Thursday, December 16, 2010

New ski resort Eagle Point opens in Utah

Eagle Point Grand Opening                       Video: Ski Utah

Eagle Point, a ski area near Beaver, Utah, opened Wednesday for the 2010-11 season. The area is built on the former Elk Meadows ski area that closed in 2002. The property was sold in an auction last year. With the opening of Eagle Point, Utah has a second resort in the southern part of the state to go along with Brian Head Resort. Utah has 14 resorts overall that are now all open for the season.

Since the closing of Elk Meadows, a few other previous attempts to reopen the resort failed to materialize. One of the failed plans involved creating a private club similar to the Yellowstone Club in Wyoming that has also since closed. Eagle Point, however, is completely open to the public. Lift tickets are $45 for adults and $32 for children (ages 7-17) and seniors (ages 65 and over).

Eagle Point has more than 400 skiable acres and a vertical drop of 1,400 feet. The resort is located about 3.5 hours from both Salt Lake City and Las Vegas. 

Monday, December 13, 2010

Former NFL QB Bledsoe ventures into boutique ski business

The Montana Ski Company just began its first season of selling custom and semi-custom handmade skis from its headquarters of Whitefish, Mont. The company actually started last year thanks to venture capital from Bledsoe Capital Group (BCG), founded by former NFL Pro Bowl quarterback Drew Bledsoe. 

Montana Ski Company is based in Whitefish, Mont.
                                            Photo: Montana Ski Company
"This is a company that has an exciting mission, making high-quality skis and snowboards while having a positive impact on the environment and people who use its products. That's what really got us involved," said Bledsoe, an avid skier and part-time resident of Whitefish. 

Coming out of Washington State University, Bledsoe went to the New England Patriots as the top overall pick in the 1993 draft. Now 38, he officially retired from the NFL in 2007.

The company is the brainchild of two Whitefish locals, Zak Anderson, a race coach at Whitefish Mountain Resort, and Chad Wold, an attorney and partner at BCG. For this season, Montana Ski Company has four handmade base models that cost $599. The base models can be tweeked to create semi-custom skis for $799. Full custom skis may be designed for $1,295. The skis may be ordered through the Montana Ski Company website. For every pair of skis sold this Christmas season, the company has pledged to donate a set of adaptive skis to a disabled veteran through Vets-Help.org.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Black Friday, Cyber Monday ski deals deliver savings

Black Friday has become almost a holiday of its own with Cyber Monday following up as its consumer holiday cousin. Ski gear and apparel retailers have jumped on the bandwagon to grab some of the spending. Both retail and online vendors have introduced sales for the weekend.

Sierra Trading Post: This website offers discounted prices for a relatively decent selection of ski gear. Sierra Trading Post also has a very large inventory of apparel. The site has items marked off for Black Friday at an additional 25 percent off its already discounted prices. Sierra Trading Post is also running a contest to guess the total dollar amount its customers will save on Cyber Monday. In order to win the $1,000 shopping spree, visitors to the site can submit three guesses by 5 p.m. MST on Monday.
Ski shops and online retailers are offering deals on
Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Photo: Eric Wagnon
       

Eastern Mountain Sports (EMS): This chain of stores located in the Northeast also has an online store. EMS is running a sale of 20 percent on almost everything in its stores and online through Sunday. Some items are marked down by 30 to 50 percent. The website is also running a series of 3-hour deals. For example, Mountain Hardwear clothing was marked down by an additional 10 percent on Friday morning.

Skis.com: This online retailer is running Black Friday deals of an additional 20 percent off on ski accessories including hats, goggles, base layers, helmets, gloves and socks.

Peter Glenn: This website connected to a chain of ski shops in the Southeast is running a sale on certain items through Cyber Monday.

Backcountry.com: This website with an extensive selection of ski gear and apparel has a "spontaneous consumption" sale of up to 50 percent off running through Cyber Monday.

Altrec.com: By using the code BLACKFRIDAY10 at this website, shoppers can receive an additional 10 percent off on Black Friday. Altrec.com has a very large selection of ski equipment and apparel.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Opinion: 'Ski porn' should not define ski films

I had an opportunity to watch two feature-length ski films, "Wintervention" and "The Way I See It," on consecutive days earlier this week. While I'm passionate about skiing, I can't say I'm a huge fan of the ski-film genre as it stands now.

