy companies exploring and drilling on federal land and water.)

The Great American Outdoors Act requires the Forest Service and the Department of Interior to submit “a detailed description of each project, including the estimated expenditures from the fund for the project for applicable fiscal years,” by Nov. 2. Both agencies missed that deadline. The list released Friday by the Forest Service also lacked the dollar figures required by the legislation. 

As an added twist, Interior Secretary David Bernhardt on Friday issued an order that added new provisions to the Land and Water Conservation Fund, including severe limitations on the Bureau of Land Management’s ability to add new acreage. Bernhardt’s Secretarial Order 3388 prioritized land acquisitions by the National Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over the BLM. 

Read more from Jason Blevins, The Colorado Sun.

Cimarron Mountain Club, a private ski area near Montrose, sells its seven final memberships

Jim Aronstein’s business plan is moored in protecting powder. 

So he took a pass when the brokers suggested he increase the number of homesites he was selling at his private Cimarron Mountain Club ski area near Montrose from just 13. When advisors recommended adding a chairlift, instead of using a snowcat, to access 60-plus runs at his nearly 2,000-acre mountain, he said no. 

“When you put more skiers on the mountain, you are detracting from what you are trying to achieve,” Aronstein said. “Imagine your version of mountain heaven. That’s what we are trying to create.”

Aronstein, a retired land resources attorney and passionate skier, bought the mountainous spread above the Cimarron River from a logging company in 2004 and never wavered from his core principles as he created a ski-focused retreat where members and their families could ski powder all the time. It’s a private ski area model unlike any other in the country, and the appeal took time to reach the right buyers. In the first three years of sales, Aronstein sold six homesites. 

Then came COVID and a worldwide reassessment of priorities. As buyers from afar sought refuge in communities like Aspen, Telluride and Vail, the search for even more exclusivity led a select few to Aronstein’s door. 

He’s sold the final seven parcels in the last three weeks. 

Read more via The Colorado Sun.

Q&A: Amie Engerbretson talks Warren Miller’s legacy and what she’s been up to during the pandemic ahead of virtual ‘Future Retro’ premiere

Warren Miller Entertainment’s 71st film, “Future Retro,” unfortunately won’t get the classic premiere events this year, but the film is still available for (smaller) silver screen celebrations at home.

On Saturday, Nov. 14, tune into a virtual event with host Jonny Moseley, who will still keep traditions alive with athlete interviews and giveaways. While the live stream starts at 6 p.m., ticketholders will have access to the stream for 48 hours, and a $30 general admission ticket allows up to four people watching from one device to enjoy the film and the fun. Ticket purchase also gives participants access to door prizes, national sweepstakes and up to four coupon codes.

The film itself will combine footage and stories from Scot Schmidt and the Egan brothers, who paved the way for big mountain skiing in the 1980s and ’90s. It will bring together past, present and future with younger athletes like Lexi duPont and Baker Boyd.

One of those athletes is Amie Engerbretson, who took some time to share some stories with the Vail Daily: about filming “Future Retro,” her favorite places to ski and what she’s been up to during the pandemic. Below are edited excerpts from that conversation.

Amie Engerbretson skis the Jungfrau region of Switzerland for “Future Retro.”
Oskar Enander | Special to the Daily

Vail Daily: The summary text for “Future Retro” calls you and duPont “progressive, young female skiers.” What does that mean to you? What attributes about you as a person and as a skier contribute to that mindset?

Amie Engerbretson: Young? Heck I will take it. But seriously, I think both Lexi and I have worked really hard to make our ski careers work. For me, a lot of that has come from getting really creative. On snow, yes, I am always pushing myself and trying to progress and be the best skier possible, but there is a lot of ‘progression’ that takes place off snow. I have become very involved with creating and producing projects that I am a part of. I don’t sit around and wait for the phone to ring. I go out and make opportunities happen for myself. In line with that, I am always trying to bring my friends, especially fellow female skiers, along with me.

What I love most about working with women is the collaboration that takes place. We have learned that we are so much stronger together than individually. Creating a place in the ski industry for women has been the work of many athletes that have come before me and the work will continue on. I feel honored to be doing my part and hopefully paving the way a little further for the female athletes that come after me.

