Snowpocalypse gives ski resorts down under an early start

Sounds like our friends south of the equator are getting a ton of snow for an early beginning to the ski season in Australia.

Here’s a story from the Melbourne Herald Sun:

IT’S here. The megablizzard. Snowpocalypse now. This baby has been on the weather charts all week and it’s howling its way through the Australian Alps as you read this.

Experienced weather watchers are calling it the storm of the century. They’re saying it could snow on and off, but mostly on, for the next 10 days.

And now the megablizzard has arrived. The NSW resorts of Thredbo and Perisher received 40cm and 50cm respectively overnight. Hotham, Falls Creek and Mt Buller (pictured below) in Victoria all reported similar totals.

A spokesman for Thredbo confirmed to news.com.au that as of about 3.30pm, 80cm of snow had now fallen in the past 24 hours.

“It’s an incredible amount for June, I’m not sure it’s a record, but it has set us up for the rest of the season,” he said.

Check out their video and photos at MEGABLIZZARD.

Check out the best ski resorts in Australia and New Zealand

When we visited Queensland, New Zealand, we missed the end of the ski season by only 1 day. And they wouldn’t fire up the lifts for a couple late Americans. Oh well!

If you’re in New Zealand or Australia for their new ski season just beginning, be sure to check out their ski resorts.

Here’s a nice compilation by On The Snow.

Coronet Peak is the most popular ski resort on the South Island of New Zealand, in part due to its proximity to Queenstown—20 minutes away. From the summit, look left to see Gondor from the movie, The Lord of the Rings. The varied terrain offers something for everyone: beginners and intermediates have wide blue and red runs, while more advanced skiers can hit the terrain park or test their stamina on the longest run, the “M-1,” stretching 2.4 kilometers (1.5 miles). The resort is known for its efficient high-speed chairlifts. The peak is one of the last ski fields to lose its snow, hence the season typically runs from early June to mid October.

When to go: Early June to mid October

Terrain: 690 acres: beginners 25 percent, intermediates 45 percent, advanced 30 percent (includes back bowls)

Lifts: One high-speed six seater, two express quads, one T-Bar and four surface conveyor lifts

Longest run: M1—1.5 miles

Après ski: Fully-licensed restaurant plus bar and cafe with sun deck at the sub-station.

Resort facilities: Snowsports school, ski and snowboard rental shop, ski retail outlet, licensed day care center and children’s programs, first aid and emergency services.

Ski pass prices: Daily lift tickets cost $97 (NZD)

Transportation: Snowline Express costs $15 and return from Queenstown Snow Centre, departs every 20 minutes during peak times with pick-ups at designated stops where space is available. Snowline Hotel Pick is $30 (Adult), $20 (Youth 17 & under) per person for a return trip. Prebook your seat by 9 p.m. the night before. Pick-ups from designated Queenstown accommodation providers.

For the top four resorts in Australia and New Zealand, see their report.

#Winter2014: Colorado skier visits surge to 12.6 million, a new record

During the past winter, Vail and other Colorado resorts welcomed more skiers and snowboarders than ever, thanks, in part, to disappointing snowfall at resorts in California. (Photo By Andy Cross/The Denver Post)

During the past winter, Vail and other Colorado resorts welcomed more skiers and snowboarders than ever, at least in part due to disappointing snowfall at resorts in California. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post)

By Jason Blevins
The Denver Post

Colorado ski resorts broke a visitation record in 2013-14, thanks to an early start, a late finish, a drought in California and, of course, steady snowfall all season.

The state’s 25 ski areas logged 12.6 million visits, up 10 percent from last year — the strongest year-over-year surge in recent history and an 8 percent increase over the five-year average. The 2013-14 season is now the benchmark, unseating the 12.56 million high set in 2006-07.

“It’s been eight years and a Great Recession since the last new visitation record, and that feels great,” said Melanie Mills, president of resort trade group Colorado Ski County USA, which announced the season’s visitation at its 51st annual meeting at Copper Mountain.

Visitation was up across all categories, with the number of out-of-state skiers growing alongside international visitors and pass-wielding locals.

While California skiers have long ranked as a top market for Colorado resorts, the snow-gobbling drought there fueled a double-digit percentage increase in Californians on Colorado ski slopes this season.

