U.S. Ski Team naming ceremony set for Nov. 15 at Vail

Lindsey Vonn racing in a 2006 slalom in Aspen. Photo courtesy Arthur Mouratidis, via Wikipedia and the Creative Commons.

Start to Vail’s 50th anniversary season marked with homage to resort’s ski racing tradition

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Vail will start its 50th anniversary season in style, as Olympic champions Lindsey Vonn, Bode Miller, Julie Mancuso and other U.S. Ski Team members gather Nov. 15 for the annual Nature Valley First Tracks event, which includes the ceremonial naming of the team and a fan appreciation and autograph session.

The event also kicks off opening weekend at Vail, where the lifts will roll on Nov. 16.

“It’s always fun for me to meet people who are as passionate about skiing as I am. The U.S. Ski Team naming in Vail is a blast and the community really comes out to support us,” said Lindsey Vonn, only the second woman to win four overall World Cup titles, and the first American woman to win an Olympic downhill gold medal. Continue reading

Skiing: Colorado areas dominate SKI mag poll again

Breckenridge remains the top-ranked Summit County resort

Breckenridge Ski Area ranked 13th in this year’s SKI magazine reader poll.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Colorado ski areas once again dominated the annual SKI magazine reader polls, but only two Summit County resorts cracked the top 20 — not surprising, given that most of the local areas — with the exception of A-Basin — emphasize quantity over quality.

After a five-year run in the number one spot, Deer Valley yielded to Whistler-Blackcomb, which won on the overall strength of its many attributes, including terrain variety, snow quantity and, of course, its vibrant nightlife. But readers of the magazine, who rate resorts annually in detailed surveys, recognized that the somewhat unpredictable weather in the Pacific Northwest can sometimes be a damper.

The poll is a fall publishing ritual that spurs plenty of water-cooler discussions and helps set the mood for the impending ski season. Continue reading

Colorado: Keystone aims to boost lodging occupancy, destination biz with a kids-ski-free deal for overnight visitors

Keystone offering free skiing for kids under 12 this season, but not for day-trippers.

Youngsters under 12 ski free with a two-night stay at the resort; other family offerings beefed up for the coming season

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Keystone Resort is stepping up its already strong appeal to families with season-long free skiing for kids under 12 for guests staying at least two nights at a resort property.

The program is aimed at boosting occupancy and also helps Vail Resorts segment its Summit County business, potentially shifting a bit of business from hyper-crowded Breckenridge to its sister resort on the other side of Summit County.

Numerous other resorts also offer special deals to entice kids, but Keystone is differentiating its program by emphasizing the no-strings, no-blackout aspects.

“With the introduction of a Kids Ski Free offer that’s really restriction-free, we’re letting families travel as their schedule allows,” said Keystone VP and general manager John Buhler.

Keystone says it has also enhanced it s Kidtopia program with daily animation and entertainment all winter long, including the third installment of what the resort bills as the world’s largest snowfort, street performers in the base area commercial zone, kids’ apres gatherings, a weekly Kidtopia parade, on-ice dance parties at the resort’s two ice skating rinks, and the new Snowed-In Festival. Continue reading

Vail Resorts 2012 earnings, revenue and skier visits down

Company reports increases in season pass sales and advance bookings

Breckenridge ski resort peaks seen from Dillon, Colorado.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — After one of the toughest seasons in memory, Vail Resorts wrapped up its fiscal year 2012 with earnings down about 7.5 percent from 2011, according to the company’s earnings statement released today (Sept. 25).

Total net revenue was $1,024.4 million in 2012 compared to $1,167.0 million in the prior year, a 12.2 percent decrease.

For 2012, VR reported a net income of $16.5 million, down from $34.5 million in 2011, as skier visits dropped steeply at the company’s California and Colorado ski areas. In Colorado (Vail, Beaver Creek, Keystone and Breckenridge) visits dropped 8.9 percent, from 5.2 million in 2011 to 4.8 million in 2012.

Overall VR skier visits dropped by 12.1 percent, from 7 million in 2011 to 6.1 million in 2012. Continue reading

Vail, Winter Park sued over inbounds avalanche deaths

Lawsuits allege resorts were negligent in managing terrain

A Google Earth view shows the location of the two gates on Prima Cornice. IMAGE COURTESY GOOGLE EARTH/CAIC.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — Steamboat Springs-based attorney Jim Heckbert says Vail and Winter Park ski areas were negligent last winter when they failed to close or adequately sign avalanche-prone terrain within their operational boundaries — and that their negligence resulted in the death of Taft Conlin at Vail and Christopher Norris at Winter Park.

The lawsuits may hinge on very specific legal language in the Colorado Ski Safety Act, but the outcome could have larger implications for the sport, as a verdict favoring the plaintiffs could affect the way ski resorts manage internal closures, which, in turn, could affect access to public lands.

