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The Storm Skiing Journal and Podcast

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Everyone’s searching for skiing’s soul. I’m trying to find its brains.


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Everyone’s searching for skiing’s soul. I’m trying to find its brains.






Podcast #129: SkiBig3 (Banff Sunshine, Lake Louise, Mt. Norquay) President Pete Woods

This podcast hit paid subscribers’ inboxes on May 26. It dropped for free subscribers on May 29. To receive future pods as soon as they’re live, and to support independent ski journalism, please consider an upgrade to a paid subscription. You can also subscribe for free below: Who Pete Woods, President of SkiBig3, the umbrella organization for Banff Sunshine, Lake Louise, and Mt. Norquay, Alberta Recorded on May 4, 2023 About SkiBig3 SkiBig3 “works in conjunction with all three ski resorts within Banff National Park to allow you access to everything this winter destination has to offer,” according to the organization’s LinkedIn page. Each ski area – Banff Sunshine, Lake Louise, and Mt. Norquay – is independently owned and operated. Banff Sunshine Click here for a mountain stats overview Owned by: Ralph, Sergei, and John Scurfield Located in: Sunshine Village, Alberta Year founded: Sometime in the 1930s Pass affiliations: Ikon Pass: 5 or 7 combined days with Lake Louise and Mt. Norquay; Mountain Collective: 2 days Closest neighboring ski areas: Norquay (23 minutes), Sunshine (41 minutes), Nakiska (1 hour) - travel times vary considerably depending upon weather and time of day. Base elevation: 5,440 feet Summit elevation: 8,954 feet Vertical drop: 3,514 feet Skiable Acres: 3,358 Average annual snowfall: 360 inches Trail count: 137 (25% advanced/expert, 55% intermediate, 20% beginner) Lift count: 12 (1 gondola, 7 high-speed quads, 2 fixed-grip quads, 2 carpets - view Lift Blog’s inventory of Sunshine’s lift fleet) Sunshine chops its trailmap into three pieces on its website. This is slightly confusing for anyone who isn’t familiar with the ski area and doesn’t understand how the puzzle pieces fit together. I’ve included those three maps below, but they’ll make more sense in the context of this 2010 trailmap: Sunshine’s current maps: Lake Louise Click here for a mountain stats overview Owned by: Charlie Locke (he first owned the ski area from 1981 to 2003, then sold it to Resorts of the Canadian Rockies, and re-bought it from them in 2008) Located in: Lake Louise, Alberta Year founded: 1954 Pass affiliations: Ikon Pass: 5 or 7 combined days with Banff Sunshine and Mt. Norquay; Mountain Collective: 2 days Closest neighboring ski areas: Sunshine (41 minutes), Norquay (44 minutes), Nakiska (1 hour, 22 minutes) - travel times vary considerably depending upon weather and time of day. Base elevation: 5,400 feet Summit elevation: 8,650 feet Vertical drop: 3,250 feet Skiable Acres: 4,200 Average annual snowfall: 179 inches Trail count: 164 (30% advanced/expert, 45% intermediate, 25% beginner) Lift count: 11 (1 gondola, 1 six-pack, 3 high-speed quads, 2 fixed-grip quads, 1 triple, 3 carpets - view Lift Blog’s inventory of Lake Louise’s lift fleet) Mt. Norquay Click here for a mountain stats overview Owned by: Adam and Janet Waterous Located in: Improvement District No. 9, Alberta Year founded: 1926 Pass affiliations: Ikon Pass: 5 or 7 combined days with Banff Sunshine and Lake Louise Closest neighboring ski areas: Sunshine (23 minutes), Lake Louise (43 minutes), Nakiska (54 minutes) - travel times vary considerably depending upon weather and time of day. Base elevation: 5,350 feet Summit elevation: 6,998 feet Vertical drop: 1,650 feet Skiable Acres: 190 Average annual snowfall: 120 inches Trail count: 60 (44% advanced/expert, 25% intermediate, 31% beginner) Lift count: 6 (1 high-speed quad, 2 fixed-grip quads, 1 double, 2 carpets - view Lift Blog’s inventory of Mt. Norquay’s lift fleet) Why I interviewed him There are places that make sense, and places that just don’t. Lakes and grocery stores and movie theaters and sand dunes and pizza places and interstate highways. As a U.S. American, these things always squared with my worldview. Then I stepped out of the car in New York City at age 19 and I’m like what the actual f**k is happening here? A vertical human swarm in a sprawling sideways...


Podcast #128: Mt. Baldy, California General Manager Robby Ellingson

This podcast hit paid subscribers’ inboxes on May 23. It dropped for free subscribers on May 26. To receive future pods as soon as they’re live, and to support independent ski journalism, please consider an upgrade to a paid subscription. You can also subscribe for free below: Who Robby Ellingson, General Manager of Mt. Baldy, California Recorded on May 8, 2023 About Mt. Baldy Click here for a mountain stats overview Owned by: Mt. Baldy Ski Lifts, which is majority owned by Ron Ellingson Located in: Mt. Baldy, California Year founded: 1952 Pass affiliations: None Closest neighboring ski areas: Mountain High (1 hour, 12 minutes), Snow Valley (1 hour, 19 minutes), Snow Summit (1 hour, 52 minutes), Bear Mountain (1 hour, 56 minutes) – travel times vary considerably pending time of day and weather conditions Base elevation: 6,500 feet Summit elevation: 8,600 feet Vertical drop: 2,100 feet Skiable Acres: 800-plus Average annual snowfall: 170 inches Trail count: 26 (54% advanced/expert, 31% intermediate, 15% beginner) Lift count: 4 double chairs – view Lift Blog’s inventory of Mt. Baldy’s lift fleet Why I interviewed him If you have children under the age of 15 or so, you have likely seen Zootopia. If not, imagine this: anthropomorphic animals (it’s Disney), traumatized by eons of predator-eat-prey brutalism, build a city in which they can all coexist after the lions and wolves are given the equivalent of cartoon Beyond burgers or something. This city is divided into realms: desert, jungle, arctic, water, etc. Which is about as believable as thousands of species of walking, talking animals living in non-murderous harmony until you realize, oh yeah, that’s basically Los Angeles. The monster, pulsing city, its various terras stacked skyward like realms in Tolkein: ocean then beach then jungle then mountain then desert beyond. Most American cities sprawl outward in concentric rings of Wal-Marts and Applebee’s and Autozones. LA gives you whole different worlds every five freeway exits. It’s still incongruous, to drive up into the sky and find Mt. Baldy. Not just to find a ski area, because there are plenty of those perched along the city walls, but to find this ski area, pinched in a deep ravine at the end of a narrow highway switchbacking up from the flats. Foot-loading the lattice-towered double chair is like boarding a slow-motion time machine into the sky. And indeed you may think you have. At the top, cellphone service blinks out. The chairlifts are museum pieces from the pre-digital era of industrial design. The trailmap un-scrolled across the baselodge wall teases the Stockton Flats expansion, which will be new… in 1991 (it’s still not there). Los Angeles, with its vast wealth and enormous population, could support almost any kind of ski area. Knit the entirety of the mountains above the city together with high-speed lifts, and you would have no issue filling them with skiers. And yet, the closest ski area to Fancy Town is this throwback. Soaring, glorious, gorgeous, but a relic, as though someone turned the lights on in 1952 and forgot about it. There’s some grooming but not a lot. Some snowmaking but not a lot. Some services but just enough. A few other skiers but basically none. Meaning not enough for liftlines, at least once you get up Lift 1. It’s just you and endless inventive lines through the trees. If I found Baldy staked out in the remote Sierras, a token of another time, I’d be awestruck and amazed. If I found it tucked off some pass in Idaho or Wyoming, I’d understand its end-of-civilization vibe. But so positioned, directly and conspicuously over America’s West Coast glitter, the place is puzzling and fascinating. I had to know more. What we talked about That amazing 2022-23 California ski season; why it’s almost impossible to get accurate snow measurements at Baldy; why Baldy isn’t reliant on CalTrans like the other SoCal ski areas; avy mitigation in SoCal; why Baldy pushes the season so...


