News Roundup: Epic Lift Update

26 thoughts on “News Roundup: Epic Lift Update

  1. 208 Skier December 31, 2021 / 10:36 am

    Nice work, Peter! Enjoyed your insight in that article on Leitner-Poma and the high demand for new lifts. The article mentioned the Holding’s were working on new lift plans. I know they have big plans for Snowbasin, but they haven’t said much about future plans for Sun Valley, so I’ll be curious to see what changes are in the works for that mountain.

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  2. Ryan December 31, 2021 / 2:49 pm

    Great commentary in the article from Grand Junction, Peter. Congrats! Great news roundup as well. I too am very curious as to what will happen for Sun Valley and Snowbasin.

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  3. Anthony December 31, 2021 / 4:36 pm

    I really don’t think Vail’s operations situation is sustainable in the PNW (or in the East, for that matter). It’s just destroying the experience of people who should be the biggest advocates of the Epic pass. People have choices, and there’s a real opportunity for some of the resorts around Stevens Pass, if they play their cards right. They’re already differentiating themselves with far more real-time, actionable, and transparent communications.

    Over the next couple years, they could steal some real market share by taking a couple of additional actions:

    – Crystal could revamp their base area, add a parking garage, dramatically increase the gondola’s capacity by replacing it, and replace REX. This would deal with the place’s very real capacity issues and maybe allow Alterra to restore 5 days of limited access on the Ikon Base Pass.

    – Alterra could add Silver Star (already owned by POWDR) to the Ikon Pass for another Canadian option to better compete with Whistler and RCR on Epic. They could also add one of the Mt. Hood resorts to add another option for Portlanders.

    – Mission Ridge could get going with its expansion and start marketing more heavily in the Seattle area. White Pass could do likewise in the South Puget Sound. Both of these area already on the Indy Pass.

    – Boyne could really go crazy with lift expansion at Snoqualmie Pass, but what would really get people to switch from Stevens would be expansion at Alpental specifically. A HSQ serving Internationale would be table stakes.

    – Mt. Baker could join the Indy Pass. Or Mission Ridge, White Pass, and Mt. Baker could offer a combined pass product. There’s precedent for this with the Mt. Hood Fusion Pass in Oregon, which combines two resorts of similar stature with separate ownerships. Either option would be a pretty credible alternative to Vail’s ops challenges which are now plaguing both Stevens and WB.

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    • skitheeast January 1, 2022 / 10:40 pm

      Crystal’s capacity issues are mostly with access and parking. A garage would help, but having a two-lane road for that long just means they really need fewer cars. Making paid parking universal for everyone next season and expanding the bus program is probably the best short-term solution. The alternative is to build a large bed base at the base of the mountain to spread out when people drive up, but I do not know if this would be possible given their location and potential permitting issues. After this is sorted, Alterra can deal with the gondola, REX, etc.

      I actually have not heard too much complaining from Whistler locals about Vail this year (there is always the usual chatter, but it is lower than normal). I think this is a direct function of the border not being completely open yet, which in turn is causing Stevens Pass to be more congested than usual.

      Silver Star would be a great addition, but it is always going to be tough to capture Vancouver residents without Whistler. Personally, I think Lee Canyon would be the best Powdr target for Ikon, as they can try and lure Vegas residents to Mammoth or SLC for a long weekend. Manning Park would be a cool resort to complement Cypress in BC.

      Neither Mt. Hood resort has shown an interest in aligning with anyone, but once one goes the other sure will.

      White Pass needs to build a bigger bed base in Packwood to lure in more weekend warriors, as it is a little far compared to Crystal/Snoqualmie/Stevens for a day trip. Mission Ridge just needs more marketing and incentives, as Wenatchee has the bed base. Perhaps they could run a ski train from Everett (very heavy Stevens Pass/Epic territory) to Wenatchee, as it is only about 3 hours and would give people a real alternative to sitting in traffic. I do not think Mt. Baker has an interest in going after the masses, that does not seem like their style. The biggest pitfall of Snoqualmie is the elevation and vertical, so expanding Alpental is a great way to solve these issues.

      Liked by 1 person

      • pbropetech January 2, 2022 / 8:07 am

        I second your thoughts about Baker. As long as the current management is in place they will most likely continue their current strategy, which is more of an evolution of a decades-old commitment to the Whatcom/Skagit county and Lower Mainland communities. I don’t recall any effort being made to market to a wider area when I was there, and I haven’t seen anything like that since I left. From what I recall and what I’ve seen lately they clearly don’t need it.

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    • awconrad January 1, 2022 / 11:41 pm

      Would Boyne ever put Cypress on the Ikon pass? I think it’s one of the two (the other being the recently purchased Shawnee Peak) that they own not on that pass yet.

