Mountain Town News: Vail Resorts grows, but what about the future of skiing? |

Mountain Town News: Vail Resorts grows, but what about the future of skiing?

Allen Best | Mountain Town News

PARK CITY, Utah – Ski areas, at least some of them, remain greatly profitable. How else to explain the expansion by Vail Resorts and now the creation of the new but still unnamed company that might as well be called UnVail, a combination of KSL Capital Partners and the Crown family of Aspen and Chicago.

This is despite the fact that Vail Resorts last year had 5.4 percent fewer visitors at its U.S. resorts. But it grew its visits by 20 percent overall, obviously a reflection of Vail’s acquisition of Whistler Blackcomb just before the start to ski season last year. It did 12 million visits altogether, or about what used to be the average for all of Colorado.

But then consider this statement from Park City: “Skiing is not a growing sport,” said Jim Powell, vice president of marketing at the Park City Chamber/Bureau. The reason is simple: baby boomers are aging out and millennials simply do not ski or snowboard as much as their parents did and do.

In an event covered by The Park Record, Powell said it takes about two millennials to replace every baby boomer who hangs up his or her skis. Young adults between the ages of 20 and 36 tend to ski less during the season and they do not spend as much money.

Michael Berry, president of the National Ski Areas Association, pointed out that millennials are at that point in life where they are inclined to step away from skiing while they start families, crank up their careers, or possibly buy a home. “Or maybe all three of those things,” he said. “That distracts you, except for the most serious participants, from the idea that you might have time and the financial ability to be able to spend a weekend or a couple of days or even a day skiing.”

Berry said that millennials will return to the slopes later. Baby boomers, in contrast, more often stayed on the slopes while pivoting into careers, homes and families.

How about $1 lift tickets to draw business to a ski area?

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. – Discounted season passes have worked wonders for the bottom-lines of Vail Resorts, the big, big ski company. So why can’t a vastly discounted lift ticket help a small ski area like Howelsen Hill?

The ski area, located just a few blocks from downtown Steamboat Springs, was the original ski area there. But it has struggled in recent years. The city, which owns the small ski hill, has been investigating how to make it a more viable business proposition.

The latest idea is to offer $1 lift tickets on weekends. The thinking is that the drastically discounted lift ticket prices might be offset, at least in part, by increased concession sales. And it could become a destination in its own right, drawing families from Colorado’s Front Range looking for low-cost options for places to teach their children how to ski.

Steamboat Today explains that the ski area this year is projected to generate $185,000 in revenue from season pass and lift-ticket sales. About $72,000 of that comes from season pass sales.

No employee housing in this single-family house

JACKSON, Wyo. – Q: How many people can live in three-bedroom house? A: 15, at least in one house in Jackson.

The house had been outfitted with two beds in each bedroom and then more people in a converted living room. All but one were employees of the in-town ski area, Snow King.

That would have been OK if most of them had been related, but Jackson municipal regulations only allow three unrelated people per housing unit in that residential district, reported the Jackson Hole News & Guide.

Snow King, the resort, paid $9,000 a month for the lease. The general manager objected to turning out his employees in August, after the town issued the order. But the town said that Snow King shouldn’t have violated the rules.

Interstate charging stations latest in push for more electric vehicles

DENVER – Charging station by charging station, we’re moving toward a future of electrified transportation. Last week, governors of seven Western states agreed to help tame what is called range anxiety — the fear of running out of power with no charging station nearby — by agreeing to a plan for a fast-charging infrastructure of up to 5,000 miles of interstate highways.

Colorado, Utah and Nevada had announced much the same ambition last winter. But this time they were joined by governors of Wyoming and other states.

Still, it’s 167 miles from Durango to the nearby interstate highway at Grand Junction. Jackson Hole is 153 miles from Rock Springs and I-80. On the other hand, Tesla’s Model X can go 237 and the Chevy Bolt can also go more than 200 miles. More EVs will undoubtedly extend their capacity for range without recharging.

Colorado prides itself as being a leader in this transition from the internal combustion engine. The Denver Post last week noted that 10,000 electric vehicles had been registered in Colorado as of June. The state has the fourth highest rate of people switching from gas-powered to electric vehicles in the nation. This shift was aided by a tax credit of $5,000 that began in January.

But the Salt Lake Tribune noted on Sunday that Utahns buy more electric cars per capita than California — so take that, Silicon Valley billionaires.

Jackson Hole getting more connected to outside world

JACKSON, Wyo. – Jackson Hole, which prides itself on its remoteness, will be even more linked to the outside world next year.

American Airlines will begin offering daily flights between Jackson and Dallas next spring. Jackson Hole already has daily shoulder-season flights to Denver and Salt Lake City.

The Jackson Hole News & Guide notes that the new flights to Dallas will be provided by the 68-passenger Bombardier CRJ-700 jets.

Park City in the news for Sundance, but in a twist

PARK CITY, Utah – The usual reason Park City makes the pages of The New York Times is because of the Sundance Film Festival. Last week, Park City was cited again, but for less noble reasons.

The newspaper carried a major expose of how Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein had been using his position to ask women to do the sorts of things that bosses shouldn’t ask their supplicants to do: give them massages, watch him take a shower in the nude and so forth.

“In public, he presents himself as a liberal lion, a champion of women and a winner of not just artistic but humanitarian awards,” the Times said. Among the supporting evidence was this: “During the Sundance Film Festival in January, when Park City, Utah, held its version of nationwide women’s marches, Mr. Weinstein joined the parade.”

Weinstein, who has won six best-picture Oscars during his career, rattled legal sabers but admitted that yes, he had misbehaved, blaming it on the culture of the ’60s and ’70s. Clearly, his career is over. But what will be the influence on Sundance?

Push to expand recycling of organics at gateway town

CANMORE, Alberta – Recycling has become something of an issue in the municipal elections in Canmore, at the gateway to Banff National Park. The Rocky Mountain Outlook says several residents have been pushing to institute recycling of organic materials into a composting system.

Canada altogether generally has much higher waste-diversion rates than the United States. But food waste represents 37 percent of all the trash from Canmore that is hauled to the landfill. Do-it-yourself composting of organic material is banned in Canmore, because it attracts wildlife, including bears.

The Outlook reports that two local residents have been pushing for organic composting. Mayor John Borrowman, who is seeking re-election, says he believes such organic waste recycling can occur within four years.

Crested Butte investigates potential paid parking

CRESTED BUTTE, Colo. – Crested Butte and Mt. Crested Butte, the side-by-side municipalities next to the ski area of the same name, seem to be broaching a new level of busyness as would require paid parking.

The Crested Butte News reports that town officials are talking with a firm called Interstate Parking, which manages 65,000 parking spots in seven states. Among them is Breckenridge. Interstate Parking promises to raise revenue for both Crested Butte and Mt. Crested Butte by using a smartphone-based paid parking system.

Michael Yerman, the town planner in Crested Butte, reported that an ad hoc parking committee concluded that one reason for traffic congestion in Crested Butte is because parking is “free and easy.”

In Breckenridge, parking is now paid based on license plate numbers and can be done through a smartphone app or by credit card at solar-powered kiosk meters. The first hour costs 50 cents. Enforcement is provided by a team of “ambassadors,” to use the company’s phrase, who are paid $19 an hour. During winter, six a day are needed in Breckenridge but during summer only one or two.

The firm wants $77,000 to provide this parking management in Crested Butte.

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