Podcast #127: Palisades Tahoe President & COO Dee Byrne

This podcast hit paid subscribers’ inboxes on May 4. It dropped for free subscribers on May 7. To receive future pods as soon as they’re live, and to support independent ski journalism, please consider an upgrade to a paid subscription. You can also subscribe for free below: Who Dee Byrne, President and Chief Operating Officer of Palisades Tahoe, California Recorded on April 24, 2023 About Palisades Tahoe Click here for a mountain stats overview Owned by: Alterra Mountain Company Pass affiliations: Unlimited access on the Ikon Pass; unlimited access with holiday blackouts on the Ikon Base Pass Located in: Olympic Valley, California Year founded: * Palisades/Olympic side (as Squaw Valley): 1949 * Alpine Meadows: 1961 Closest neighboring ski areas: Granlibakken (14 minutes from Palisades base), Homewood (18 minutes), Northstar (23 minutes), Tahoe Donner (24 minutes), Boreal (24 minutes), Soda Springs (28 minutes), Donner Ski Ranch (28 minutes), Kingvale (29 minutes), Sugar Bowl (30 minutes), Diamond Peak (39 minutes), Mt. Rose (45 minutes), Sky Tavern (50), Heavenly (1 hour) - travel times vary dramatically given weather conditions and time of day Base elevation | summit elevation | vertical drop: * Alpine Meadows side: 6,835 feet | 8,637 feet | 1,802 feet * Olympic Valley side: 6,200 feet | 9,050 feet | 2,850 feet Skiable Acres: 6,000 * Alpine Meadows side: 2,400 * Olympic Valley side: 3,600 Average annual snowfall: 400 inches (713 inches for the 2023-24 ski season through May 3!) Trail count: 270-plus * Alpine Meadows side: 100-plus (25% beginner, 40% intermediate, 35% advanced) * Olympic Valley side: 170-plus (25% beginner, 45% intermediate, 30% advanced) Lift count: 42 (10-passenger tram, 28-passenger funitel, 8-passenger gondola, 8 six-packs, 5 high-speed quads, 1 fixed-grip quad, 10 triples, 8 doubles, 7 carpets - view Lift Blog’s inventory of Palisades Tahoe’s lift fleet) * Alpine Meadows: 13 (1 six-pack, 3 high-speed quads, 2 triples, 5 doubles, 2 carpets) * Palisades/Olympic: 28 (120-passenger tram, 28-passenger funitel, 7 six-packs, 2 high-speed quads, 1 quad, 8 triples, 3 doubles, 5 carpets) * Shared lifts: 1 (8-passenger Base-to-Base Gondola) Why I interviewed her Imagine this: I’m a Midwest teenager who has notched exactly three days on skis, on three separate 200-vert bumps. I know vaguely that there is skiing out West, and that it is big. But I’m thinking Colorado, maybe Wyoming. California? California is Beach Boys and palm trees. Surfboards and San Diego. I have no idea that California has mountains, let alone ski resorts. Anticipating the skis, boots, and poles that I’ve requested as the totality of my Christmas list, I pick up the December 1994 issue of Skiing (RIP), and read the following by Kristen Ulmer: Nothing is random. You live, die, pay taxes, move to Squaw. It’s the place you see in all the ski flicks, with the groovy attitudes, toasty-warm days, wild lines, and that enormous lake. It’s California! Squallywood! It’s the one place where every born-to-ski skier, at some point or other, wants to move to; where people will crawl a thousand miles over broken glass for the chance to ski freezer burn. The one place to make it as a “professional” skier. My friend Kent Kreitler, a phenomenal skier who doesn’t live anywhere in particular, finally announced, “I think I’m move to Squaw.” “So Kent,” I said, “let me tell you what the rest of your life will be like.” And I laid it out for him. … You’re curious to find out if you’re as good a skier as you think. So you find a group of locals and try to keep up. On powder days the excitement builds like a pressure cooker. Move fast, because it only takes an hour for the entire mountain to get tracked up. There’s oodles of cliff jumps and psycho lines. You’d better just do it, because within seconds, 10 other yahoos will have already jumped and tracked out the landing pad. If you’re a truly amazing skier (anything else inspires only...


Podcast #126: Heavenly & Vail’s Tahoe Region VP & COO Tom Fortune

This podcast hit paid subscribers’ inboxes on May 2. It dropped for free subscribers on May 5. To receive future pods as soon as they’re live, and to support independent ski journalism, please consider an upgrade to a paid subscription. You can also subscribe for free below: Who Tom Fortune, Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Heavenly and Vail’s Tahoe Region (Heavenly, Northstar, and Kirkwood) Recorded on April 25 , 2023 About Heavenly and Vail’s Tahoe Region Heavenly Click here for a mountain stats overview Owned by: Vail Resorts Located in: Stateline, Nevada and South Lake Tahoe, California Year founded: 1955 Pass affiliations: Unlimited access on Epic Pass; Unlimited access with holiday blackouts on Epic Local Pass, Tahoe Local Pass, Tahoe Value Pass Closest neighboring ski areas: Sierra-at-Tahoe (30 minutes), Diamond Peak (45 minutes), Kirkwood (51 minutes), Mt. Rose (1 hour), Northstar (1 hour), Sky Tavern (1 hour, 5 minutes) - travel times vary dramatically given weather conditions and time of day. Base elevation: 6,565 feet at California Lodge; the Heavenly Gondola leaves from Heavenly Village at 6,255 feet – when snowpack allows, you can ski all the way to the village, though this is technically backcountry terrain Summit elevation: 10,040 feet at the top of Sky Express Vertical drop: 3,475 feet from the summit to California Lodge; 3,785 feet from the summit to Heavenly Village Skiable Acres: 4,800 Average annual snowfall: 360 inches (570 inches for 2022-23 ski season as of May 2) Trail count: 97 Lift count: 26 lifts (1 50-passenger tram, 1 eight-passenger gondola, 2 six-packs, 8 high-speed quads, 1 fixed-grip quad, 5 triples, 2 doubles, 2 ropetows, 4 carpets) Northstar Click here for a mountain stats overview Owned by: Vail Resorts Located in: Truckee, California Year founded: 1972 Pass affiliations: Unlimited access on Epic Pass; Unlimited access with holiday blackouts on Epic Local Pass, Tahoe Local Pass; unlimited with holiday and Saturday blackouts on Tahoe Value Pass Closest neighboring ski areas: Tahoe Donner (24 minutes), Boreal (25 minutes), Donner Ski Ranch (27 minutes), Palisades Tahoe (27 minutes), Diamond Peak (27 minutes), Soda Springs (29 minutes), Kingvale (32 minutes), Sugar Bowl (33 minutes), Mt. Rose (34 minutes), Homewood (35 minutes), Sky Tavern (39 minutes), Heavenly (1 hour) - travel times vary dramatically given weather conditions and time of day. Base elevation: 6,330 feet Summit elevation: 8,610 feet Vertical drop: 2,280 feet Skiable Acres: 3,170 Average annual snowfall: 350 inches (665 inches for 2022-23 ski season as of May 2) Trail count: 106 Lift count: 19 (1 six-passenger gondola, 1 pulse gondola, 1 chondola with 6-pack chairs & 8-passenger cabins, 1 six-pack, 6 high-speed quads, 1 fixed-grip quad, 2 triples, 1 platter, 5 magic carpets) Kirkwood Click here for a mountain stats overview Owned by: Vail Resorts Located in: Kirkwood, California Year founded: 1972 Pass affiliations: Unlimited access on Epic Pass, Kirkwood Pass; Unlimited access with holiday blackouts on Epic Local Pass, Tahoe Local Pass; unlimited with holiday and Saturday blackouts on Tahoe Value Pass Closest neighboring ski areas: Sierra-at-Tahoe (48 minutes), Heavenly (48 minutes) - travel times vary dramatically given weather conditions and time of day. Base elevation: 7,800 feet Summit elevation: 9,800 feet Vertical drop: 2,000 feet Skiable Acres: 2,300 Average annual snowfall: 354 inches (708 inches for 2022-23 ski season as of May 2) Trail count: 94 Lift count: 13 (2 high-speed quads, 1 fixed-grip quad, 6 triples, 1 double, 1 T-bar, 2 carpets) Why I interviewed him For decades, Heavenly was the largest ski area that touched the state of California. By a lot. Four drive-to base areas serving 4,800 acres across two states. Mammoth? Ha! Its name misleads – 3,500 acres, barely bigger than Keystone. To grasp Heavenly’s scale, look again at the new North Bowl lift...


Podcast #125: Indy Pass President and Founder Doug Fish

This podcast hit paid subscribers’ inboxes on April 22. It dropped for free subscribers on April 25. To receive future pods as soon as they’re live, and to support independent ski journalism, please consider an upgrade to a paid subscription. You can also subscribe for free below: Who Doug Fish, president and founder of the Indy Pass Recorded on The majority of this conversation took place on April 3, 2023. Three days later, I left for a Montana ski trip, with the intent of releasing this either on the trip or when I returned. A week later, however, news broke that Indy would (at least temporarily) cease pass sales for 2023-24 products on April 11, making a small portion of our conversation irrelevant. Fish and I then recorded a new segment focused specifically on the decision to halt pass sales, on April 20, 2023. This section also includes a recap of the top 10 Indy Pass resorts for the 2022-23 ski season. About the Indy Pass Indy Pass is the coolest thing going. If Indy were a person, everyone would gloss him “IP.” In the ‘80s, IP would have rolled in a Firebird with T-tops off and a flame-eagle emblazoned upon the hood. Or in a door-less Jeep with his boys gripping the rollbar, feathered-hair and sunglasses cool. Or rocking a skateboard, Walkman, and jean jacket, Michael J. Fox-style, transforming into a werewolf or traveling through time in a f*****g DeLorean. IP’s not the most popular kid. In fact the cool kids, in their poloshirts and loafers, don’t care much for the interloper at all. But we all see a bit of ourselves in the young rogue, middle finger aimed at the social-status gatekeepers and their lackies, flouting conventions of deference and sobriety, in possession of secret powers that will scare them once they know. IP is our hero because we are him. Or he’s a supercharged superhero cartoon version of us. Or because he is whatever the hell he wants to be. IP rules! Or, if that doesn’t work for you, how about this: IP is a season-long ski product that delivers up to 210 days of alpine skiing for four dollars more than the price of a one-day walk-up peak-day lift ticket at Vail or Beaver Creek. “Yeah but it’s not Vail or Beaver Creek, Man – don’t you get that?” I sure do, Biff. And I love both mountains, but give me the choice of one serving of caviar or a pizza every day all season long, and I gotta roll pizza, my friend (this is the 2022-23 roster; ignore the prices, ignore the blackouts. The robots are still fighting my efforts to update this chart for 2023-24. The only ski area that we know will change as of now is Snow Valley, which ran off with the Ikon Pass): More partners are inbound. Perhaps not as many as the 58 new ski areas (25 alpine, 19 cross-country, and 14 Allied), that signed onto Indy over the 2022 offseason. But I already have a partial list, and it will be at least a dozen. Perhaps many more as Indy looks to turboboost its XC roster. Too bad you already missed the best price: $279 for renewing passholders, $299 for waitlistees, $319 for the disorganized masses. Indy is currently off sale. It may come back in the fall. How will you know? Subscribe to their notifications, and they will send you eight to 12 emails and texts per day about it once the time comes. In the meantime, activate learning mode and enjoy this IP 101. Why I interviewed him Doug Fish is one of skiing’s class acts. He’s built a product that works. For skiers, for ski area operators, and for him and everyone working for him. This is not Liftopia 2.0, an online discount center where money falls into a blackhole. When you buy an Indy Pass, 15 percent of that money goes to Indy, the other 85 percent goes directly to the ski areas. You get a bargain, they get paid. Everyone wins. This whole thing could have been a scam. Or a crock. Or a fiasco. It could have disintegrated in a storm of partner and passholder anger over dysfunctional tech or missing paychecks or unregistered skier accounts. It could have been Fyre Ski –...