VD: What was your favorite part about working on “Future Retro” and how did that experience compare to other Warren Miller films you’ve been in?

AE: Every time I have the opportunity to be in a Warren Miller film, it is a huge honor. This year being my fifth film was no different. We got to go to Switzerland, I have skied there a bit. This year, between being comfortable with the location and terrain, along with being comfortable with the Warren Miller filming process, I felt like I could really just relax and enjoy. Don’t get me wrong, that didn’t mean we didn’t work, work hard we did as always, but it felt like I could really settle in and be confident. It was really cool. We faced challenges for sure, as we were in Switzerland as everything with the pandemic was coming to a head. We had to leave early because of travel restrictions going into effect. In a lot of ways, my Warren Miller trip was the last time life felt “normal,” so it holds an even more special place in some ways.

Amie Engerbretson skis Engelberg, Switzerland for “Future Retro.”
Oskar Enander | Special to the Daily

VD: What does it mean to you to be part of the Warren Miller Entertainment universe? Did you grow up watching ski films?

AE: Being a part of Warren Miller is a huge honor and a total dream. Not only did I grow up with Warren Miller films, I grew up watching my dad dream about being in the films. I had the dream of being part of the WME family before I even knew what a dream was. My dad went on the film with the company and now I, of course, ski in the films. It has been an incredibly rewarding experience to see these dreams realized. It is more than just my dream, it is my family’s dream which is pretty cool.

Warren Miller is all about legacy and I have my own micro experience of that with the legacy of the Warren Miller dream in my family. When I first got sponsored and started pursuing my ski career, I would email the WME producer every year asking to be in the film and explaining why I would be a good fit. I am sure at the beginning they were like, “yeah, yeah, kid,” but eventually, I made it.

VD: Favorite place(s) you’ve skied and why?

AE: For me, the pinnacle skiing experience is Alaska. It is the most wild place I have ever skied, and the mountains challenge me greatly. That being said, that is not an everyday skiing experience and that isn’t what holds skiing so deeply in my heart.

I could say British Columbia, I could say the Swiss Alps, I could say my home mountain Squaw Valley, and that would all be true. But the best answer is my favorite skiing is anywhere the snow is good and the people are great. That is what really makes skiing wonderful, the people and yeah, the snow.

VD: What have you been up to during COVID-19?

AE: Well, this recent time has been a huge shift. It is by far the longest I have been in one spot for a decade. I have been at my house in Truckee, California, and I spent the summer just exploring my backyard. Tons of camping, backpacking and exploring places really close to home. I have felt super lucky to live where I do.

Other than that, I have been really leaning into home life. When I am traveling, I am always feeling like I am missing out on the routine of daily life, and now I am filling up that tank. Tons of cooking, new recipes, fancy homemade cocktails, home projects, extreme organizing and lots of time with my dog Bill. Don’t get me wrong, I am really ready to travel again when it is safe to do so, but this time has been really nice in a lot of ways.

Outdoor recreation accounted for $788 billion in 2019, supporting 5.2 million jobs

Outdoor recreation is emerging as a critical element in the economic recovery from COVID-19 as the recreation economy delivers a larger share of U.S. economic output for the second consecutive year.

The federal government’s latest tally of the outdoor recreation economy showed a $787.6 billion economic impact from businesses supporting 5.2 million jobs. The report from the Bureau of Economic Analysis issued this week showed outdoor recreation’s businesses and participants supported 2.1% of the nation’s economic output, or gross domestic product. 

This is the third annual report on the U.S. recreation economy. The 2017 report was the first to quantify the growing role of recreation in the national economy. Each year since, the recreation economy has grown, often at a faster rate than the national economy. 

The 2019 report from the BEA showed the recreation economy providing $459.8 billion in “nominal value” — spending minus the costs of goods and services — to the gross domestic product, which the bureau counted as $21.4 trillion in 2019. The bureau’s 2019 study showed the recreation economy’s “real gross output,” which covers consumer and business spending as well as wages, reached $787.6 billion, up from $776.8 billion in 2018 and $759.6 billion in 2017.

