Strong Start to Snow Season in Much of Western U.S.

The start to the 2018-19 ski season is such that we could be in line for a banner year across much of the country and in the western U.S. especially. More than just its ski terrain and slopes, Colorado has been leading the way this year in weather and snow conditions. A recent report from The Denver Post’s The Know has some eye-opening figures and comparisons from last year.


Vail has been able to take full advantage of its enormous 5,000-acre terrain since mid-November with the famous Back Bowls open for Thanksgiving and one of the earliest openings ever for the resort. In Winter Park, there is 90 inches of snow compared to 52 inches at the same time the previous year and considerably higher than the yearly average of 71 inches. At more than 1,300 acres, the skiable terrain is more than 10 times larger than it was last year. Copper Mountain has about 5 times as much skiable terrain and skiable trails as the same time the previous year. The snowfall amounts have just about tripled. In southern Colorado, there isn’t the same eye-popping numbers, but even these resorts, most notably Telluride are still slightly above average.


In fact, it’s not just Colorado and what stands to make this a banner year for skiers and snowboarders is the breadth of the snow-driven weather. USA Today reports that there is similarly strong snowfall in Utah, Wyoming, and California, which together with Colorado comprise a sizable share of the overall U.S. ski industry. From the news report:

“In Wyoming, Jackson Hole has collected 114 inches of snow and already has stretches of steep upper terrain open. Snowbird and Alta, on the Salt Lake side of the Wasatch in Utah, have come alive after a slower start compared with other states, with 110 inches of snow having fallen in just a few weeks.”


And it’s not as if the eastern U.S. is that far behind or even behind their own seasonal averages. In particular, Stowe in Vermont has had its own notably strong start to the season with many parts of the ski area that don’t typically open till January already doing so by the end of November.

Lake Placid Jumping Complex Prepares Olympic Hopefuls

Aerial Freestyle Skiing is a notoriously difficult event to follow. Skiers perform incredibly complex maneuvers, creating both suspense and awe. While this esoteric sport is a wintertime favorite, the athletes involved must train year-round. In areas with temperate climates, this can be difficult. Luckily, aerial freestylers can practice outside and in the middle of the summer… in Upstate New York.


The Olympic Jumping Complex in Lake Placid has been around for a while, but it continues to be an invaluable resource for athletes in the area. There are currently eight Olympic hopefuls in training, living nearby, and jumping at least twice a day. In November, they’ll pack up their skis and head out to Park City, Utah to apply their new skills.


The Lake Placid ramp consists of a dampened plastic surface, which simulates the feeling of moving across snow. Air is pumped into the pool to break the surface tension of the water, lessening the sting of impact. Skiers launch from large ramps to fly over the length of a football field. This safe, season-defying, and (dare we say) fun alternative to the real deal allows athletes to build skills without risking serious injury. Mistakes can be made in the water that might result in career-ending accidents out on the snow.


In addition to providing an excellent training opportunity, the Olympic Jumping Complex is an excellent resource for those interested in trying the sport for the first time. This is the best way to learn the sport and build skills from the ground-up. Plus, these water jumps can qualify for the Olympics—qualify in the water, then compete on the snow.

Forest Service Proposes Ski Expansion in Vegas

Lee Canyon, formerly known as Las Vegas Ski & Snowboard Resort, sits just an hour’s drive from downtown Las Vegas. The resort boasts summertime activities like disc golf and scenic chair rides, hiking and archery. However, Lee Canyon is known primarily for its abundance of winter activities, which include snow tubing, snowshoeing, a snowplay area, and lots of skiing. That’s right—skiing in Las Vegas.


The base lodge of Lee Canyon Ski and Snowboard Resort sits at the base of Lee Peak and has an elevation of around 11,300 feet. The resort is owned and operated by Powdr Corporation in partnership with the United States Fores Service under a special use permit. Typically open from November through April, the best snow is available in February and March. The mountain offers a total of 385 skiable acres, 11 alpine trails, and 4 lifts.


Recently, Lee Canyon announced a $35 million expansion and upgrade plan in conjunction with the Forest Service. The plan includes doubling the ski area’s acreage, adding chairlifts, and introducing increased snowmaking capacity. This upgrade would also add a range of summer thrills, including a zip line and a mountain coaster. The public has 45 days to comment on the initiative, but there has—so far—been little opposition.


While encouraging skiing in all its forms and locales is an essential mission of this news site, we have to wonder: for how much longer will skiing remain sustainable in places like Las Vegas? Northern American ski resorts are already hustling to introduce more snowmaking initiatives, and one has to wonder how much longer a ski resort will last in this hot, dry part of the country. Furthermore, it takes around 160,000 gallons of water to make one acre of snow one foot deep. In a dry part of the world, this is not a sustainable practice. We appreciate the novelty of and ability to ski in strange places, but this ski expansion feels like a short-term investment.


What do you think about warm climate skiing? Leave us a note in the comments.