"Wintervention" Trailer



The Urban Dictionary website defines "ski porn" as "a movie or movie clip consisting of montages of sick ski or snowboard tricks with no context, plot, or any other attempt to tie it all together." To borrow the title from the Matchstick Productions film I recently saw, "the way I see it" there is too much ski porn in today's ski films.

"The Way I See It" Trailer



Yes, I am impressed by the skilled athletes and eye-popping scenery of ski films... for about ten minutes at a sitting. At this point, I've seen professional skiers nail incredible lines heli-skiing in Alaska. I get it. They're really good. Ski porn works fine as video wallpaper in the apres-ski bar, but focusing on it for 90 minutes gets a bit tiresome.

Having spent about 1,000 days field producing and directing in an almost 20-year career as a television producer, I can also appreciate the logistics involved in capturing the stunning images in ski films. Taking the terrain and vagaries of natural light and weather into consideration, the DP of a ski film could have one of the toughest jobs in movie making.

There must be some good stories in the world of skiing, but apparently the story-tellers are somewhere else for the most part. Last year's film, "The Edge of Never" was one exception. Filmmaker Bill Kerig did try to elevate the true story of a young skier and his late father above the actual ski footage.

 "The Edge of Never" Trailer



"These other sports have their great movies and skiing has more tradition, more colorful characters than most of these other sports that really do have soulful, storytelling movies," Kerig told me in an interview last year. "All the ski porn is great and has its place. I love it. I love to hang out at the bar to watch it and not have to follow a story, but I think that story-- kind of making the myth of our little culture-- is going to be what keeps our skiing culture alive."

Although far from feature-length, a recent episode of Salomon Freeski TV available on the web told a simple, but compelling story and managed to include some rather impressive ski footage and scenery in the process.

Salomon Freeski TV



After screening "Wintervention," I watched the "Making of Wintervention" on the Warren Miller Entertainment website. In many ways, I found the "making of" documentary more interesting than the actual film, because the behind-the-scenes doc told a true-life story of the filmmakers.

For the most part, "Wintervention," itself, consists of skiing music montages tied together by rather inane segues of Jonny Moseley pretending to be a radio host. I'm not saying ski movies can't be funny and even frivolous at times. Colby James West's masterful comedic timing was probably my favorite part of "The Way I See It."

However, if the center of world-class skiing is really just a bunch of vapid-sounding dudes pursuing the perfect line with a pumping music track, then ski filmmakers might want to consider focusing in a different direction.

Michigan ski area Boyne Highlands sets opening day

Boyne Highlands in Michigan plans to open on Friday.
                                          Photo: Boyne Highlands Resort
Boyne Highlands in Harbor Springs, Mich., decided on Wednesday to open for the 2010-11 ski season on Friday. Successful snowmaking operations and a cold forecast prompted the decision.

This year's opening date beat last season's start on Dec. 5. For the 2008-09 season, Boyne Highlands was able to open before Thanksgiving.

Boyne Highlands has 430 acres of skiable terrain with a vertical drop of 552 feet, the longest in the Lower Peninsula of Michigan. Supplemented by snowmaking on 93 percent of the terrain, the area averages 140 inches of natural snow annually.

Click here for a Boyne Highlands photo slideshow 

Boyne Mountain hopes to open also

Boyne Mountain in Boyne Falls, Mich., Boyne Highlands' sister resort located about 30 minutes south, is also working toward an opening over the weekend. A few other Midwest ski areas have already opened for the season such as Ski Brule in Michigan, Trollhaugen in Wisconsin and Wild Mountain in Minnesota.

Jackson Hole plans to open all terrain on opening day

The famous Jackson Hole Mountain Resort Tram is
scheduled to be part of the resort's opening day
on Saturday.                                 Photo: Eric Wagnon



Jackson Hole Mountain Resort (JHMR) announced Tuesday that the Wyoming ski area will likely open all of its expansive terrain on Saturday. The total access marks the first such November opening day in the resort's history. 

Jackson Hole recorded 113 inches for the season on its official Tuesday morning snow report. The total should rise as heavy snow is expected to continue through Wednesday.

The only factor that may prevent a 100 percent opening on Saturday would be too much snow. A release from the resort stated that "while it is certain that there will be enough snow to open the entire mountain, the intensity of the current storm has created challenges for mountain operations that may affect what terrain can be opened. Opening-day operations will also be subject to weather and snow safety."