Podcast #124: Deer Valley President & COO Todd Bennett

This podcast hit paid subscribers’ inboxes on April 20. It dropped for free subscribers on April 23. To receive future pods as soon as they’re live, and to support independent ski journalism, please consider an upgrade to a paid subscription. You can also subscribe for free below: Who Todd Bennett, President and Chief Operating Officer of Deer Valley Resort, Utah Recorded on April 19, 2023 About Deer Valley Click here for a mountain stats overview Owned by: Alterra Mountain Company Located in: Park City, Utah Year founded: 1981 Pass affiliations: 7 unrestricted days on Ikon Pass, five days with blackouts on Ikon Base Pass Plus Reciprocal partners: Unlimited Deer Valley season passholders receive one day each at Alta, Brighton, and Snowbird Closest neighboring ski areas: Park City Mountain Resort (5 minutes), Utah Olympic Park (18 minutes), Woodward Park City (20 minutes), Solitude (1 hour), Snowbird (1 hour), Brighton (1 hour, 8 minutes), Alta (1 hour, 8 minutes) – travel times vary considerably with weather and traffic; if U.S. Americans could summon a worldview that extends beyond their dashboards, they would understand that this entire megaplex could be connected with a handful of gondolas, reducing traffic and emissions in the Wasatch by about 40 billion percent. Base elevation: 6,570 feet at Jordanelle base Summit elevation: 9,570 feet at top of Empire Vertical drop: 3,000 feet, though this cannot be skied contiguously – the longest high-quality continuous vertical drops are on Bald Mountain, at around 1,750 vertical feet. Skiable Acres: 2,026 Average annual snowfall: 300 inches Trail count: 103 Lift count: 27 (1 six-passenger gondola, 14 high-speed quads, 5 triples, 1 double, 1 platter serving private homes, 5 conveyors) Deer Valley’s trailmap is a little confusing, as it looks as though you can ski from the top of Empire to the bottom of Jordanelle. The resort sits on a series of adjacent hillocks, however, which you can see on this topographic map on Why I interviewed him There’s a version of reality in which Deer Valley is nothing special. A 2,000-ish-acre bump neighboring Park City, which sprawls more than three times as large. A 300-inch bucket of snow standing meekly against the 500-inch-plus dumptrucks stacking up each winter in the nearby Cottonwoods. Three thousand feet of vertical is compelling, but you can’t ski it all at once, like you can at Snowbird or Park City. Deer Valley could be the Pico of Utah, a pretty good ski area made average by its address among amazing ski areas. But that’s not how we view the place, because that’s not what Deer Valley is. Deer Valley is an Alterra flagship, so singular that it is the only one of the company’s 16 ski areas excluded from the Ikon Base Pass. The mountain’s $2,890 season pass is the most expensive in America. It has landed in the top three of Ski Magazine’s reader resort rankings for 25 consecutive seasons. Why? Why is this place so exceptional, so expensive and yet so treasured? Go ahead and list the superficial and the obvious: a fleet of groomers expansive enough to invade Newfoundland, 14 high-speed quads, ski valets, staff to escort your skis onto snow like a prized dachshund. It’s still not so obvious why DV is it. The armada of high-speed lifts, once so novel, are standard-issue Wasatch utilities now. Even Alta has them. Every large ski area grooms widely and well. And slopeside ski check is not so rare as to be a differentiator. At least not in 2023. There are lots of fancy ski areas. Sun Valley would gladly throw down in a groom-off. You could coronate the next queen of England in a Snowbasin bathroom stall. And Beaver Creek gives you a warm cookie at the end of the day. Match that, Deer Valley. So there is something more subtle than lifts and grooming going on here. Something that has transcended generations of owners and survived the oft-rough entry into corporate Skidom. The place has an essence. Something as...


Podcast #123: Breckenridge VP & COO Jody Churich

This podcast hit paid subscribers’ inboxes on April 7. It dropped for free subscribers on April 10. To receive future pods as soon as they’re live, and to support independent ski journalism, please consider an upgrade to a paid subscription. You can also subscribe for free below: Who Jody Churich, Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Breckenridge, Colorado Recorded on March 27, 2023 About Breckenridge Click here for a mountain stats overview Owned by: Vail Resorts Located in: Breckenridge, Colorado Year founded: 1961 Pass affiliations: Unlimited on Epic Pass, Epic Local Pass; limited access on Summit Value Pass (holiday blackouts), Keystone Plus Pass (unlimited access after April 1), Tahoe Local Pass (5 days shared with Vail, Beaver Creek, Keystone, Crested Butte, Park City) Closest neighboring ski areas: Frisco Adventure Park (15 minutes), Copper Mountain (25 minutes), Keystone (25 minutes), Arapahoe Basin (30 minutes), Loveland (38 minutes), Ski Cooper (1 hour, 5 minutes) – travel times can vary considerably pending traffic and weather Base elevation: 9,600 feet Summit elevation: 12,998 feet Vertical drop: 3,398 feet Skiable Acres: 2,908 Average annual snowfall: 350 inches Trail count: 187 Lift count: 35 (1 gondola, 5 six-packs, 7 high-speed quads, 1 triple, 6 doubles, 3 platters, 1 T-bar, 11 carpets) – Breckenridge plans to replace 5-Chair, a 1970 Riblet double, with a high-speed quad this summer. Why I interviewed her The audacity of it all. Many ski areas reach. Breck soars. Above the town, above the Pacific Ocean-sized parking lots, above the twisty-road condos and mansions, above the frantic base areas and trail-cut high-alpine - there lie the bowls, sweeping one after the next, southeast to northwest, across the range. Chairlifts, improbably, magnificently, will take you there. Or most of the way, at least. Kensho Superchair – a six-pack, rolls up to 12,302 feet, to the doorstep of Peak 6 – it’s a short hike to the tippy top, at 12,573 feet. But Kensho is holding Imperial Superchair’s beer, as that monster climbs to 12,840, just 158 feet shy of the 12,998-foot summit of Peak 8. Why don’t they go all the way to the summit? Why do you think? Listen to the podcast to get the answer, or go there for yourself and see how those wild winds hit you at the top – or close enough to the top – of America. The Brobots have plenty to say about Breck, Texas North, Intermediate Mountain. A-Basin is where the Summit County steeps live, don’t you know? There’s some truth to that, but it’s a narrative fed by bravado and outdated information. Breck’s high-alpine chairs – Imperial in 2005 and Kensho in 2013 – have trenched easy access to vast realms of gut-punching terrain. Beat your chest all you will – the only way out is straight down. Breck is one of the most complete resorts in America, is my point here. And that didn’t happen by accident. Since Vail took ownership of the joint in 1997, the company has deliberately, steadily, almost constantly improved it. Sixteen new lifts, including the inbound 5-Chair upgrade (Breck will swap out a 53-year-old Riblet double for a new high-speed quad this summer); massive expansions onto Peaks 6 and 7; steady snowmaking and parking upgrades. If you want to understand Vail’s long-term intentions for its other 40 ski areas, look to the evolution of this, one of its original four resorts, over decades of always-better incremental upgrades. Of course, plenty of people know that. Maybe too many. Breck is often – always? – America’s busiest resort by pure skier visits. It’s easy to access, easy to like, mostly – I said mostly Peak 10, E, 6 chairs – easy to ski if you stay below treeline. The town is the town, one of the great après hubs of North American skiing, thrumming, vibrant, a scene. Don’t go unless you want some company. So what becomes of a place like Breck in a 21st century filled with existential questions about what lift-served skiing has become and what it...