In the Winter Park lawsuit, filed in Grand County District Court, Heckbert alleges that Intrawest Winter Park Operations Corporation, through its employees,was negligent in disregarding forecasts and warnings regarding high avalanche danger existing within the boundaries of the ski area, and negligent in not closing the area or warning skiers of the danger. Continue reading

Breckenridge: New Peak 8 development in the works

Town council to discuss development agreement that would enable site work before a final building permit is issued

More development at Peak 8?

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — The latest proposal for a new timeshare development at Peak 8, up for discussion at a July 24 town council meeting, could give the developers (Breckenridge Grand Vacation) an opportunity to get a head start on the proposed timeshare project by allowing them to start demolishing the Bergenhof and building infrastructure before the actual building permit is issued.

That would be a new path for the town, since development codes don’t allow  site work to begin before a building permit is issued.

The deal, which has been in the works for several months, includes Vail Resorts selling the property to the timeshare developer, as well as an increase in overall density above what is allowed on the site and a decrease in parking spaces.

The developers also want to gain density by reclassifying already built and future proposed public restroom space, employee locker room space and storage spaces as listed in the Peak 7 and 8 Master Plan as skier services to new category that does not require density.

To sweeten the pot, the developer has proposed donating $25,000 to the town for preservation activities in Cucumber Gulch.

Check out the staff memo and the proposed development agreement in the town council packet for the July 24 meeting.

Skiing: Courts define limits of season pass liability waivers

The extent of season pass liability waivers are being tested in Colorado courts. PHOTO BY BOB BERWYN.

Judges rule that waivers don’t exempt ski areas from meeting requirements of the Ski Safety Act

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY —Judges in Colorado ski towns are starting to carve out a little bit of room for skiers to claim damages when ski areas are found to violate specific provisions of the Ski Safety Act.

At issue are the broad liability waivers that skiers and snowboarders sign when they purchase season passes. Daily lift tickets also include a waiver, but the season pass waivers have included an additional liability waiver under which pass holders give up their rights to sue for negligence.

Resorts have consistently used to waivers to counter lawsuits, asserting they are protected from most claims by boilerplate waiver language like this:

“The Undersigned expressly ASSUME ALL RISKS associated with Holder’s participation in the Activity, known or unknown, inherent or otherwise … “

It’s that added layer of legal insulation that’s being challenged in court, and on May 10, Pitkin County District Court Judge Denise Lynch ruled that the waiver doesn’t protect the Aspen Skiing Company from claims made by Ryan Bradley, who was injured Feb. 20, 2010 when he was hit by a jake table, installed on a chairlift to transport injured skiers. Continue reading

Vail skiers visits drop 12 percent, revenue holds steady

Ticket sales, international visits help stabilize business in tough season

Vail Resorts had a tough season, but managed to sustain revenues with season pass sales and high lift ticket prices.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Vail Resorts reported a 9.8 percent drop in skier visits for the third quarter of the fiscal year, as poor snow conditions across the West kept skiers home in droves. For the season, skier visits at Vail Resorts were down 12.1 percent.

But the resort company, with major holdings in Colorado and California, was able to increase ancillary per-skier skier revenue by more than 11 percent and total mountain net revenue over last year, with increases in ticket-sales revenue and ski school operations. Continue reading

Vail Resorts skier visits drop 14.6 percent

More spring powder in Vail's Back Bowls could help skier visits rebound during the last few weeks of the season.

In quarterly earnings statement, company says revenue holds steady and announces $75 million in capital improvements, including a new Vail gondola

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — With Tahoe-area snowfall at only about 30 percent of average, Vail Resorts saw skier visits drop by about 32 percent at its California resorts, contributing to an overall decline in skier visits of about 15 percent for the second fiscal quarter of 2012.

The company announced that skier visits at its Colorado resorts were down about 8.8 percent for the quarter, with net revenue for the company’s mountain division dropping about 0.7 percent for the quarter. Continue reading

Vail Resorts to buy Kirkwood Mountain in California

Base area real estate part of the deal

Kirkwood Mountain is Vail Resorts' newest acquisition.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Vail Resorts is expanding its stable of ski areas in California with an $18 million purchase of Kirkwood Mountain, with about 2,300 acres of skiable terrain and undeveloped real estate at the base area zoned for residential and commercial development.

“We are thrilled to welcome Kirkwood into our family as our seventh world-class mountain resort. Kirkwood offers some of the most extraordinary ski terrain found anywhere in North America with high alpine trails and the most annual average snowfall in Lake Tahoe. Kirkwood represents skiing and riding at its purest, something we intend to retain and protect long into the future,” said Rob Katz, chairman and chief executive officer of Vail Resorts. Continue reading

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