With 2,500 skiable acres, Jackson Hole has a vertical drop of 4,139 feet, a statistic among the largest in North America. Generally receiving even more snow than JHMR, Grand Targhee Resort opened last Saturday. The smaller Wyoming resort accessed from the Idaho side of Teton Pass reported a season snow total of 102 inches on Tuesday morning. 

Jackson Hole Opening Preview (Video: JHMR)

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Heavenly Mountain Resort spans two states

Resort covers 4,800 acres

Overlooking Lake Tahoe, Heavenly Mountain Resort straddles the border of California and Nevada across 4,800 acres within its ski-area permit. Negotiating that huge expanse can be challenging for first-time visitors.

Skiers can start at one of four different base areas-- two in each state. The oldest base, the California Lodge, sits below the famous Gunbarrel mogul run. The gondola in Heavenly Village is located a few hundred yards inside California, just a short walk from the "casino corridor" across the border in Nevada. The Boulder Lodge, catering to beginners, and the Stagecoach Lodge are the two options actually in Nevada.

“It’s a humongous resort, 4,800 acres, largest resort in California and there’s just something for everybody, said Russ Pecoraro, Heavenly’s communications director. “The challenge is finding that. There is a plethora of hidden stashes and great tree runs and things like that that aren’t intuitive to the naked eye. They don’t look like much on the trail map so it’s imperative for people who come here to do some research.”

For some professional research help, "Adventure Sessions" are a group full-day guided tour and some less formal instruction for intermediate and expert skiers.

Offered at all five of the ski areas owned by Vail Resorts for the first time this season, the program is designed to give visitors the locals' view of the mountain for $119 per person. As a bonus particularly on crowded days, the groups may jump to the front of liftlines.

"You get a couple buddies and you get this guide and he shows you the spots, where to go," said Pecoraro. "I don’t think there is any mountain of the Vail Resorts (also including Vail, Beaver Creek, Keystone, and Breckenridge) that it is more applicable than Heavenly. I think it’s something people are really going to take advantage of."

Gondola acts as stairway to Heavenly

The gondola carries visitors above terrain outside the ski area boundaries from an elevation of 6,255 feet in Heavenly Village to at 9,156 feet. The top of the gondola puts skiers in the midst of trails as blue as the lake itself. For intermediate skiing, the Tamarack Express, Comet Express and Dipper Express chairlifts serve classic Heavenly cruisers such as Comet, Orion and Big Dipper.

“You get out there first thing in the morning and you kind of follow the sun,” Pecoraro said. “The sun hits those runs first, so they’re always groomed, beautiful mile-long runs each one of them. You can get some get some good skiing in first thing and then kind of follow the sun over to California in the afternoon.”

Midwest skiers head to Boyne Mountain

Particularly for Midwestern families looking for a complete resort experience, Michigan's Boyne Mountain offers a more affordable alternative to flying out West. At just 500 vertical feet, Boyne makes the most of its modest topography.

The 2005 opening of the base area's Mountain Grand Lodge and Spa, along with the adjacent Avalanche Bay Indoor Waterpark, elevated the resort to another level in terms of the guest experience. The hotel's family atmosphere with faux Swiss and Austrian decor has a slight Disney-esque tone.

As such, there is a reason why Disney World and Boyne Mountain for that matter are so popular with families. Entertainment and amenities are always close at hand.

After a day of skiing, a family can leave their equipment at a free ski check just outside the hotel, change into swimsuits in their room, and never need to go back outside for an indoor waterpark visit. At 88,000-square-feet, Avalanche Bay is the largest indoor waterpark in Michigan.

"A lot of times there are two families, they all might not ski," said Ed Grice, Boyne Mountain general manager. "But there are a lot of things like Avalanche Bay, like the zipline, that don’t necessarily take the skiing skill and they still come here and have a great time."

Mountain Grand feels like castle to kids

Accommodations in the Mountain Grand range from hotel rooms to four-bedroom suites that sleep up to 10 people. The three-bedroom Salzburg Suite at $453 per night is well-suited for sharing by two families with a couple of kids each. The children's room with two sets of bunk-beds definitely has that Disney-like flair with a creative "fairy-tale castle" facade.

Click here for more ski news

Skiers explore 415 skiable acres

The skiing and snowboarding, nonetheless, are still the main attractions at Boyne Mountain. Sophisticated snowmaking provides good coverage for the 415-acre area that generally receives under 150 inches of natural snow each winter. When the natural snow has filled in however, a few off-piste delights can be found. In particular, the unnamed glades just off the top of the Superbowl chairlift can give a decent taste of skiing in the West on much bigger mountains.