Podcast #122: Whitecap Mountains Owner & General Manager David Dziuban

This podcast hit paid subscribers’ inboxes on April 3. It dropped for free subscribers on April 6. To receive future pods as soon as they’re live, and to support independent ski journalism, please consider an upgrade to a paid subscription. You can also subscribe for free below: Who David Dziuban, Owner and General Manager of Whitecap Mountains, Wisconsin Recorded on March 13, 2023 About Whitecap Mountains Click here for a mountain stats overview Owned by: David Dziuban Located in: Upson, Wisconsin Year founded: 1964 Pass affiliations: Indy Pass Allied Partner Reciprocal partners: Whitecap lists the following partners on its season pass page - it is not clear what the benefit is for each mountain: Grand Targhee, Wild Mountain, Mount Bohemia, Sunlight, Camp 10, Lee Canyon, Arizona Snowbowl, Lee Canyon, Mont du Lac. Closest neighboring ski areas: Mt. Zion (28 minutes), Big Powderhorn (34 minutes), Snowriver (40 minutes), Mt. Ashwabay (1 hour, 15 minutes), Porcupine Mountains (1 hour, 21 minutes) Base elevation: 1,295 feet Summit elevation: 1,750 feet Vertical drop: 455 feet Skiable Acres: 400 acres Average annual snowfall: 200 inches Trail count: 42 (4 expert, 12 advanced, 12 intermediate, 14 beginner) Lift count: 6 (4 doubles, 1 triple, 1 carpet) – the North Pole-South Pole double functions as two separate chairs, even though it is one long continuous lift. Skiers are not allowed to ride on the middle section, which passes over a long valley. The carpet was not yet functional for the 2022-23 ski season. Whitecap has an additional triple chair that is currently dormant, but which Dziuban intends to resurrect. Here is Whitecap’s current trailmap: However, I far prefer this older version, which is my favorite trailmap of all time: Why I interviewed him Our ski areas exist where they do for a reason. That rare mix of hills, reliable precipitation, wintertime cold, a near-enough population, a road to get there. Slopes steep enough but not too steep. Water nearby. Someone with enough cash to run chairlifts up the incline and enough brains to put the whole operation together into a viable business. There are fewer geographic bullseyes of this sort than you may suppose. Look carefully at the map of U.S. ski areas – they are mostly clustered around a few-dozen rarified climate zones. Lake-effect bands or mountain spines or high-altitude nests resting at a desert’s edge. Several dozen have been force-born around large cold-weather cities, of course, bulldozed into existence where cold and water abound but hills are lacking. We all know the epicenters upon which Epic and Ikon have anchored their empires: the Wasatch, Tahoe, the I-70 corridor, the Vermont Spine. But smaller, less celebrated-by-the-masses clusters dot the continent. The Interstate 90 corridor from 49 Degrees North and Mt. Spokane through Schweitzer, Silver Mountain, and Lookout Pass. Mt. Hood, one mountain that is home to four ski areas. Northern New Mexico, where half a dozen ski areas surround the fabled Taos. One of the most reliable of these micro-snowzones is Big Snow Country, a hilly wilderness straddling the border of northern Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. There, seated west-to-east, are four – once five – ski areas: Whitecap Mountains, Mt. Zion, Big Powderhorn, and Snowriver, which is a union of the once-separate Indianhead and Blackjack ski areas (now known as Jackson Creek Summit and Black River Basin). Seated fewer than a dozen miles above them, brooding and enormous, is Lake Superior, one of the most reliable lake-effect snowmachines on the planet: So much of Midwest skiing is funky and improvisational, a tinkerer’s paradise, where the same spirit that animated 20th century factories willed one of the world’s great ski cultures into existence. There are not many hills around Milwaukee or Minneapolis or Detroit, but there are plenty of ski areas. The people of the Midwest do as they please. But the ski areas of Big Snow...


Podcast #121: Saddleback General Manager Jim Quimby

This podcast hit paid subscribers’ inboxes on April 2. It dropped for free subscribers on April 5. To receive future pods as soon as they’re live, and to support independent ski journalism, please consider an upgrade to a paid subscription. You can also subscribe for free below: Who Jim Quimby, General Manager of Saddleback, Maine Recorded on March 6, 2023 About Saddleback Click here for a mountain stats overview Owned by: Arctaris Investments Located in: Rangeley, Maine Year founded: 1960 Pass affiliations: Indy Pass Reciprocal partners: None Closest neighboring ski areas: Sugarloaf (52 minutes), Titcomb (1 hour), Black Mountain of Maine (1 hour, 9 minutes), Spruce Mountain (1 hour, 22 minutes), Baker Mountain (1 hour, 33 minutes), Mt. Abram (1 hour, 36 minutes), Sunday River (1 hour, 41 minutes) Base elevation: 2,120 feet Summit elevation: 4,120 feet Vertical drop: 2,000 feet Skiable Acres: 600+ Average annual snowfall: 225 inches Trail count: 68 (23 beginner, 20 intermediate, 18 advanced, 7 expert) + 2 terrain parks Lift count: 6 (1 high-speed quad, 3 fixed-grip quads, 1 T-bar, 1 carpet) Why I interviewed him The best article I’ve ever read on Saddleback came from Bill Donahue, writing for Outside, with the unfortunate dateline of March 9, 2020. That was a few days before the planet shut down to prevent the spread of Covid-19, and just after Arctaris had purchased Saddleback and promised to tug the ski area out of its five-year slumber. Donahue included a long section on Quimby: But to really register the new hope that’s blossomed in Rangeley, I needed to drive up the winding hill to Saddleback’s lodge and talk to Jimmy Quimby. Fifty-nine years old and weathered, his chin specked with salt-and-pepper stubble, Quimby is the scion of a Saddleback pillar. His father, Doc, poured concrete to build the towers for one of Saddleback’s first lifts in 1963 and later built trails and made snow for the mountain. His mother, Judy, worked in the ski area’s cafeteria for about 15 years. “We were so poor,” Quimby told me, “that we didn’t have a pot to piss in, but I skied every weekend.” Indeed, as a high schooler, Quimby took part in every form of alpine ski competition available—on a single pair of skis. His 163-centimeter Dynastar Easy Riders were both his ballet boards and his giant-slalom guns. They also transported him to mischief. In his teenage years, Quimby was part of a nefarious Saddleback gang, the Rat Pack. “We terrorized the skiing public,” he said. “We built jumps. We skied fast. We made the T-bar swerve so people fell off.” Just days after his 18th birthday, Quimby left Maine to serve 20 years in the Air Force as an electrical-line repairman and managed, somehow, to spend a good chunk of time near Japan’s storied Hakkoda Ski Resort, where he routinely hucked himself off 35-foot cornices while schussing in blue jeans. When he returned to Maine in 1998, he commenced working at Saddleback and honed such a love for the mountain that, when it closed in 2015, his heart broke. He simply refused to ski after that. “I decided,” he said, “that I just wouldn’t ski anywhere else.” Friends in the industry offered him free tickets at nearby mountains; Quimby demurred and hunkered down at Saddleback, where he remained mountain manager. The Berrys paid him to watch over the nonfunctioning trails and lifts during the long closure. “I’m a prideful person,” he explained. “OK, I did do a little skiing with my grandchildren, but they’re preschoolers. I haven’t made an adult turn since Saddleback closed.” Quimby is now working for Arctaris, which owns Saddleback Inc., but that’s a technicality. His mission is spiritual, and when I met him in his office, I found that I had stepped into a shrine, a jam-packed Saddleback museum. There were lapel pins, patches, bumper stickers, posters, and also a wooden ski signed in 1960 by about 35 of Saddleback’s progenitors. Quimby’s prize possession, though, is a brass belt buckle he...


Podcast #120: Whitefish President Nick Polumbus

This podcast hit paid subscribers’ inboxes on March 29. It dropped for free subscribers on April 1. To receive future pods as soon as they’re live, and to support independent ski journalism, please consider an upgrade to a paid subscription. Who Nick Polumbus, President of Whitefish Mountain Resort, Montana Recorded on January 13, 2023 About Whitefish Click here for a mountain stats overview Owned by: Winter Sports, Inc. Pass affiliations: None Reciprocal pass partners: * 3 days each at Great Divide, Loveland, Mt. Hood Meadows * 5 days at Red Lodge Located in: Whitefish, Montana Closest neighboring ski areas: Blacktail (1 hour, 15 minutes), Fernie (2 hours), Turner (2 hours, 30 minutes), Kimberley (2 hours, 45 minutes), Montana Snowbowl (3 hours), Lookout Pass (3 hours) – travel times will vary considerably pending weather, border traffic, and time of year Base elevation: 4,464 feet Summit elevation: 6,817 feet Vertical drop: 2,353 feet Skiable Acres: roughly 3,000 acres Average annual snowfall: nearly 300 inches Trail count: 128 (8 expert, 49 advanced, 40 intermediate, 25 beginner, 6 terrain parks) Lift count: 15­­ (1 six-pack, 3 high-speed quads, 2 fixed-grip quads, 6 triples, 2 T-bars, 1 carpet) Why I interviewed him You can be forgiven for thinking that Epkon chewed them all up. That the only ski areas worth skiing are those stacked on the industry’s twin magic carpets. These shuttles to something grand, to what you think of when you think about the mountains. Ikon got Jackson and Palisades and the Cottonwoods and Taos. Epic got Vail and Telluride and Heavenly and Park City. What more could be left? What more could you need? You probably need this. Whitefish. Or Big Mountain, as you will. Three thousand acres of Montana steep and white. Plenty of snow. Plenty of lifts. A new sixer to boom you up the hillside. The rootin’-tootin’ town below. A C-note gets you a lift ticket and change to buy a brew. No bitterness in the exchange. It’s hard to say exactly if Whitefish is an anachronism or an anomaly or a portent or a manifestation of wanton Montana swagger. Among big, developed U.S. mountains, it certainly stands alone. This model is extinct, I thought. Coercion-by-punishment being the preferred sales tactic of the big-mountain conglomerates. “Four lift tickets for today, Mr. Suburban Dad who decided to shepherd the children to Colorado on a last-minute spring break trip? That will be $1,200. Oh does that seem like a lot to you? Well that will teach you not to purchase access to skiing 13 months in advance.” So far, Whitefish has resisted skiing’s worst idea. Good for them. Better for them: this appears to be a winning business strategy. Skier visits have climbed annually for more than a decade. Look at a map and you’ll see that’s more impressive than it sounds. Whitefish is parked at the top of America, near nothing, on the way to nothing. You have to go there on purpose. And with Epic and Ikon passes tumbling out of every other skier’s jacket pockets, you need a special story to bait that journey. So what’s going on here? Why hasn’t this mountain done what every other mountain has done and joined a pass? Like the comely maiden at the ball, Whitefish could have its pick: Epic, Ikon, Mountain Collective, Indy. An instant headliner and pass-mover. But the single life can be appealing. Do as you please, chill with who you want, set your own agenda. That’s Whitefish’s game. And I’m watching. What we talked about Why Whitefish typically calls it a season with a 100-inch summit base depth; Front Range Colorado and I-70 in the 1970s; how Colorado and Utah snow and traffic impacts skier traffic at Whitefish; how a Colorado kid enters the ski industry in Vermont; a business turnaround at Whitefish; “get the old fish out of the fridge”; how Whitefish has stayed affordable as it’s modernized; why the ski area changed its name from “Big Mountain” and how that landed locally; who owns Whitefish and how...