Spokane Man Proves the Impossible by Skiing 12 Months in a Row

In September of 2017, Mike Brede and his wife created a seemingly impossible task. They had been visiting the Up Up Lookout in the Lolo National Forest; it had snowed just one day before their hike, so they decided to bring skis. The two skinned up the trail and ended up catching some quick turns off Gold Peak before heading down. Though this moment was brief, it planted a seed. The two wondered: was it possible to ski a full year, sequentially, within a few hours of Spokane?


In October, the Lookout Pass Ski and Recreation Area got close to two feet of snow in a freak storm. After skinning up the runs, Brede realized he already had two of the hardest snow months in the bag. That day, he decided to go for it. He would not allow himself to drive more than two and a half hours away from Spokane, but he would get in at least one run each month.


Finding winter snow was no problem, but as June drew closer, Brede wondered if this ambitious goal would fail. Luckily, the weather was on his side. In the first month of summer, he found himself skiing fresh powder near Beehive Lake in the Selkirks. In fact, Brede skied near Beehive three times—he also went to the Cabinet Mountains in Montana and the Bitterroot Range.


To complete the task, Brede used satellite imagery to look for lingering snow, then drew upon his knowledge of local mountains and weather patterns to pounce on the opportunity. In the summer months, his skis drew strange looks from neighbors and hikers alike; they’d see him trekking along, skis and poles tied to his backpack, in 90-degree days.


Though Brede completed his mission this month, carving around 100 turns on lingering snow between St. Regis and the St. Joe River, he doesn’t plan to stop skiing anytime soon. If he can find worthwhile snow in September, he’ll be there.



Aspen Skier Visits Down 7 Percent

A company spokesperson has reported that skier visits at Aspen Skiing Company-owned resorts fell 7% in winter 2017-18 from winter 2016-17. However, Jeff Hanle, SkiCo vice president of communications, said that he was “pretty pleased and surprised with that.” The area experienced little natural snowfall prior to mid-January, bringing skier visits down some 20% for both November and December. However, Hanle said the resorts, “definitely picked up steam,” in the second half of the season.


The report also showed that local season pass use fell more than daily ticket sales, and additional business from Latin America helped the resorts recover their numbers. Overall skier visits at Colorado Ski Country USA (CSCUSA) resorts were down 2 percent this season from last. At its annual downtown Denver meeting, CSCUSA announced that its 24 resorts saw 7.1 million visitors during the 2017-18 winter season. Though slightly lower than last year, it is still slightly ahead of the five-year average.

On this topic, CSCUSA President and CEO Melanie Mills said, “We faced historically low snowfall in the early part of the season and resort operation crews deserve credit for their tireless work to get slopes open and operating during an extended period of early-season conditions.”


Additionally, two new resorts joined CSCUSA this year: Echo Mountain in Idaho Springs and Kendall Mountain in Silverton. Though this year may not be remembered as the snowiest, it will stand as a testament to the resiliency of Colorado’s ski industry. The reported figures have caused resorts to put more money into snowmaking projects than planned. Skier numbers won’t affect plans for next season, but they have sparked interest in creating larger snowmaking budgets.

Man Dies 3 Months After 1,000-Foot Skiing Fall

Bryce Newcomb, a Jackson pro skier, has succumbed to a severe head injury he suffered in March. The man, 30, had been in a long-term care facility in Boise, Idaho.


The accident occurred on Mach 27th. First responders believe that Newcomb hadn’t buckled his helmet to ski Cody Peak when a cornice gave way and he fell nearly 1,000 feet. Newcomb remained in a critical state during the nearly three months he spent in hospitals. For the duration of his care, friends and family rallied around him, eventually raising $130,000 for treatment via the online platform GoFundMe.

According to friends and family, Newcomb was an incredible athlete and even better friend. He grew up in Sun Valley, Idaho, and had been a Jackson resident for the last few years, doing promotional work for Jackson Hole Mountain Resort.

A spokeswoman for the resort, Anna Cole, said in a statement: “Bryce was an incredible athlete, and his passion for skiing, the mountains, and life were a tremendous joy to be around. He was a memorable, strong, and talented individual.”


On Friday, June 15th, Newcomb was taken off of life support. His family would like to thank every person who has reached out, donated, or shown their love and support in any way over the three critical months. Any remaining funds will be paid forward and donated to worthy causes that directly relate to Newcomb’s accident.

A celebration of life service is set to take place on June 27th in Ketchum, Idaho.




Skier Dies at California Mountain Resort

Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows has confirmed the death of a skier. On Tuesday, April 17th at around 10:55am, Jeffrey Pearlstein, a 33-year-old man from Kings Beach, fell while skiing at the resort. He was making use of a particularly steep run in the Keyhole area of the resort. He reportedly lost control and crashed.


Shortly after the accident, ski patrol, the North Tahoe fire department, and the Placer County Sheriff’s Office personal responded. They arrived at his location and tried lifesaving procedures, such as CPR; after several minutes, he was pronounced dead at the scene. This information comes from a statement released by the Placer County Sheriff’s Office.


Shortly after the initial announcement, the Sheriff’s Office urged late-season skiers to continue wearing the necessary protective gear. All skiers, regardless of season or ability, should wear helmets, ski with a partner, and remain within their ski level. The Placer County Sheriff’s Office statement is included in full below.