While Boyne does have a few short, steep shots such as Nose Dive and Devil's Dive, beginners have even more options. "If I have kids with me, I like Disciples," said Cary Adgate, former Olympian and Boyne's ski ambassador. "It about traffic. It’s a little longer trek to get back there, but there’s less traffic. It’s more of a relaxed pace and you can do what you want to and you’re not worried about what any one else is doing and with kids with you, you’re not rushed."

Thanks to 10 chairlifts, including the world's first six-person lift installed in 1992, Boyne usually has the lift capacity to handle the weekend rush without long liftlines. During non-holiday weeks, lines are definitely not an issue.

"If I lived downstate and I had to chose between three weekends and doing a whole week up here, I’d go for the week every time, because you really get your choice of everything," Adgate said. "I just like midweek because you get the run of the place. It’s like having your own private ski area."

The lift tickets at Boyne Mountain are also good at Boyne Highlands Resort about a 30-minute drive to the north. Both Boyne Mountain and Boyne Highlands offer night skiing on Wednesdays through Saturdays. Boyne Mountain is located 250 miles from Detroit, 340 miles from Chicago, and 405 miles from Cleveland.

(Disclosure:Travel accommodations were provided during visit to Boyne Mountain.)

2010 Olympics Recap: Top skiing stories

Alpine Skiing

5. Aksel Lund Svindal wins three medals: The Norwegian skier earned a complete set of medals in Whistler, Canada. Svindal, 27, started with a silver in the men's downhill, won gold in the super-G, and showed he could succeed in technical disciplines also with a bronze in the giant slalom.

4. Lindsey Vonn performs under pressure: The American arrived in Vancouver with perhaps more hype than any other athlete at the games. After weather delays helped give her injured shin more time to heal, Vonn, 25, responded with a gold in the women's downhill. She added a bronze in the super-G, but failed to post a time for a single run in any technical race. After leading the downhill portion of the super combined, she crashed during the slalom part of the event. She also failed to complete the course in both the giant slalom and slalom.

3. Julia Mancuso rises to the occasion: While her U.S. teammate Vonn entered the games with fanfare, Mancuso, 25, was largely under the radar due to her lackluster World Cup results in recent years. The defending Olympic giant slalom gold-medalist, however, skied into the spotlight. She became the most decorated U.S. female skier in Olympics history. Her silver medals in the downhill and super combined gave her a record three career medals.

2. Bode Miller comes back with three medals: The 2010 Olympics turned into a redemption story for American Bode Miller. After falling way short of expectations at the 2006 games, Miller, 32, joined Svindal as the top individual performers with gold, silver and bronze medals. The two-time silver medalist at the 2002 games won gold in the 2010 Olympic super combined, silver in the super-G, and bronze in the downhill. His five career medals set a record for American skiers.

1. U.S. Ski Team records historic performance: The Americans turned in their best alpine-skiing performance in Olympic history. Split evenly between the men's and women's teams, the eight medals for the United States doubled the next closest nations, traditional powers Norway and Austria with four.

Freestyle Skiing

5. China misses gold in women's aerials: The Chinese were predicted to possibly sweep the podium in women's aerials. Australian Lydia Lassila, however, prevented a Chinese sweep by taking gold in front of Li Nina and Guo Xinxino.

4. Ashleigh McIvor wins women's ski cross, Chris del Bosco fourth in men's: Canadian Ashleigh McIvor delighted the home fans in the debut of women's ski cross. Her victory helped ease the disappointment of home-country favorite Chris Del Bosco's crash in the men's ski cross to finish fourth a day earlier. Despite being born and raised in Colorado, Del Bosco was competing for Canada, because he holds dual-citizenship due to his Canadian father.

3. Ski cross makes Olympic debut: In ski cross, the sport itself was as much of a story as the medalists. Following the lead of snowboard cross debuting at the 2006 games, men's and women's ski cross were the sole additions to the Olympic program for 2010.

2. U.S. skier Hannah Kearney beats Canada's Jenn Heil in women's moguls: On the first weekend of the Olympics, Kearney surprised Heil to keep the host country from earning its first gold of the games.

1. Alexandre Bilodeau wins Canada's first gold of games: A night after Heil's disappointment, Bilodeau became a national hero by winning gold in the men's moguls.