The outdoor recreation economy in the U.S. is “bigger than mining and bigger than agriculture and on par with broadcasting and telecommunications,” said bureau economist Dirk van Duym in a presentation early Tuesday after the report was released. 

Read more from Jason Blevins, The Colorado Sun.

Aspen Skiing Co. outlines plan for ski operations during pandemic

Aspen Skiing Co.’s operations plan for the pandemic-plagued ski season was approved by Pitkin County on Wednesday and forwarded to the state of Colorado for review.

The 53-page plan covers everything from the Highland Bowl snowcat (it won’t operate) to procedures for ski patrollers (they will wear disposable gloves and other personal protective equipment when called on to treat an injured or ill skier or snowboarder).

Pitkin County Manager Jon Peacock said the county checked for compliance with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s requirements for ski area operations this winter.

“We found that the company covered all the rubric,” he said.

The state health department also will review and inform Skico and the county within the next few days if changes are required, Peacock said. The Colorado ski industry is slowly cranking up for the season, just as state and national COVID-19 cases start to soar. Keystone, Loveland, Arapahoe Basin and Wolf Creek are among ski areas that have started spinning lifts. Aspen Mountain and Snowmass are opening two weeks from today, on Thanksgiving.

“Aspen Skiing Company’s primary goal for this season is to safely operate for the entirety of the season, while supporting and ensuring that our community stays safe and healthy,” said the opening of Skico’s operating plan. “ASC understands that this must be part of a broader community-wide effort.”

Skico will take actions that have become standard in the COVID-era — beefing-up cleaning and disinfecting of facilities and infrastructure, requiring employees and customers to wear masks in most situations, and marking off social distance in lines at retail operations, bathrooms and restaurants. But the plan also makes clear that virtually every part of the ski experience will be tweaked or altered this winter.

There is currently no plan to require season pass holders or lift ticket purchasers to reserve time on the slopes. However, Skico is ready to initiate such a plan, if needed. The company said it has “developed a backup reservation system that can be implemented” in case COVID-19 cases “move to problematic levels.”

In the meantime, Skico is using pass products to try to spread usage more evenly across its four ski areas and from traditional peak periods to less busy times.

The plan specified capacity limits for Aspen Mountain, Snowmass, Aspen Highlands and Buttermilk but that section was blacked out from a copy The Aspen Times acquired from Pitkin County through a Colorado Open Records Act request.

“The following section on capacity is considered proprietary and is not available for public consumption,” the plan said. Nearly two pages that are blacked out follow it.

Skico said the winter operations plan is flexible so that capacity can be increased or decreased as conditions warrant.

Skiers and riders won’t be pampered with as many guest services as they have in the past. For example, people skiing Highland Bowl will have to fully earn their turns. The snowcat that provides a lift for a portion of the journey up the Bowl won’t operate this season.

At the Silver Queen Gondola at Aspen Mountain and the Elk Camp Gondola at Snowmass, skiers and riders will be asked to load their own boards. “If help is needed, lift operators will assist,” the plan said.

Windows on gondola cabins will remain open, even in bad weather. An electrostatic sprayer will be used for a “deep clean” on the gondola cabins each morning as weather permits. “We will spray down cabins throughout the day so that they can dry on the way down if temperatures allow,” the plan said.

In lift and gondola lines, the guests will have “guidance to demonstrate appropriate spacing when waiting to load,” the plan said. Guests will be required to wear face coverings while loading, unloading and riding the lifts.

“Chairlifts will load with parties that are comfortable together,” the plan said. “Parties may load lifts to full capacity. No guests will be loaded with anyone outside of their party if they object to doing so.”

Facilities such as on-mountain restaurants and base facilities won’t be as inviting as in the past. For example, most of the furniture will be removed from the Aspen Highlands lobby and ticket office to “discourage loitering.”

The ski patrol headquarters will not be open to the public. If help is needed, visitors can knock on the window or call a number listed on the door.

Skico will post a “doorman” at on-mountain restaurants to help manage physical distancing at entries, waiting areas and queues. “All employees and guests will be required to wear a mask while navigating the facility, ordering food and at the cash registers,” Skico’s plan said.