Podcast #119: Pacific Group Resorts VP and CMO Christian Knapp

To support independent ski journalism, please consider an upgrade to a paid subscription. The discounted annual rate is back through March 13, 2023. Who Christian Knapp, Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer of Pacific Group Resorts Recorded on February 27, 2023 About Pacific Group Resorts Pacific Group Resorts (PGRI) owns and/or operates six North American ski areas: While they don’t have a single unified pass like Vail Resorts or Mountain Capital Partners, PGRI’s ski areas do offer reciprocity for their passholders, largely through their Mission: Affordable product. Here are the 2022-23 exchanges – the company has not yet released 2023-24 passes: Why I interviewed him There are more than a dozen companies that own three or more ski areas in North America. The National Ski Areas Association itemizes most of them* here. Everyone knows Vail and Aspen, whether they ski or not. The next tier is a little more insider, but not much: Alterra, Boyne, Powdr. These are the ski companies with national footprints and Ikon Pass headliner resorts. If skiers haven’t heard of these companies, they’re familiar with Mammoth and Big Sky and Snowbird. Everything else on the list is regionally dense: Invision Capital’s three California ski areas (Mountain High, Dodge Ridge, China Peak); Wisconsin Resorts six Midwestern bumps (Alpine Valley, Pine Knob, Mt. Holly, and Bittersweet in Michigan; Alpine Valley in Wisconsin; and Searchmont in Ontario); the State of New York’s Belleayre, Gore, and Whiteface. Some – like Midwest Family Ski Resorts’ trio of gigantors – align with Indy Pass, while others stand alone, with a pass just for their mountains, like Mountain Capital Partners’ Power Pass. PGRI doesn’t fit any of these templates. The company has a national footprint, with properties stretching from coastal BC to New Hampshire, but no national pass presence (at least before the company inherited Jay Peak’s Indy Pass membership). Its properties’ season passes sort of work together but sort of don’t. It’s all a little strange: a small ski area operator, based in Park City, whose nearest ski area is more than a 400-mile drive away, on the edge of Colorado’s Grand Mesa. PGRI is built like a regional operator, but its ski areas are scattered across the continent, including in improbable-seeming locales such as Maryland and Virginia. Despite the constant facile reminders that American Skiing Company and SKI failed, small conglomerates such as PGRI are likely the future of skiing. Owning multiple resorts in multiple regions is the best kind of weather insurance. Scale builds appeal both for national pass coalitions and for banks, who often control the cash register. A larger company can build a talent pipeline to shift people around and advance their careers, which often improves retention, creating, in turn, a better ski experience. Or so the theories go. Independence will always have advantages, and consolidation its pitfalls, but the grouping together of ski resorts is not going away. So let’s talk to one of the companies actively growing on its own terms, in its own way, and setting a new template for what corporate skiing balanced with local control can look like. *Missing from the NSAA’s list is the Schmitz Brothers trio of Wisconsin ski areas: Little Switzerland, Nordic Mountain, and The Rock Snow Park; the list also includes Sun Valley and Snowbasin, which are jointly owned by the Holding Family, but excludes the other two-resort groups around the country: Berkshire East/Catamount, Labrador/Song, 49 Degrees North/Silver Mountain, Homewood/Red Lodge, Perfect North/Timberline, and Mission Ridge/Blacktail - there may be others). What we talked about The bomber western winter; closing Wintergreen early; the existential importance of Eastern snowmaking; why Mid-Atlantic ski resorts are such great businesses; growing up in the ski industry; Mt. Bachelor in the ‘90s; Breck in the early Vail days; why founding the Mountain Collective was...


Podcast #118: Eaglecrest, Alaska General Manager Dave Scanlan

This podcast hit paid subscribers’ inboxes on Feb. 22. It dropped for free subscribers on Feb. 25. To receive future pods as soon as they’re live, and to support independent ski journalism, please consider an upgrade to a paid subscription. Who Dave Scanlan, General Manager of Eaglecrest, Alaska Recorded on February 13, 2023 About Eaglecrest Click here for a mountain stats overview Owned by: The City of Juneau Located in: Juneau, Alaska Year founded: 1975 Pass affiliations: Indy Pass, Powder Alliance, Freedom Pass Reciprocal partners: * 3 days each at: Anthony Lakes, Diamond Peak, Hilltop, Hogadon Basin, Lookout Pass, Monarch Mountain, Mount Bohemia, Mount Sima, Mount Ashland, Skeetawk, Skiland * 1 unguided day at Silverton * Eaglecrest has one of the most extensive reciprocal networks in America. Here’s an overview of everything that’s included in a season pass, which debuted for this season at $576. While there’s a ton of overlap, adding an Indy Pass onto this would give you another 50-plus ski areas: Closest neighboring ski areas: Eaglecrest’s website reminds us that “There are no roads into Juneau, Alaska— you have to live here, fly, or ferry to experience this powder paradise.” There are no other ski areas nearby. So stay for a few days and enjoy it. Base elevation: 1,130 feet Summit elevation: 2,750 feet Vertical drop: 1,620 feet Skiable Acres: 640 Average annual snowfall: 350 inches Trail count: 36 (40% advanced/expert, 40% intermediate, 20% beginner) Lift count: 4 doubles – Eaglecrest also plans to add a pulse gondola, which will likely be ready for the 2025 summer season and 2025-26 ski season. Why I interviewed him This podcast started, as so many of them do, with me asking one question: what is going on here? Every ski area is different, but some are more different than others. Mount Bohemia, with its complete absence of grooming and snowmaking and $109 season pass. Perfect North, which sits on southern Indiana farmland but processes more than 10,000 skiers on a busy day and employs 1,200 workers in the winter – bigger numbers than some Western alphas. Black Mountain of Maine, which, over the past decade, has undergone the largest expansion of any New England ski area – with zero promotion, masterplanning, or fanfare. And here’s Eaglecrest. This ski area up in Alaska. But not just regular Alaska. Isolated coastal Alaska. Where roads don’t go. You have to fly or take a ferry. There, for some reason, is where the 49th state chose to locate its capital, Juneau. The state’s residents have voted many times to move the capital. But it remains. It is a gorgeous place, mountains launching dramatically from the water. There are 31,000 people there. And one ski area. Eaglecrest is big enough to stir curiosity, but not big enough to draw skiers in volume from the mainland, who have dozens of larger ski areas to bounce between. It is an Indy Pass member, a Freedom Pass member, a Powder Alliance member. It has a dozen reciprocal partnerships besides. Almost anyone can ski there – almost no one does. So what is this place? This city-owned ski area at the end of civilization? And what does it want to be? And how does it plan to get there? I had questions. Scanlan had answers. This is a good one. What we talked about Fifteen straight days of snow is just how they roll in Southern Alaska; the Pineapple Express; if you think Alaska is all dark and subzero weather, think again; skiing in fishing gear; “we don’t have the big testosterone bro-brah attitude”; is Juneau ski bum paradise?; where a crowd on a Saturday pow day is a dozen early-risers ahead of you in the maze; Midwest pride; bump skiing at Wilmot; when “you fall in love with it not for the hype of a powder day, but for the feeling you get when you’re on your skis or snowboard”; a young vagabond in the ‘90s; Hope Alaska; founding the Mountain Rider’s Alliance to help small ski areas; the potential for resurrecting the long-lost Manitoba Mountain,...