      That would definitely be able to get some Vancouver skiers to switch, especially if paired with Silverstar.

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      • awconrad January 1, 2022 / 11:51 pm

        Never mind, I’m just an idiot who can’t read.

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    • Ryan January 3, 2022 / 8:57 am

      Meh, a lot of your suggestions are out of touch with the reality of most of the resorts you mentioned.

      Crystal? Already overcrowded, now requiring a reservation system. The mountain would need to have twice the acreage and parking capacity to even come close to sniffing the amount of people that will show up from the greater Seattle area.

      Mission doesnt get any snow and their season pass is expensive. Very few people will drive 6 hours round trip for a 30″ base in March, not to mention that Wenatchee is BORING.

      SilverStar is in BC and 7.5 hours from Seattle, it’s already a stretch having an Epic pass living in the PNW and thinking you can just scoot up to Whistler easy peezy, not true, and the same thing would happen in your scenario with Ikon.

      Snoqualmie and Alpental are small, and the closest to Seattle; they would need major acreage expansion, not just “moar liftz”

      Mt. Baker, too remote, its 1.5 hours from Bham alone, and the way they do things there doesnt jive with your average epic or ikon pass holder from the PNW, who are mostly novice and barely intermediate skiers and riders.

      The reality of the situation is that there are just too many people with enough disposable income in the PNW and the resorts cant keep up or outpace that function of increasing population.

      Combine that with labor shortages at EVERY mountain, not just the ones you frequent; and you can see why there is a disconnect between the 18,000 people that signed a petition that they’re upset with the operations at Stevens Pass but yet there were ZERO applications sent in by that group.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Jimmy January 3, 2022 / 8:27 am

      Paywall, article is unreadable.

      Omicron is the excuse, but not the actual reason for labor shortages.

      People want CAREERS, not JOBS. You cant expect people to get vaxxed for a job that requires 2 hours of travel each way, zero benefits, minimum wage, and you have to stand outside all day; not in today’s jobs climate.

      Vail is sitting on over a billion dollars in CASH, their CEO makes millions of dollars in annual salary. People are tired of being pawns for the oligarchy, everyone feels how extreme class stratification is becoming and it is palpable in everyday life.

      Until the “management” class realizes they can either choose to have 300x the average’s person salary and a failing business or a “good” salary and a fully operational ski resort, this trend will continue, and it will get worse.

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      • Munier Salem January 3, 2022 / 12:01 pm

        The article was a lot more nuanced than just “it’s Omicron” … I suspect the hyperlink included the variant primarily for SEO purposes.

        Here’s a very poignant excerpt:

        Like Fred Rumford, a resort industry veteran whose 20-year career with Vail Resorts saw him directing ski schools and skier services at Beaver Creek, Keystone and Vail ski areas. In March, he was fired from his job as director of skier services at Vail in a 30-second Zoom call.

        “By the time I had questions the Zoom call was over and then they didn’t want to talk to me anymore,” said Rumford, who is teaching part-time at Aspen Skiing Co. resorts. “That was the part that hurt the most.”

        Rumford, who suspects he was fired because he was reluctant to transfer from his longtime home in Vail to work at Vail Resorts ski areas back East, keeps in close touch with his fellow colleagues.

        “They are very understaffed,” Rumford said. “They streamlined management last year and let go of a lot of people and they are trying to recoup losses from last year by not hiring anyone back. That has increased the workload for those remaining.”

        Rumford said lift operations, restaurants and ski school are severely understaffed. Add in COVID outbreaks and the remaining employees “are stretched to their limits.”

        “They tried to drive the bottom line so hard, they put employees last,” Rumford said. “They didn’t invest in their workers. They found workarounds that become the standard operating procedure. They don’t like to reinvest unless it’s showy and glitzy, like chairlifts or terrain.”

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Rob Withey December 31, 2021 / 8:08 pm

    Did they have you on the shovel crew for the trench job Pete??

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    • Paul Hothersall January 1, 2022 / 10:43 am

      Rob, I am confused. Video say 10 person (imply like blackcomb 10 person, nominally 4000ph), vs an 8 which makes sense for 3200ph. Con you confirm if marketing or website got the wrong idea?

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      • Rob Withey January 1, 2022 / 12:11 pm

        Hi Paul. 10 place gondola. Same cabin as the BG. 3200pph. Means a bigger gap between cabins so lift should run better as anti-collision zones and carrier spacing faults won’t need to be set as tight as the BG. Being a single section will help as well. The only downside I see with this lift is the slightly shorter terminal, that won’t have as much loading time, but I think we can overcome that with having the skier loading corral at the side rather than behind the lift.