Colorado resort leaders never wish a decimating season on their peers from other states, but there’s hope the 2013-14 season might turn some California skiers on to Colorado.

“We think that all those visitors that came to Colorado had a great experience,” Mills said, “and we think that gives us an opportunity to get them back.”

Colorado Ski Country’s 21 member resorts saw 7.1 million visits in 2013-14. Vail Resorts’ Vail, Breckenridge, Beaver Creek and Keystone ski areas drew 5.5 million visits.

Vail, the nation’s largest resort operator, last month reported solid growth in the 2013-14 season, despite poor performance at its California resorts, with visitor spending reaching near-records on increases in lessons, lift tickets, dining and retail.

Colorado’s ski communities reported strong spending during the season as well, with many resorts — like Vail, Aspen, Breckenridge and Telluride — posting record sales-tax revenues for the ski season.

Mills said member ski resorts enjoyed similar boosts in spending.

“A number of member resorts had a record year (for revenues), and everybody had a strong year,” she said. “It was the perfect snowstorm this year, with a snow message that started early and it was authentic … we just had snow every month.”

Monarch ski area saw a record 190,000 visits, up from 168,000 the previous year, spokesman Greg Ralph said. The Chaffee County hill harvested record revenues too, Ralph said.

Aspen Skiing Co.’s four Roaring Fork Valley ski areas posted the highest visitation since 1997-98, company spokesman Jeff Hanle said. Lodges in both Aspen and Snowmass saw highest-ever occupancy in March, with the season falling just shy of the all-time occupancy record set in 2006-07, said Bill Tomcich, president of Stay Aspen Snowmass, the reservation hub that books lodging across the valley.

“We had a really good start and an incredible finish,” Tomcich said.

Colorado’s skier visitation growth bested the 6.4 percent annual increase for the Rocky Mountain region, which includes resorts in Utah, Montana and New Mexico.

The snow was a blessing, and the international media’s sensationalized focus on Colorado when the state legalized recreational marijuana in January certainly helped.

Mills called legalized marijuana “the PR event of the year and the operational nonevent of the year,” meaning resorts barely noticed the new laws but welcomed the attention.

“From a PR perspective,” Mills said, “we did not view it as a negative that everyone was talking about Colorado as of January first.”

Jason Blevins: 303-954-1374, jblevins@denverpost.com or twitter.com/jasonblevins

#Winter2014: Skiing, snowboarding at Homewood Mountain Resort

Homewood Mountain Resort has 64 runs and spectacular views of the Lake Tahoe basin from each one of them. (Photo courtesy Homewood Mountain Resort)

Homewood Mountain Resort has 64 runs and spectacular views of the Lake Tahoe basin from each one of them. (Photo courtesy Homewood Mountain Resort)

Continuing our look back at the winter that was, it’s time to visit Homewood Mountain Resort near the west shore of Lake Tahoe.

Season start/finish: Dec. 11, 2013, through March 23, 2014. The opening date was typical of past seasons, and the closing date was two to three weeks than was planned.

Snowfall: Well short of the typical 450 inches per season, although figures were not provided. Snowmaking made up some of the difference.

Season highlight: A series of big winter storms arrived just before the President’s Day holiday weekend and the mid-winter break for many schools in Northern California. “The conditions were the best they had been all season during what is typically a very busy weekend/week for us,” said Paul Raymore, resort spokesman. “At that point, every skier and snowboarder in Northern California had been ‘jonesing’ for fresh powder for months, so it was fantastic to be able to finally offer some when many had time off work or school.”

Comment:The lack of our typical abundance of natural snow in Tahoe certainly made the 2013-14 ski season a challenging one; however, that’s not to say it wasn’t a fun year,” Raymore said. “Savvy Lake Tahoe skiers and snowboarders, who knew where to look to find the best conditions, were still able to find great snow at the smaller resorts such as Homewood, where the lack of crowds really helped to preserve the snow on the mountains.”