Podcast #117: Holiday Valley President and General Manager Dennis Eshbaugh

The Storm Skiing Journal and Podcast is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and to support my work, please consider becoming a free or paid subscriber. Who Dennis Eshbaugh, President and General Manager of Holiday Valley, New York Recorded on February 13, 2023 About Holiday Valley Click here for a mountain stats overview Owned by: Win-Sum Ski Corp, which Holiday Valley’s website describes as “a closely held corporation owned by a small number of stockholders.” Year founded: 1958 Pass affiliations: None Located in: Ellicottville, New York Closest neighboring ski areas: Holimont (3 minutes), Kissing Bridge (38 minutes), Cockaigne (45 minutes), Buffalo Ski Center (48 minutes), Swain (1 hour, 15 minutes), Peek’N Peak (1 hour, 15 minutes) Base elevation: 1,500 feet Summit elevation: 2,250 feet Vertical drop: 750 feet Skiable Acres: 290 Average annual snowfall: 180 inches Trail count: 84 (4 glades, 1 expert, 21 advanced, 21 intermediate, 32 beginner, 5 terrain parks) – the official glade number is a massive undercount, as nearly all of the trees at Holiday Valley are well-spaced and skiable (the trailmap below notes that “woods are available to expert skiers and riders and are not open, closed, or marked”). Lift count: 13­­ (4 high-speed quads, 7 fixed-grip quads, 2 surface lifts) – a high-speed six-pack will replace the Mardis Gras high-speed quad this sumer. Uphill capacity: 23,850 people per hour Why I interviewed him Western New York is one of the most important ski markets in America. Orbiting a vast wilderness zone of hilly lake-effect are the cities of Syracuse, Rochester, Buffalo, Cleveland, and, farther out but still relevant to the market, Pittsburgh. That’s more than 20 million people, as Eshbaugh notes in our conversation. They all need somewhere to ski. They don’t have big mountains, but they do have options. In Western New York alone: Peek’n Peak, Cockaigne, Kissing Bridge, Buffalo Ski Club, Bristol, Hunt Hollow, Swain, Holiday Valley, Holimont, and a half-dozen-ish surface-lift outfits hyper-focused on beginners. It’s one of the world’s great new-skier factories. Skiers learn here and voyage to the Great Out There. From these metro regions, skiers can get anywhere else quickly. At least four daily flights connect Cleveland and Denver – you can leave your house in the evening and catch first chair at Keystone or Copper the following morning. But sometimes local is good, especially when you start stacking kids in the backseat and your airplane bill ticks past four digits. Set the GPS for Holiday Valley. In a region of ski areas, this is a ski resort. The terrain is varied and expansive. Downtown Ellicottville, a Rust Belt industrial refugee that has remade itself as one of the East’s great resort towns, is minutes away. The mountain is easy enough to get to (in the way that anything off-interstate is an easy-ish pain in the ass requiring some patience with two-lane state highways and their poke-along drivers). And lift tickets are affordable, topping out at $87 for an eight-hour session. As a business, Holiday Valley is one of the most well-regarded independent ski areas in the country, on the level of Wachusett or Whitefish or Smugglers’ Notch. But it wasn’t the inevitable King of Western New York. When Eshbaugh showed up in 1975, the place was a backwater, with a handful of double chairs and T-bars and a couple dozen runs. It took decades to build the machine. But for at least the past 20 years, Holiday Valley has led all New York ski areas in annual visits, keeping company with New England monsters Mount Snow and Sunday River at around half a million skiers per season. That’s incredible. I wanted to learn how they did it, and how they keep doing it, even as the ski world evolves rapidly around them. What we talked about The wild Western New York winter; what’s driving record business to Holiday Valley; the busiest ski area in New York State; learning from Sam Walton in the...


Podcast #116: Seven Springs, Laurel, & Hidden Valley VP & GM Brett Cook

This podcast hit paid subscribers’ inboxes on Feb. 3. It dropped for free subscribers on Feb. 6. To receive future pods as soon as they’re live and to support independent ski journalism, please consider an upgrade to a paid subscription. Who Brett Cook, Vice President and General Manager of Seven Springs, Hidden Valley, and Laurel Mountain, Pennsylvania Recorded on January 30, 2023 About Seven Springs Owned by: Vail Resorts Pass affiliations: Epic Pass, Epic Local Pass, Northeast Value Epic Pass, Northeast Midweek Epic Pass Located in: Seven Springs, Pennsylvania Year opened: 1932 Closest neighboring ski areas: Hidden Valley (17 minutes), Laurel Mountain (45 minutes), Nemacolin (46 minutes), Boyce Park (1 hour), Wisp (1 hour), Blue Knob (1 hour, 30 minutes) Base elevation: 2,240 feet Summit elevation: 2,994 feet Vertical drop: 754 feet Skiable Acres: 285 Average annual snowfall: 135 inches Trail count: 48 (5 expert, 6 advanced, 15 intermediate, 16 beginner, 6 terrain parks) Lift count: 14­­ (2 six-packs, 4 fixed-grip quads, 4 triples, 3 carpets, 1 ropetow) About Hidden Valley Owned by: Vail Resorts Pass affiliations: Epic Pass, Epic Local Pass, Northeast Value Epic Pass, Northeast Midweek Epic Pass Located in: Hidden Valley, Pennsylvania Year opened: 1955 Closest neighboring ski areas: Seven Springs (17 minutes), Laurel Mountain (34 minutes), Mystic Mountain (50 minutes), Boyce Park (54 minutes),Wisp (1 hour), Blue Knob (1 hour 19 minutes) Base elevation: 2,405 feet Summit elevation: 2,875 feet Vertical drop: 470 feet Skiable Acres: 110 Average annual snowfall: 140 inches Trail count: 32 (9 advanced, 13 intermediate, 8 beginner, 2 terrain parks) Lift count: 8 (2 fixed-grip quads, 2 triples, 2 carpets, 2 handle tows) About Laurel Mountain Owned by: Vail Resorts Pass affiliations: Epic Pass, Epic Local Pass, Northeast Value Epic Pass, Northeast Midweek Epic Pass Located in: Boswell, Pennsylvania Year opened: 1939 Closest neighboring ski areas: Hidden Valley (34 minutes), Seven Springs (45 minutes), Boyce Park (1 hour), Blue Knob (1 hour), Mystic Mountain (1 hour, 15 minutes), Wisp (1 hour, 15 minutes) Base elevation: 2,005 feet Summit elevation: 2,766 feet Vertical drop: 761 feet Skiable Acres: 70 Average annual snowfall: 41 inches Trail count: 20 (2 expert, 2 advanced, 6 intermediate, 10 beginner) Lift count: 2­­ (1 fixed-grip quad, 1 handle tow) Below the paid subscriber jump: a summary of our podcast conversation, a look at abandoned Hidden Valley expansions, historic Laurel Mountain lift configurations, and much more. Beginning with podcast 116, the full podcast articles are no longer available on the free content tier. Why? They take between 10 and 20 hours to research and write, and readers have demonstrated that they are willing to pay for content. My current focus with The Storm is to create value for anyone who invests their money into the product. Here are examples of a few past podcast articles, if you would like to see the format: Vail Mountain, Mt. Spokane, Snowbasin, Mount Bohemia, Brundage. To anyone who is supporting The Storm: thank you very much. You have guaranteed that this is a sustainable enterprise for the indefinite future. Why I interviewed him I’ve said this before, but it’s worth repeating. Most Vail ski areas fall into one of two categories: the kind skiers will fly around the world for, and the kind skiers won’t drive more than 15 minutes for. Whistler, Park City, Heavenly fall into the first category. Mt. Brighton, Alpine Valley, Paoli Peaks into the latter. I exaggerate a bit on the margins, but when I drive from New York City to Liberty Mountain, I know this is not a well-trod path. Seven Springs, like Hunter or Attitash, occupies a slightly different category in the Vail empire. It is both a regional destination and a high-volume big-mountain feeder. Skiers will make a weekend of these places, from Pittsburgh or New York City or Boston, then they...


Podcast #115: Snowbasin Vice President & General Manager Davy Ratchford

This podcast hit paid subscribers’ inboxes on Feb. 1. It dropped for free subscribers on Feb. 4. To receive future pods as soon as they’re live and to support independent ski journalism, please consider an upgrade to a paid subscription. Who Davy Ratchford, Vice President and General Manager of Snowbasin Resort, Utah Recorded on January 31, 2023 About Snowbasin Click here for a mountain stats overview Owned by: The R. Earl Holding Family Pass affiliations: Ikon Pass, Mountain Collective Located in: Huntsville, Utah Year founded: 1940 Closest neighboring ski areas: Nordic Valley (30 minutes), Powder Mountain (35 minutes), Woodward Park City (1:05), Utah Olympic Park (1:08), Park City (1:15), Deer Valley (1:15), Snowbird (1:15), Alta (1:20), Solitude (1:20), Brighton (1:25), Sundance (1:40), Cherry Peak (1:45), Beaver Mountain (2:00) – travel times vary considerably based upon weather and traffic Base elevation: 6,450 feet Summit elevation: 9,350 feet Vertical drop: 2,900 feet Skiable Acres: 3,000 Average annual snowfall: 300 inches Trail count: 111 Lift count: 12­­ (One 15-passenger tram, 2 eight-passenger gondolas, 2 six-packs, 2 high-speed quads, 2 triples, 1 ropetow, 2 carpets) – Snowbasin will add a third six-pack on an all-new line this summer (more on this below). Why I interviewed him For 60 years it sat there, empty, enormous, unnoticed. Utah skiing was Park City and Alta; Snowbird in the ‘70s; Deer Valley in the ‘80s; sometimes Solitude and Brighton. No need to ski outside that powder pocket east of SLC: in 1995, an Alta lift ticket cost $25, and the area resorts frequently landed on ski magazine “least-crowded” lists. The November 2000 issue of Ski distilled Snowbasin’s malaise: Though skiers were climbing the high ridgeline that overlooks the small city of Ogden as far back as the Thirties, Alta founder Alf Engen officially discovered Snowbasin in 1940. At that time the high, sunny basin was used for cattle range, but it was so overgrazed that eroded topsoil and bloated carcasses of dead cows were tainting Ogden’s water supply. Working with the U.S. Forest Service, Ogden’s town fathers decided that a ski resort would provide income and recreation while also safeguarding the water supply. A deal was struck with the ranch owner, and Snowbasin opened for business. In the 60 years since, the resort has struggled under five owners, including Vail-founder Pete Seibert, who owned it in the mid-Eighties. The problem was a lack of lodging. Snowbasin was too far from Salt Lake City to attract out-of-state skiers and too far from Ogden to use the city’s aging railroad center as a resort base. Successive owners realized that to succeed, Snowbasin needed a base village, but building one from scratch is a costly proposition. So for half a century, the resort has remained the private powder stash of Ogden locals and the few lucky skiers who have followed rumors of deep snow and empty lifts up Ogden Canyon. In 1984, Earl Holding, an oil tycoon who had owned Sun Valley since 1978, purchased the resort from Seibert (process the fact that Snowbasin was once part of the Vail portfolio for a moment). For a long time, nothing much changed. Then came the 2002 Olympics. In a single offseason in 1998, the resort added two gondolas, a tram, and a high-speed quad (John Paul), along with the thousand-ish-acre Strawberry terrain pod. A new access road cut 13 miles off the drive from Salt Lake City. Glimmering base lodges rose from the earth. Still, Snowbasin languished. “But despite the recent addition of modern lifts, it has still failed to attract more than 100,000 skier visits the past two seasons,” Ski wrote in 2000, attributing this volume partly to “the fact that the Olympics, not today’s lift ticket revenue, is the management’s priority.” Holding, the magazine reported, was considering a bizarre name change for the resort to “Sun Valley.” As in, Sun Valley, Utah. Reminder: there was no social media in...