Tents with seating capacity of as many as 50 people will be erected wherever possible to increase restaurant-seating capacity. They will have heating and air filtration.

They will be added at Elk Camp, Ullrhof and High Alpine at Snowmass; the Sundeck at Aspen Mountain; and Merry Go Round at Aspen Highlands.

In its bathrooms, Skico is considering “blocking off stalls” to provide adequate spacing. “Porta-johns” will be added outside of facilities to boost capacity.

“All public restrooms and Porta-johns will be cleaned and disinfected every hour,” the plan said. All hand dryers will be turned off and disposable paper towels provided. Hand sanitizer will be available.

Skico will use a carrot-and-stick approach to enforcement.

“ASC will train employees in empathetic dialogues that inform and remind the guests of our requirements in following the 5 Commitments to Containment,” the plan said. Signage on requirements for social distancing and masks will be provided wherever customers congregate. Individuals will be thanked for wearing masks and adhering to distancing. They will be reminded, when necessary, of the importance of the action and how each person’s behavior impacts others, according to the plan.

“Employees will not allow guests that are refusing to follow requirements into facilities or onto lifts,” the plan said. “If guests refuse to follow requirements, their pass/ticket will be blocked for the remainder of the day and they will need to speak with the mountain manager prior to re-establishing access.”

Skico said it has already implemented a comprehensive guest communications plan so that there are no surprises when customers arrive. The efforts will include clear explanations about cancellation and postponement policies.

“Our goal has been to clearly set guest expectations and develop reasonable policies that do not disincentive guests who are feeling sick from staying home and/or seeking medical attention,” Skico said in the plan. “ASC has developed a range of products and policies with various cancellation and postponement policies so that guests can make informed judgments about what makes sense for them.”


Loveland Ski Area to open for the season Wednesday

Loveland Ski Area will open for the season at 9 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 11.

Loveland will be the third ski area to open in the region. Keystone Resort and Arapahoe Basin Ski Area also are open.

Loveland will have three opening day trails: Catwalk, Mambo and Home Run. The connected trails make up over 1 mile and about 1,000 vertical feet of open terrain, according to a news release. The run is covered in an 18-inch base and will be served by the Chet’s Dream chairlift. 

In the news release, Chief Operating Officer Rob Goodell said the ski area has been waiting to welcome everyone back to the mountain since the season was cut short in March and plans to do everything it can to make sure Loveland can stay open for the whole season. He added that the weekend’s cold weather and natural snow gave the ski area the boost it needed to open. 

Starting Wednesday, the ski area will be open seven days a week with a closing day set in early May. Lift operating hours are from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays and 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends and certain holidays.

Early season lift tickets are being sold online and in advance at SkiLoveland.com and are $75 for adults and $35 for children ages 6 to 14. Lift tickets won’t be sold at the ski area due to restrictions because of the novel coronavirus.

COVID-19 policies are listed at SkiLoveland.com/coronavirusupdate and include mask-wearing, physical distancing and staying home when sick.

VIDEO: Deep snow at Wolf Creek ski area

Video won’t play? Click here: https://youtu.be/is9raFEYceQ

WATCH: Vail Daily reporter John LaConte visits Wolf Creek ski area during a snowstorm on Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2020.

Q&A: Sustainable Film Series founder Melissa Kirr shares why she picked this year’s films

The Sustainable Film Series, hosted on the second Wednesday of each month November through April, is returning for its ninth year of sharing poignant documentaries about all things green at the Riverwalk Theater. The series kicks off Wednesday, Nov. 11, with “Youth Unstoppable” at 3:30 and 6:30 p.m.

Advance registration is required for social distancing: there will be 50 seats available at each showing. Organizers are currently hosting the series in person, and will adjust programming as needed to accommodate changing public health guidelines through the winter.

“I’ve always chosen films that are specific to things that are happening around the world, as well as the local year within our country,” said Walking Mountains’ Senior Programs Director of Sustainability Melissa Kirr, who started the film series back in 2011 and has been organizing it since.

Over the years, the Sustainable Film Series developed a partnership with the Riverwalk Theater, which is “stoked” to be partnering with Walking Mountains once again.