Looking ahead: Homewood has major changes planned for the 2015-16 ski season, with a wholesale redevelopment of the resort scheduled to begin in summer 2015. Improvements will include a new high-speed gondola taking skiers to mid-mountain, a new 5-star hotel at the base of the mountain, new skier services buildings and amenities, as well as construction of a number of residences at both of the base areas. Information about the Homewood Master Plan is at www.SkiHomewood.com/MasterPlan

#Winter2014 recap: Skiing, snowboarding at Bear Mountain and Snow Summit

OK, we know that winter 2014 was a bummer of a snow season, but we’re going to take a look back anyway with dispatches from many of California’s ski and snowboard resorts – starting today with Bear Mountain and Snow Summit.

Season start/finish: Bear Mountain, Nov. 27-March 30; Snow Summit, Dec. 6-March 17.

Snowfall: 20-30 inches at each resort; the season average is 75 to 100 inches.

Comment: Despite a shorter season and lack of natural snowfall, we’re very proud of what we were able to accomplish for the 2013-14 season at Bear Mountain and Snow Summit,” said Chris Riddle, vice president of marketing for Big Bear Mountain Resorts. “Each year we strive to provide the very best conditions, and this year was no different. Thanks to our advanced snowmaking system and our dedicated park crew, we were able to offer some of the greatest skiing and snowboarding in California – especially earlier in the season. We were able to successfully keep open the vast majority of our runs, with some of the very best conditions in the state. It was a great achievement for us.”

Looking ahead: Big Bear Mountain Resorts will be reducing the price of all passes for the 2014-15 winter season, with savings up to $110 from last winter’s rates. Dual-mountain pass holders will have unlimited access to 26 lifts, 438 developed acres and more than 55 runs.

Media: Here are video highlights from the slopes at each resort. First, Bear Mountain. >>>

Now it’s Snow Summit’s turn. >>>

At Mammoth Mountain, a parting shot to the ski and snowboard season

OK, everyone, say "cheese!" This was the scene at Mammoth Mountain on Memorial Day, the day of skiing and snowboarding this season at the resort. (Mammoth Mountain photo)

OK, everyone, say “cheese!” … This was the scene at Mammoth Mountain on Memorial Day, the last day of skiing and snowboarding at the resort for the season. (Mammoth Mountain photo)

At Mammoth Mountain, skiers and snowboarders bid farewell to the 2013-14 snow season with a group shot on Memorial Day. … We’ll recap the season at Mammoth and many of the other California resorts shortly. Stay tuned.

New projects bring Vail Resorts’ investment to $492 million

The 2013-14 winter ski and snowboard season is barely in the rearview mirror, but core enthusiasts and resort operators are already looking ahead to winter 2014-15.

With seven days to go in the spring season pass selling period, Vail Resorts is announcing many new resort improvements for its guests for next winter, including multiple express chairlifts and restaurants, room renovations and a one-of-a-kind snowmaking upgrade designed to automatically refresh snow surfaces throughout the season.

Vail Resorts anticipates spending approximately $85 million to elevate the guest experience for 2014-15, which brings its five-year resort investment total to $492 million.

“At Vail Resorts, we place the highest importance on offering an unparalleled guest experience, and investing nearly $500 million over the last five years is evidence of that,” said Rob Katz, chairman and chief executive officer for Vail Resorts. “We’re very strategic about the projects we undertake and their overall impact on the guest experience at each of our 10 resorts. Each one of these projects is a game changer for the guests of that particular resort.”

Projects underway and planned this summer for the 2014-15 winter season include:

  • Beaver Creek Chair 6 Combination Liftand Snowmaking Upgrades – The new combination gondola/six-passenger express lift replaces Centennial Express, Beaver Creek’s primary portal. With one gondola cabin for every five chairs, the new combination lift offers a guest-friendly loading option for beginners and Ski and Snowboard School, and all guests will benefit from the 35 percent increase in uphill capacity. In addition, 34 new, fully-automated, state-of-the-art snowmaking guns will line Gold Dust and Lower Larkspur trails to automatically refresh the snow surface conditions throughout the season. This one-of-a-kind system ensures, regardless of natural snowfall, the resorts’ guests will always be skiing or riding on the freshest snow available every day.
  • Breckenridge Colorado Super Chairand Peak 9 Restaurant Renovation – On the heels of launching Peak 6 last season, the ski industry’s most significant terrain expansion in the last decade, upgrading the Colorado Super Chair from a quad express to a six-passenger express will provide a 30 percent increase in capacity for Peak 8’s primary and most-used lift. It will help disperse skiers to the surrounding peaks and provides a faster route from Peaks 6 and 7 to Peak 9, where an entire interior remodel of the existing Peak 9 restaurant, along with a new kitchen will provide a warm, welcoming, high-quality guest experience at the resort’s most scenic dining location, sitting at 11,274 feet.
  • The Lodge at Vail Renovation– Vail’s most historic hotel, The Lodge at Vail, A RockResort, will undergo significant renovations to 56 hotel rooms and the lobby for the 2014-15 winter season, including contemporary mountain interior finishes, furnishings, soft goods, lighting and the installation of air conditioning. The lobby’s refresh will include new furnishings, textiles, paint, artwork and lighting designed to maintain the boutique hotel’s authentic character and cozy ambiance. The property will remain open for business during the renovations, starting in August and completing in December.
  • Canyons Cloud Dineand Snowmaking Expansion – Heading into its second year of operating Canyons, Vail Resorts is replacing the temporary Cloud Dine structure with a permanent, 316-seat restaurant, a 41 percent increase in seating capacity. Cloud Dine is the only on-mountain restaurant serving the Dream Peak and Iron Mountain lift pods. Upgrading Canyons’ pump station will increase snowmaking efficiency by 25 percent and will enable top-to-bottom skiing and superior early-season snow surface conditions.

Lifts turning this Memorial Day at Mammoth Mountain

Mammoth Mountain snagged Chris Benchetler, who grew up in the Eastern Sierra and calls Mammoth Mountain home, for a quick video about Mammoth’s world famous spring conditions and some of his favorite off-hill activities come spring time. You can find it here.
As usual Mammoth is the last resort open in California and the lifts will be turning this Memorial Day weekend. More information, including an events schedule and up-to-date deals on lodging and lift tickets is available on the Mammoth website here.

Last chance to buy Park City Mountain passes at best price

Park City Mountain Resort’s spring sale for 2014–15 season passes is in its final hours, which means this is your last chance to lock in your pass at the best price of the year.

This season, we’re including lift privileges at 5 of our sister resorts with all passes; and expanding discounted Young Adult pricing to include all pass holders 18–29 years old.

Build your pass with the features you want at the price that’s right for you: choose from Underground Parking (available on a limited basis); Fast Tracks express lane access; and night skiing & snowboarding privileges. And, of course, our passes come with NO BLACKOUT DATES for PCMR access.

Last call for best pass prices — rates go up after May 15!

Buy 2014-15 Season Passes

Bass and Cumming families to run Snowbird ski resort in Utah

The Bass and Cumming Families announced today that they have entered into a partnership for the future operation and development of Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort.  The partnership will provide continuing direction and funding for major capital improvement projects, including a new restaurant and skier services building atop the Aerial Tram, a Four Diamond remodel initiative for the Cliff Lodge, and the future renovation of the Snowbird Center.

“This partnership will enable Snowbird to achieve more rapid growth and even greater benefits for our guests in keeping with our founding perspective and philosophy of providing a year-round destination mountain resort for the enhancement of body, mind, and spirit, with our ever present emphasis on environmental protection and sensitivity,” said Richard D. Bass.

In addition, Bass feels extremely fortunate to have the Cumming Family join in Snowbird’s future, owing to his inability to live and work at Snowbird’s altitude because of his advancing age.

“I look forward to working with the Bass Family and the team at Snowbird in providing world-class experiences on and off the mountain,” said Ian M. Cumming, an original investor in the Inn at Snowbird.  Cumming owns a home at Snowbird and his family has a long history of skiing at Snowbird.  “We are very happy to be involved at a place that has so many fond memories for our family,” said Cumming.

“Partnering with the Cumming Family ensures a bright future for Snowbird,” said Snowbird CEO and President Bob Bonar, one of the first employees when Snowbird opened in 1971.  “Snowbird’s commitment to providing exceptional skiing and year-round hospitality, entertainment, and guest service will only greatly increase as we go forward.”

Snowbird’s current management team, led by Bob Bonar, Tom Jones and Jerry Giles, will remain in place. The partnership is between the Bass and Cumming Families and does not involve Powdr Corp.  Mr. Cumming will own a majority share of Snowbird.  Dick Bass will remain as Chairman of the Board.