Podcast #114: New England Ski History Founder Jeremy Clark

This podcast hit paid subscribers’ inboxes on Jan. 31. It dropped for free subscribers on Feb. 3. To receive future pods as soon as they’re live and to support independent ski journalism, please consider an upgrade to a paid subscription. Who Jeremy Clark, Founder of New England Ski History and contributor to New England Ski Industry News Recorded on December 6, 2022 About New England Ski History New England Ski History has two main components: 1) This is HQ. Each New England state gets a landing page, which in turn links out to profiles of all its active ski areas, its major lost ski areas, and many planned-but-never built ski areas: * Connecticut * Maine * Massachusetts * New Hampshire * Rhode Island * Vermont There are also pages devoted to expansions (both realized and cancelled), lifts (sorted by type, brand, or year installed or removed), and trailmaps. One of my favorite features is the inventory of historic lift ticket and season pass prices (select the drop-downs at the top to change the state or season). The site, like its subject matter, is a little retro, but the information is, in general, very current. For New England podcast prep, this site is gold. 2) This is a news site, focused always and only on New England. The subject matter is expansive and often esoteric: updates on chairlift construction or obscure ski area re-openings – topics few other outlets would cover, but of clear interest to the typical Storm reader. I never send out a news update without checking this site for tidbits that I would otherwise miss. Clark recently launched a Substack newsletter that pushes these headlines right to your email inbox - subscribe below: Why I interviewed him There has been organized skiing in New England for at least 100 years. Rolling terrain, half-year-long winters, and population density made that inevitable. As soon as machines tiptoed their way into Earth’s timeline, New Englanders began flinging them up hillsides. Some stuck. Most didn’t. Today, New England skiing is a couple dozen monsters, a few dozen locals, and a scattering of surface-lift bumps where a lift ticket costs less than a pack of smokes. As rich as this history is, there are few reliable sources of historical information on New England skiing. New England Lost Ski Areas Project has documented more than 600 lost ski areas across the region – the site’s founder, Jeremy Davis, was one of my first guests on The Storm Skiing Podcast back in 2019 (it’s still one of my favorite episodes). The New England Ski Museum has put together timelines on the development of lifts, snowmaking, grooming, and more. But current information on still-operating ski areas is hard to find outside of the ski area sites themselves, and even those are often unhelpful for anything more in-depth than pulling up the current trailmap. New England Ski History hosts the best and most comprehensive library of information not just on the region’s major lost ski areas, but on the 90-ish active ones. One thing that has frustrated me in the internet age is how difficult it can be to find what should be the most basic information. What year did Jay Peak open? What is the vertical drop of Veterans Memorial ski hill in New Hampshire? Why did Mt. Tom, Massachusetts, close despite its popularity? For the past 15 to 20 years, Jeremy Clark, who as a tech-brained 1990s teenager built Berkshire East’s first website, has been organizing all of this information in one place. The site is free for all, but it has been invaluable to me as a reliable information source on all things New England skiing. I never knew who ran it – unlike The Storm, there is no name adjacent to the masthead - until late last year, when I fired off an email to the anonymous address posted on the site. Clark answered right away, and here we are. What we talked about New England snowmaking superpowers; New England Ski History HQ; the rotation theory...


Podcast #113: Mt. Spokane General Manager Jim van Löben Sels

This podcast hit paid subscribers’ inboxes on Jan. 13. It dropped for free subscribers on Jan. 16. To receive future pods as soon as they’re live and to support independent ski journalism, please consider an upgrade to a paid subscription. Who Jim van Löben Sels, General Manager of Mt. Spokane, Washington Recorded on January 9, 2023 About Mt. Spokane Click here for a mountain stats overview Owned by: Mt. Spokane 2000, a nonprofit group Pass affiliations: Freedom Pass – 3 days each at these 20 ski areas Reciprocal partners: 3 days each at Mt. Ashland, Mount Bohemia, Great Divide, Loup Loup, Lee Canyon, Snow King, White Pass, Ski Cooper Located in: Mt. Spokane State Park, Washington Year opened: 1938 Closest neighboring ski areas: 49 Degrees North (1 hour, 45 minutes), Silver Mountain (1 hour, 45 minutes), Schweitzer (2 hours, 10 minutes) – travel times may vary considerably in winter Base elevation: 3,818 feet Summit elevation: 5,889 feet Vertical drop: 2,071 feet Skiable Acres: 1,704 Average annual snowfall: 300 inches Trail count: 52 (15% advanced/expert, 62% intermediate, 23% beginner) Lift count: 7­­ (1 triple, 5 doubles, 1 carpet) Why I interviewed him Perception is a funny thing. In my Michigan-anchored teenage ski days any bump rolling more than one chairlift uphill seemed impossibly complex and interesting. Caberfae (200 acres), Crystal (103), Shanty Creek (80), and Nub’s Nob (248 acres today, much smaller at the time) hit as vast and interesting worlds. That set my bar low. It’s stayed there. Living now within two and a half hours of a dozen thousand-plus-footers feels extraordinary. In less than an instant I can be there, lost in it. Teleportation by minivan. Go west and they think different. By the millions skiers pound up I-70 through an Eisenhower Tunnel framed by Loveland, to ski over the pass. Breck, Keystone, Copper, A-Basin, Vail, Beaver Creek – all amazing. But Loveland covers 1,800 acres standing on 2,210 vertical feet – how many Colorado tourists have never touched the place? How many locals? It seems skiers often confuse size with infrastructure. Loveland has one high-speed chairlift. Beaver Creek has 13. But the ski area’s footprint is only 282 acres larger than Loveland’s. Are fast lift rides worth an extra 50 miles of interstate evacuation drills? It seems that, for many people, they are. We could repeat that template all over the West. But Washington is the focus today. And Mt. Spokane. At 1,704 acres, it’s larger than White Pass (1,402 acres), Stevens Pass (1,125), or Mt. Baker (1,000), and just a touch smaller than Summit at Snoqualmie (1,996). But outside of Spokane (metro population, approximately 600,000), who skis it? Pretty much no one. Why is that? Maybe it’s the lift fleet, anchored by five centerpole Riblet doubles built between 1956(!) and 1977. Maybe it’s the ski area’s absence from the larger megapasses. Maybe it’s proximity to 2,900-acre Schweitzer and its four high-speed lifts. Probably it’s a little bit of each those things. Which is fine. People can ski wherever they want. But what is this place, lodged in the wilderness just an hour north of Washington’s second-largest city? And why hadn’t I heard of it until I made it my job to hear about everyplace? And how is Lift 1 spinning into its 67th winter? There just wasn’t a lot of information out there about Mt. Spokane. And part of The Storm’s mission is to seek these places out and figure out what the hell is going on. And so here you go. What we talked about Fully staffed and ready to roll in 2023; night skiing; what happened when Mt. Spokane shifted from a five-day operating week to a seven-day one; a winding career path that involved sheep shearing, Ski Patrol at Bear Valley, running a winery, and ultimately taking over Mt. Spokane; the family ski routine; entering the ski industry in the maw of Covid; life is like Lombard Street; Spokane’s long-term year-round business potential; who owns and runs Mt....