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  5. Thomas Jett January 1, 2022 / 2:19 am

    I, for one, am shocked that work is actually happening at Valemount. I thought for sure that that place was the next Jumbo, or at least the next Squamish.

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    • Rob Withey January 1, 2022 / 8:28 am

      The Valemount developers have buy in from local first nations which is the difference. It looks like the cutting will be for a community hill that seems to be an amenity being provided in exchange for zoning. This will stay even if the main resort doesn’t happen.

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  6. Vail :( January 1, 2022 / 8:52 am

    Vail really needs to up their pay. Now the Taco Bell at park city is paying the same amount per hour as Vail is paying their patrollers.

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    • Rob Withey January 1, 2022 / 12:17 pm

      And every other ski area operator needs to. Every business that has staff making minimum wage has the same problem. They are all competing for the same people. Ski areas have the additional problem of affordable housing supply. While it might be easy for the local Taco bell to adjust wages, big companies with payroll set in hard budgets don’t have the same flexibility. At the end of the day you need to pay enough to attract staff. I’m sure Vail will be looking at that when the next pay adjustment occurs on the fall.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Smith January 3, 2022 / 8:36 am

        Wrong. Payroll flexibility is an excuse, the reality is they can adjust things on the fly if need be; but there is so much red tape involved from Broomfield down that a lot of stuff just falls through the net.

        This is my sixth season at a Vail Resorts location. I have over 17 years experience in the job field I work at the resort.

        Have I ever been approached about a promotion or managerial position? No, Vail rarely promotes from within, they just send managers from different locations to take the job instead.

        I asked for a .25-.50 cent raise before the season started, as to differentiate myself from new hires. Did I receive the raise? No. Was I ghosted about it? Yes. Was I told that’s highly unusual and they would have to check with legal, yup.

        VR has a structure problem that relies to heavily on Broomfield for all the decisions. My department has more managers working and walking around than actual employees on any given day, but they’re all brown noses afraid to go against corporate policy and do what they ought to do, not what they’re told to do.

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  7. Brian January 1, 2022 / 5:57 pm

    Fail Resorts: “So that every time they visit there will be something that takes their breath away.”

    Yeah…look at the price for a single day lift ticket. Take a family of 4 up to the hill for a day, 2nd mortgage the house. Not a very good model for getting new people to take up skiing/riding. I’m sure there are deals, but for the casual person, seeing those sorts of prices makes it a never to almost never sort of thing.

    Now add Fail’s level of service at some of its smaller areas and NOPE. They’re really alienating the core clientele at Steven’s Pass.

    Big corps are not nimble and reactive to problems. Meetings, meetings, and more meetings before some kind of action is taken. Meanwhile you’re pissing off your customers, and your employees look stupid cause they have no answers to angry customers. Need more employees? Friggen pay them something decent.

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    • Brian January 1, 2022 / 6:18 pm

      Oh and as a little aside:
      “As of Nov. 15, 2021, Vail Resorts will be requiring all employees across North America to be vaccinated for COVID-19.”

      Can’t find people…..weird….

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      • jfoldno7 January 2, 2022 / 7:17 pm

        If they weren’t requiring vaccinations then a segment of the paying population would not visit their resorts. My family would be among this group because I have kids under 5 (can’t get vaccinated) and adults over 70 (at higher risk) all included in my annual skiing plans. That would be 5 fewer Epic passes sold in just my immediate family. Requiring vaccinations is not unusual at a wide variety of employers now. Vail just needs to increase their base pay to attract more employees. The current costs for an epic pass are quite low. As much as it would be a negative for me personally, they probably should raise epic pass prices, lower day pass costs, and raise base salaries for high demand positions.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Smith January 3, 2022 / 8:38 am

          Vaccinations are required for Vail employees, not guests.

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    • Donald Reif January 3, 2022 / 9:11 am

      Paying them more won’t do anything if people don’t want to work or if costs of living are too high.

      Liked by 1 person

      • skitheeast January 3, 2022 / 10:59 am

        In addition to inflation causing the cost of living to increase, unemployment benefits are currently extremely high. California’s state government did an analysis a couple months back and found that the breakeven point for those receiving unemployment benefits in the state is $31,200, which is the equivalent of working at $15 per hour, 40 hours per week, 52 weeks per year. Politics aside, the reality for Vail (and any other employer) is that they have to beat this number to attract workers.

        Liked by 2 people

        • Donald Reif January 3, 2022 / 1:26 pm

          Yeah, it’s not a Vail Resorts thing. You not only have to beat that $31,200 mark, you’ve got to also get some additional incentives thrown in like health benefits, or special perks and privileges.

          Liked by 1 person

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