A Kings Beach man died in a skiing accident at Alpine Meadows today.

Jeffrey R. Pearlstein, 33, was skiing in an area called Keyhole at 11 a.m. He was on a very steep run and lost control. Ski patrol, North Tahoe Fire, and PCSO deputies responded, CPR was initiated, but unfortunately he was pronounced at the scene.

Skiing is inherently dangerous, and we would like to remind late-season skiers to wear a helmet, ski with a buddy, and ski within your skill level.

This accident provides a sober reminder of the dangers of skiing. Though weather appears to improve in the season’s later months, you should not slack on maintaining important safety standards. Always wear a helmet.


Idaho OKs New Bogus Basin Ski Area Plan

The State of Idaho has approved a plan proposed by Bogus Basin ski area officials. This new plan involves building a water-storage dam and installing underground pipes to make artificial snow. The installation, officials argue, will allow for consistent pre-Christmas openings and conditions for both skiers and snowboarders.


On Tuesday, April 17th, the Idaho Land Board voted 5-0 to approve the work on this land, which was sold to the ski area 45 years ago. The original sale documents state that approval is required for erosion control, re-vegetation, and other significant projects. This new design falls into the latter category. In addition to gaining the approval of the Idaho Land Board, Bogus Basin is also seeking approval from the Forest Service.


Bogus Basin Recreational Association is a non-profit organization operating on a combination of U.S. Forest Service land and privately-owned property. The ski area occupies around 2,700 acres of land. Located in southwest Idaho, around 16 miles north of Boise, the mountain provides jobs and resources for residents of the area. The ability to consistently open early in the season would provide measurable and meaningful economic growth for Boise County; in recent years, the mountain has had to open several days after the Christmas holiday.


According to the plan, snowmaking would not start until at least the 2019-2020 season. Bogus Basin also operates throughout the summer season, providing on-mountain recreation such as mountain biking, hiking, horseback riding, a mountain coaster, and scenic lift rides.


Lindsey Vonn’s Final Olympic Run

Lindsey Vonn is hailed as one of the most talented skiers in the world. She has won four World Cup overall championships and three consecutive titles in 2008, 2009, and 2010, plus another in 2012. At the 2010 Winter Olympics, she won gold in downhill—the first every in the event for an American woman. She has a record eight World Cup season titles in downhill, five titles in super-G, and three consecutive titles in the combined. Unfortunately, her Olympic career ended in disappointment—she failed to finish the slalom in the Super Combined.


Around ten seconds into the course, Vonn straddled a gate, sending her off the course. This inability to medal is made more frustrating by the fact that, in 2010, she led the Super Combined on the same stage—only to crash out in slalom. Vonn is the most decorated female Alpine ski race in World Cup history, and—though she does not plan to compete in further Olympic games—she plans to return to the World Cup circuit. She plans to chase down Ingemar Stenmark’s record of 86 race wins; Vonn currently has 81.


Though disappointing, Vonn was not upset by her Olympic finish. She told ESPN: “The miracle didn’t happen, but I gave it my best effort. Slalom is tough for me. I fought really hard, but straddling is unfortunately something I do often, which is why I don’t ski the event anymore. As much as I had a very little change of getting on the podium today, I still had a chance… such is life.” Additionally, she admitted to not putting much time into her slalom training this year. With just one day of slalom training before Christmas 2017, she was unsurprised to have seen her performance suffer.


Her Team U.S.A. teammate, Mikaela Shiffrin, took silver. The 22-year-old has won three Olympic medals. Michelle Gisin took gold while Wendy Holdener took bronze.


Elizabeth Swaney’s Transcendent Mediocrity

For sports enthusiasts, the Olympics are the place to witness some of the best athletes in the world compete. From luge to slalom, winter sports take center stage every four years—this time, in Pyeongchang. However, it appears that one athlete, though miles away from elite prowess, has fought her way into the spotlight.


Elizabeth Swaney, an American representing Hungary, captivated the world with her strikingly mediocre women’s halfpipe qualifying run. The event announcers begin her run as with the other athletes: “Elizabeth Swaney from Hungary out of Oakland, California. Now 34 in the World Cup and 13th in the half pipe at Secret Garden earlier in the year. What can she deliver on here in Pyeongchang?” However, after several attempts to crest the half pipe’s lip, their ability to take the run seriously began to deteriorate: “Will it be enough just to tempt the judges?” The video of this viral run is available via the NBC Olympics Twitter.


The 33-year-old American appears to have schemed her way on the Olympic stage. A graduate of Harvard University, she knew she would be unable to snag a spot on the competitive United States team. She originally wanted to ski for Venezuela, her mother’s home country, but switched to Hungary, the birthplace of her grandparents. In skiing for Hungary, Swaney had a better change of meeting the International Ski Federation’s requirements necessary to qualify for Olympic participation. In essence, she simply needed to show up at several international events, compete in very basic runs, and not crash.


Though many other athletes are angry with Swaney’s blatant disregard for Olympic prestige, her ability to scam her way into the 2018 Olympics is nothing short of admirable.