Podcast #112: Aspenware CEO Rob Clark

To support independent ski journalism, please consider becoming a free or paid subscriber. This podcast hit paid subscribers’ inboxes on Dec. 29. It dropped for free subscribers on Jan. 1. To receive future pods as soon as they’re live, please consider an upgrade to a paid subscription. Who Rob Clark, CEO of Aspenware, an e-commerce and software company Recorded on December 12, 2022 About Aspenware Aspenware’s website declares that it’s time to “modernize your mountain.” As far as corporate sloganeering goes, this is a pretty good one. Skiers – like everyone – live on their phones. Ski areas need to meet them there – to sell them lift tickets, process their lunch order, sign their liability waivers, and rent them skis. This is what Aspenware does. “Close your ticket windows,” one of the company’s ad campaigns insists, “you don’t need them.” Alterra and Aspen Skiing Company agree. Earlier this year, the companies formed a joint venture to purchase Aspenware. Why I interviewed him I spend a lot of time rambling about lifts and terrain and passes – the meat of the lift-served skiing world; how resorts shape an interesting experience, and how skiers access it and move through it. But a modern ski experience does not just mean fast lifts and great snowmaking and diverse terrain offerings and passes that include the nine moons of Endor. It also means mitigating the ski day’s many built-in points of misery, which mostly have to do with lines. Everything we need to do that is already built into your smartphone. Ski areas just have to figure out how to tap that technology to streamline the experience. Aspenware is doing that. What we talked about Relocating to New England after nearly two decades in Colorado; Peek’N Peak; Holiday Valley; an Ohio boy goes West; 1-800-SKI-VAIL; running the Vail Mountain ticket windows in the pre-Epic Pass, everyone-buys-a-walk-up-ticket days; the Epic Pass debuts; RFID debuts; RTP in its heyday; a brief history of Aspenware and its evolution into a ski industry technology powerhouse; one of the largest organisms in the world; what it means to modernize a ski area with technology; how United Airlines inspired a pivot at Aspenware; how the ski industry went from an early tech adopter to a laggard; the problem with legacy tech systems; what happens when people ask me where they should go skiing; what happened when Covid hit; why some resorts ticket windows “will never open again”; tech resistance; “I’m on a mission to get technology considered in the same breath as lifts and snowmaking”; do ski areas need tech to survive?; what skiing is competing against; why Alterra and Aspen formed a joint venture to purchase Aspenware; which bits of tech it makes sense to develop in-house; the Shopify of skiing?; which tech skiers should expect in the future; Vail’s decision to move Epic Passes to phones next year; I still don’t think trailmaps belong on phones (exclusively); interactive trailmaps are terrible; why skiers should own their resort data; the evolution of dynamic pricing; and the one thing that actually makes skiers purchase lift tickets. Why I thought that now was a good time for this interview As we all know, Covid supercharged the skiing tech cycle. In the eight months between the March 2020 shutdowns and the November-ish re-openings, the nation’s 470-odd ski areas had to figure out how to keep people as far away from each other as possible without blowing up the entire industry. The answer, largely, was by digitizing as much of the experience as possible. Aspenware met that moment, and its momentum has continued in the two years since. Podcast Notes * Rob and I guessed a bit at the debut price of the Epic Pass back in 2008 – it was $579 for adults and $279 for children. * Rob referenced Start with Why, a business leadership book by Simon Sinek – you can buy it here. * I’ll make the same disclaimer with Aspenware as I did with OpenSnow: while Aspenware is a Storm advertising partner,...


Podcast #111: SMI Snow Makers President Joe VanderKelen

To support independent ski journalism, please consider becoming a free or paid subscriber. This podcast hit paid subscribers’ inboxes on Dec. 27. It dropped for free subscribers on Dec. 30. To receive future pods as soon as they’re live, please consider an upgrade to a paid subscription. Who Joe VanderKelen, President of SMI Snow Makers Recorded on November 28, 2022 About SMI Snow Makers SMI is the largest U.S.-based snowmaking manufacturer, and one of the biggest such outfits in the world. Their guns sit at more than 1,000 facilities – mostly, but not exclusively, ski areas – all over the world. The company is based in Midland, Michigan, a place so flat that, if you turned it on its side, you’d roll forever and then simply tumble off the edge of the planet. An odd-seeming locale, perhaps, for a snowmaking manufacturer, until you’ve spent a winter there on those windy, frozen plains. SMI is not what we’d call a “consumer-facing brand,” but you’ll see their product markings - V2, Axis, Grizzly, FreedomX, Puma, PoleCat, Wizzard - as you ski around. Super Puma is the one I seem to see most often, a stocky cannon with adjustable footings, perched hill-wise like a medieval defense. SMI’s various guns have served eight Olympic venues, a point of immense pride for what is still a family-run operation. Joe’s parents founded the company back in the ‘70s. He’s been running it since 1991. You can learn more about them here: If you’re ever driving US 10 through central Michigan, you can’t miss the SMI factory and HQ, seated off the freeway just past the junction with Business 10 as you head west: Why I interviewed him A few weeks back, I wrote about the heroic efforts of ski areas throughout the Midwest, Mid-Atlantic, and Northeast to open in November in spite of abnormally warm early-season weather. After nodding to the usual aggressive corporate-owned badasses such as Sunday River and Killington, I called out some of the smaller operations that cracked open around the same time: More impressive, however, was New York State-owned Belleayre, seated just over two hours north of New York City, which opened the same day as Sugarloaf, beating most of New England to launch. Sister resort Gore also opened that day. Whiteface went live the following day, delivering its first-ever opening on the mountain’s full 3,166-foot vertical drop. Vail Resorts’ Hunter Mountain opened that day as well. Windham, five miles away (as the crow flies), opened Monday, Nov. 21. Further south, Bousquet, Massachusetts; Wisp, Maryland; and Massanutten, Virginia opened Nov. 25. In never-snowy Indiana, Perfect North opened Nov. 22, the mountain’s third-earliest opening in its 43-season history. These sudden openings were not, I continued, spontaneous: These ski areas are not anomalies. They did not get lucky. Their rapid openings under marginal conditions across vast and varied geographic regions are the direct result of yearslong investments in better and more efficient snowmaking. They are the best-case present, yes, showcases of the most technologically advanced snowmaking equipment. But they also represent the future. One in which ski area operators are not passive victims of climate change, but active combatants against it, making more snow than ever in spite of less-than-ideal conditions, and doing so with equipment that uses a fraction of the energy of previous generations of snowmaking machinery. Much of that machinery comes from SMI, including nearly the entire system at Perfect North: Perhaps the most improbable get-open-and-stay-open outfit in the country is Perfect North. The ski area’s base sits at just 400 feet. Of the 108 operating Midwest ski areas, only two sit farther south (Vail-owned Paoli Peaks, Indiana and Hidden Valley, Missouri). And yet, the ski area opened on just four partial days of snowmaking, which Perfect North General Manager Jonathan Davis characterized as “two mediocre nights, one fantastic night, and one good night.”...


Podcast #110: Worcester Telegram & Gazette Snowsports Columnist Shaun Sutner

To support independent ski journalism, please consider becoming a free or paid subscriber. This podcast hit paid subscribers’ inboxes on Dec. 24. It dropped for free subscribers on Dec. 27. To receive future pods as soon as they’re live, please consider an upgrade to a paid subscription. Who Shaun Sutner, snowsports columnist for the Worcester Telegram & Gazette and Recorded on November 21, 2022 About Shaun Sutner Shaun is a skier, a writer, and a journalist based in Worcester, Massachusetts. For the past 18 years, he’s been pumping out a snowsports column from Thanksgiving to April. For the past two years, he’s joined me on The Storm Skiing Podcast to rap about it. You should follow Shaun on social media to stay locked into his work: Why I interviewed him I’ve often said that the best interviews are with people who don’t have bosses. That’s true. Mostly. But not exclusively. Because journalists are just as good. And that’s because they possess many attributes crucial to holding an interesting conversation: on-the-ground experience, the ability to tell a story, and a commitment to truth. Really. That is the whole point of the job. Listen to the Storm Skiing Podcasts with Eric Wilbur, Jackson Hogen, or Jason Blevins. They are among the best of the 122 episodes I’ve published before today. It’s a different gig from the running-a-mountain-and-making-you-want-to-ski-that-mountain post that 75 percent of my guests hold. And these writers deliver a different kind of conversation, and one that enriches The Storm immensely. I’d like to host more ski journalists, but there just aren’t that many of them. It’s a weird fact of America and skiing that there are far more ski areas than there are American ski journalists. The NSAA lists 473 active ski areas. NASJA (the North American Snowsports Journalists Association) counts far fewer active members. The NBA, by contrast, has 30 teams and perhaps thousands of reporters covering them around the world. There’s a lot more happening in skiing than there are paid observers to keep track of it all, is my point here. But there are a few. And Sutner is one of the real pros – one who’s been skiing New England for most of his life, and writing about it for decades. His column is enlightened and interesting, essential reading for the entire Northeast. We had a great conversation last year, and we agreed to make it an annual thing. What we talked about Well I still can’t pronounce “Worcester,” but we didn’t discuss it this time which thank God; opening day vibes at Mount Snow; comparing last year’s days-skied goal to reality; that Uphill Bro life and chewing up all our pow Brah; surveying the different approaches to New England uphill access; cross-country skiing and the opportunity of the Indy Pass; skiing in NYC; the countless ski areas of Quebec; Tremblant, overrated?; Le Massif; pass quivers; the importance of racing and race leagues to recreational skiing; why the rise of freeskiing hasn’t killed ski racing; Sutner’s long-running snowsports column; the importance of relationships in journalism; the Wachusett MACHINE; Sutner defends the honor of Ski Ward, my least-favorite ski area; the legacy of Sutner’s brother Adam, former executive at Vail, Jackson Hole, and Crystal, who passed away suddenly last year; reaction to PGRI purchasing Jay Peak; what’s next for Burke?; the future of Gunstock; Mount Sunapee crowding; Crotched, Attitash, and Wildcat’s 2021-22 struggles; what the Epic Day Pass says about Vail’s understanding of New Hampshire; whether Vail’s pay increases and lift ticket sales limits will be enough to fix the company’s operational issues in New Hampshire; the impact of Kanc 8 on Loon and what that could mean for new lifts at Stowe and Mount Snow; New England’s lift renaissance; eight-packs and redistributing skiers; let’s play Fantasy Ski Resort owner with Sugarloaf; the investment binge at Loon; high-speed double chairs; will Magic ever get Black Quad live?;...