“Being involved in the series is really a win for us, as the goal of the series is to provoke thought within our community, and this helps us to achieve our goal of bringing value to our community through film,” said theater owner Grant Smith.

Kirr sat down with the Vail Daily to discuss each film in the lineup: why she selected it, and how its themes tie to the Vail Valley. Below are edited excerpts from that conversation.

“Youth Unstoppable,” Nov. 11

“Youth Unstoppable”‘s director Slater Jewell-Kemker was 15 when she began documenting the untold stories of youth on the front lines of climate change.
Special to the Daily

Melissa Kirr: Kids want their voices heard and they’ve been trying to share their voices for more than a decade. With Greta Thunberg coming into light last year, it’s really pushed it even further. When you look at this film, you can learn that there’s been people that came before her. There’s other youth that have stepped up and said, “We need you to do something about this.” There were climate protests with youth in the valley within the past year. There are so many kids that are stepping up and saying they want to be part of it. We’ve seen that locally and it would be great for our community to see this film. It was created over a 12-year span by a 15-year-old girl. It would be really helpful for all ages to see this movement, and where it’s been and what’s happening right now.

“Wilder Than Wild,” Dec. 9

“Wilder Than Wild” explores how the vicious cycle of fuel buildup, climate change and greenhouse gas emissions from those fires contribute to fires’ increasing intensity and spread to populated wildland-urban areas.
Special to the Daily

MK: Yes, typically we have forest fires in the summer, but we chose this before the Grizzly Creek fire. “Wilder Than Wild” is reminding people that fires are getting wilder. They’re in our backyard, they’re displacing our community members, they’re causing concern for people’s livelihoods and homes. This year especially, it’s hitting home. There are those that say, “Of course forest fires are a natural thing, but it’s not climate change, it’s because we didn’t manage the forest properly for so many years.” It’s a mixture of those two things. This is a chance to learn a little more about it and to see the connection with climate change.

“The Story of Plastic,” Jan. 13

“The Story of Plastic” takes a sweeping look at the man-made crisis of plastic pollution and the worldwide effect it has on the health of our planet and the people who inhabit it.
Special to the Daily

MK: “The Story of Plastic” brings to light the massive amount of plastics that we have in the world, and how they’re continuing to be made. A lot of oil companies are actually starting to go into plastic making right now because of the low cost of oil. They’re creating more plastics to use their petroleum, and they profit. Many places across the state, for quite a few years now, have put in bans on plastic bags and single use plastics. Vail and Avon have had a plastic bag ban for quite a few years now. The state has had many bills come in front of it, over the last couple years, around single use plastic and straws. These small pieces of plastic do add up. “The Story of Plastic” talks about where we are in the world with the amount of plastic we have and how it’s in, like, everything. It also talks about what kind of things could happen on a larger scale than just an individual reducing their plastic use, going towards policy. It’s been a hot topic for the last few years, and it’s of interest to many of our community members.

“The Need to GROW,” Feb. 10

“The Need to GROW” delivers alarming evidence on the importance of healthy soil — revealing not only the potential of localized food production working with nature, but our opportunity as individuals to help regenerate our planet’s dying soils and participate in the restoration of the Earth.
Special to the Daily

MK: Since COVID especially, more and more people have jumped back into wanting to grow their own food, and wanting to learn more about soil and going into compost. Local participating in the compost drop off or the compost program increased quite a bit after COVID hit and they wanted to do something about the waste they were creating, especially because it was food waste. It’s interesting to see more and more people wanting to go back to the land. The film discusses regenerative agriculture and the health of our soils, sharing how important soil is as a natural resource. There are certain things many of us don’t think about when it comes to natural resources and the importance of it, and soils are one of them. If we’re not taking care of natural resources by using them properly, they can cause a lot of damage down the line.

“The Hottest August,” March 10

“The Hottest August” offers a mirror onto a society on the verge of catastrophe, registering the anxieties, distractions, and survival strategies that preoccupy ordinary lives.
Special to the Daily

MK: When this was coming out, they were talking about August 2017. We thought we were at the hottest, but we’re actually getting hotter. Here we are in 2020, and we’re on record again. The film starts by exploring August 2017 in New York City, but thinking about that here in Colorado, where it does it continues to get hotter and hotter … we’re seeing catastrophic problems because of that. We’re seeing hotter Augusts, and then we start to see warmer winters. Our amount of snow is dwindling. That’s definitely of concern to us, right? Our climate changes our habitats and our ecosystems. That’s our livelihood.

“2040,” April 14

“2040,” from Australian director Damon Gameau, presents a positive vision of what could be, instead of the dystopian future we are so often presented.
Special to the Daily

MK: This one’s drawing it all in. It gives you a hope at the end, and the possibilities of where we could go. As we go through these different films of the months, we’ve really seen issues that are causing concern to us right here at home. Then, we get to have that thought of what it could be and how can things look different in 2040. In Eagle County, we’ve got goals and targets from the Climate Action Plan that we want to hit by 2030 and 2050. “2040” examines what it could look like if we’re able to accomplish those things. It  hits home to say, “Okay, there’s a bright side, a light at the end of the tunnel.” There’s the Gandhi quote: “Be the change you want to see in the world.” We need to stop saying, “this is impossible” and start saying, “this is possible” and have that mindset of “What can we do to make the change happen that we want to see?”

For more information about the Sustainable Film Series and to RSVP, visit walkingmountains.org.

Backcountry ski equipment expected to sell out quickly this uncertain season

FRISCO — When ski resorts suddenly shut down in mid-March, skiers and snowboarders flocked to the backcountry. With lingering uncertainty about resort operations this ski season, backcountry shops are expected to be in high demand.

Eric Henderson, spokesperson for SnowSports Industries America, said that as ski areas and retail shops shut down in March and April, the backcountry industry saw a record-breaking amount of internet sales for equipment, including items like boots, shovels, packs and skins. He said sales for Alpine touring gear were up 34% in March and 15% for the season, according to internet sales data from NPD Group.

“What that did do going into this winter, though, is it increased everyone’s forecasts,” Henderson said.

Henderson explained that growth forecasts are intended to help purchasers order products in the summer in anticipation of what could happen in the fall. He said he’s expecting suppliers to sell out of products, particularly apparel and skins — which attach to skis or a splitboard to assist in ascending a hill or mountain. 

Specifically, Henderson said Swiss brand Pomoca, a pioneer of skins, is expected to sell out this season with certain products selling out as early as mid-November.

“With people buying this gear, we’re definitely going to see an increase of backcountry users, we’re definitely going to see people venturing into areas that they haven’t been before, which is great for the sport, no question,” Henderson said. “I think backcountry skiing deserves this chance. It does beckon the question of importance and need for education.”

While Henderson appreciates the growth of the sport, he said the industry wants to make sure people are educated and taking the right steps to avoid potentially deadly accidents. 

“What we don’t want to have happen is — great, backcountry skiing is growing — and then what if something happens on a massive scale,” Henderson said. “Then everything that we’ve put into growing … backcountry skiing could then get painted in a negative light if there was to be a major incident.”

That could become a problem if necessary backcountry safety items — like shovels, beacons and probes — are sold out.

Jackson Renner, owner of Gore Range Sports, recently opened his ski and bike shop in Silverthorne. In winter, the shop is focused on Alpine touring and Nordic skiing.

Renner said he is preparing for a busy season, specifically on the Nordic front. He said some customers who have never cross-country skied are coming into his shop looking for a way to get into the backcountry. Because Nordic skiing has a lower learning curve and associated risk than Alpine touring, he said he expects it to be particularly popular this year. 

“It’s kind of the activity the whole family can do out the back door,” Renner said. “Whether you live, say, in Wildernest or Breckenridge, you can ski all the local low-angle hillsides right out your back door, and it’s just safer. It’s kind of like taking the dog for a walk.”

Renner is expecting a shortage of backcountry gear this year and anticipates the product reordering process will be difficult. He said most of the vendors he’s currently working with are experiencing delays in production.  

Wilderness Sports owner Lucy Hedrick said there have been a lot of delays in production and that the bulk of what the store has received so far is Nordic gear. Hedrick said the store got a shipment of gear less than two weeks ago, and half of it already has been sold. The shipment would last until Christmas in a more typical season.

While Nordic skiing is expected to be popular, Hedrick said a lot of people are ready to commit to Alpine touring.

“A lot of people who have already done a lot of resort skiing — and maybe have even demoed our backcountry stuff or gone out with friends before — those people are ready to make a commitment this year to learning it and getting the education,” Hedrick said. 

Alpine touring equipment has a lot of interest, Hedrick said, but is experiencing shipping delays for some products. Hedrick said people are coming into the store panicked to get their equipment purchased for the season.

Hedrick is telling people not to stress. She said equipment will come; it’s just taking awhile to arrive. But once the equipment does arrive, it will go quickly, so the store is encouraging people to snatch up their gear — particularly safety gear — early. Hedrick said the store has increased its orders in anticipation of the high demand.

In a normal year, Hedrick said, the store would host educational events to help with backcountry safety. They won’t this year because of the pandemic, so Wilderness Sports staff members are trying to have conversations about safety with anyone who is new to the sport, including asking customers if they know where to go to receive proper avalanche education and ensuring they have the necessary safety equipment and know how to use it.

Wilderness Sports is pointing people to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, Colorado Mountain College and other local programs for safety courses.

“We’re expecting it to be crazy, and I think that a lot of people that have already been in the backcountry world are nervous,” Hedrick said. “… The best thing that we can do is just try to hold each other accountable and educate people in a way that makes them feel welcome into the community.

“At the end of the day, we’re all just trying to make the best of this winter.”


Vail and Beaver Creek drop in SKI Magazine’s annual resort rankings, Aspen Snowmass fades from first to fifth

There is no three-peat for the Aspen-Snowmass ski areas this winter.

After getting crowned the top-ranked ski resort in the West for the past two seasons, Aspen-Snowmass fell to fifth this year in SKI Magazine’s annual rankings.

“We can’t win every year. We won two years in a row,” said Jeff Hanle, Skico vice president of communications.

SKI has conducted a readers’ survey for several years to determine the top-regarded resorts. Skico’s four ski areas used to be considered as separate resorts, much to the chagrin of company officials. They felt their resorts would fare better when regarded as one. SKI changed its policy a few years ago and Aspen-Snowmass, indeed, came out on top in the 2019 and 2020 rankings.

But 2021 is a new year. Rounding out the top three behind Sun Valley were Deer Valley in second and White Fish Mountain Resort in Montana in third. Taos Ski Valley finished one place ahead of Aspen-Snowmass.

SKI had this to say: “The four ski areas that make up Aspen-Snowmass fell in the reader rankings this year, but they are still, undoubtedly, four of the most amazing places skiers can visit in the USA.”

The resort write-ups are slightly out of date in the COVID-pandemic world. Aspen ranked high in après-ski activities and nightlife, at No. 2 in both categories. However, partying off-slope will look a whole lot different this year with capacity restrictions on gatherings.

SKI readers also touted the Aspen-Snowmass slopes. “From the steep, continuous fall-line skiing of Highland Bowl to the kid-friendly, first-timer slopes of Buttermilk’s Panda Peak, there truly is something for everyone,” the magazine wrote.

Rounding out the top 10 were Telluride at six, then Whistler Blackcomb, Steamboat, Beaver Creek at 9 (a drop from #8 last year) and Crested Butte at 10. Vail was down at 14, after being number 11 in 2019.

The rankings can be found at http://www.skimag.com/ski-resort-life/best-ski-resorts-in-the-west-2021.

In the eastern U.S., the top three resorts were Smugglers Notch, Vermont; Tremblant, Quebec; and Mad River Glen, Vermont.

Hanle said the surveys are obviously subjective. There’s no way to explain how Aspen-Snowmass placed first for two consecutive years, then faded to fifth. Nevertheless, Skico will gladly accept the publicity, even in a season where it will likely be limiting customers rather than packing the slopes.

“It’s anybody’s guess where this year is going to go,” Hanle said.


This story was updated with information by Vail Daily staff.