If you are into backcountry skiing you are probably aware of the Canadian Avalanche Centre and its comprehensive forecasting on avalanche conditions for mountain regions in western Canada, available in daily bulletins. I have been keeping up with the forecasting for the regions I ski in for the past couple of months and have found it quite helpful and informative.
Just recently I have discovered that the CAC has an app for Apple devices of their daily bulletins. The app is developed by the CAC, in partnership with MEC. The app allows for the info to be cached to the device so that you can access it will you are on the slopes and out of cellphone signal.
This app is definitely a helpful tool to add to your arsenal of snow safety knowledge and gear.
If you have yet to see Sherpas Cinema’s film “All.I.Can”, this should motivate you to watch what might possibly be the greatest ski porn ever.
Sherpas Cinema is a different breed of ski film makers. JP Auclair’s street segment is a prime example of the magic these video gurus are conjuring up. The segment is designed to look like one continuous run down the streets of Trail, B.C. but in actuality it is composed of weeks of shots from Trail, Rossland, and Nelson.
This making-of-video shows the determination of the filmers and athletes, as well as their creative outlook towards everyday life.
If you are in western Canada, I probably don’t have to tell you that there isn’t much fresh snow and probably won’t be much until next week. This leaves many of us wondering what to do with ourselves while mother nature takes a short break. You could still go up the hill and ski, but with modern-day lift tickets being $80 plus it may not be worth it. This is where cross-country (or X-Country if your extreme) skiing comes into the picture.
Now I know what some of you may be thinking, “cross-country skiing…isn’t that just for old Norwegians,” and it is hard to not notice that prominent stereotype while gliding along the flat spots you would normally avoid. That being said, this sport is not as easy as you may think.
Today I went to the Canmore Nordic Centre with my girl friend and a couple of friends to try it out. I quickly got into a good rhythm and was trucking it up the hills. Then I found myself in a situation that I have not been in since I was young boy learning to ski. Unlike downhill skis, cross-country skis do not have edges which means you can’t really turn or stop. You either have to pizza your way down the hills or tuck and hope for the best. All in all, it made for a fun day of exercise, which could be considered a form of cross training for ski touring.
Here is a video of what the day was like…but not really…
Thanks Tom for the pictures.
This past weekend, Whitewater Ski Resort, just south of Nelson BC, opened up for the season. Now being someone who had never skied Whitewater before, I heard a lot of stories about how “great” and how “deep” Whitewater is and…..it’s all true.
The conditions were pristine, with 190 cm snowpack and 10 cm of fresh, new snow on top, making it the best opening since 1998. Unfortunately the Glory Ridge Chair and its accompanying terrain was not open but will be open this weekend (Dec 15).
If you haven’t been to Whitewater and don’t know what its like you should check it out. The snow is deep, the terrain is steep and there are tons of features to pop off of. A lot of the mountain is tree covered, which makes for some great glade skiing, and there are some alpine bowls to ride.
One last great thing about Whitewater is the food. Most of the time when you go to a ski hill, you are forced to eat questionable burgers and cold fries, but not at the Fresh Tracks Cafe . The menu is based on their award-winning cook books, which offer are variety of delicious and nutritious items like the Wildhorse Curry Bowl and a Chai BBQ Pulled Pork Panini.
So my recommendation is to check out Whitewater this season and if you read this post in the before midnight Dec 13, Vote for Nelson and Rossland in Powder Magazines’s Ski Town Throw-down on their Facebook page.
You can also check out WH2O’s snow report, the web cam, and contact them for more information: Contact Info. If you are planning a trip to visit Whitewater, there are tons of great places to rest your head in Nelson. Check them out on the WH2O accommodation page. And if you love your visit to Whitewater sooooooo much that you couldn’t imagine leaving, you can check out the great Employment Opportunities available.
This clip by Absinthe Films sums up the awesomeness of Whitewater
The North American ski industry has seen a downturn that has mirrored the decline in the economy since 2008. The ski area real estate market has especially been affected, which is a great source of revenue for many ski area developers. As a result, many ski areas have put their ambitious expansion plans on hold until a time when it is more feasible. In addition to the decline in the real estate market, skier visits have been on a declining trend in the past couple of years. The declining numbers have been attributed to numerous causes including, but not limited too: the economy, aging of the traditional skiing market, and climate change. If these trends continue, they will create a multi-faceted problem for the future of the ski industry, ultimately being a shortage of revenue from fewer skier visits and real estate sales. The solution to this problem that the ski areas have already started to implement is asset utilization.
Asset utilization is simply using what the ski areas already possess in order to attract more people and increase revenue by efficiently investing capital into assets they already possess. It has been said that the greatest asset ski areas already possess is the natural mountain environment and that skiing and snowboarding is just one of many recreational activities available in that environment. As well, for many ski areas the revenue generated by ticket sales only makes up roughly half of the total revenue, leaving the rest to other on-hill revenue centers. Publicizing aspects of the mountain environment can lead to increased revenue as long as it brings people to the ski areas. Therefore, effective asset utilization in a four-season manner that is not reliant on the climate, and that is conscious of changing demographics, will lead to a prosperous future for the ski industry in Canada.
The traditional skiing market, that composes the core skier visits for ski areas in Canada, is a very small portion of the total consumer population and has been steadily decreasing. The traditional skiing market is decreasing as a percentage of the total population and decreasing in skier visits because of the aging of baby-boomers that compose a large part of that group. There are two ways to increase visits at ski areas: first by appealing to the traditional market to increase their visiting days, and second, to look to the changing demographic trends to supply additional guest visits.
Traditional Skiing Market
A significant contribution to the drop in skier visits from the traditional skiing market is the growing competition with other recreational activities taking time and money away from skiing. In today’s business world, companies need to provide value to the customer, while improving and diversifying their products and services. This has proven to be a challenge in the recent economic struggle, which has hindered large-scale expansion. As well, it is making it difficult to justify increased ticket prices, and this is why asset utilization is the solution. By using their investments wisely, ski area operators can draw guests in by improving on current amenities and by offering other activities. In doing so, they create an added value or additional area of revenue out of things they already possessed, but in a way that attracts customers.
Many ski areas have begun to do this already. Some areas have implemented a form of asset utilization within the skiing and snowboarding operations to create added value by glading tree areas, improving backcountry access and awareness, and investing in terrain parks. An example being Silver Star Mountain Resort, which has added value to its skiing and snowboarding operation with the all-inclusive pass, that allows guests to partake in other winter recreations as part of their lift ticket. Asset utilization to create added value has proven to be successful for both Vail and Whistler Blackcomb, resorts that have seen revenue increase due to their vertical integration existing on the hill. As long as people come to the resorts, no matter if they ski or not, they are still eating in their restaurants, sleeping in their hotels, and shopping in their stores.
While winning back the traditional skiing market through added value will increase skier visits, it cannot be the only focus of asset utilization. In order to be profitable in the future, ski area operators need to diversify their product, being the mountain experience, in a way that appeals to 100% of the population not just the traditional 4%. This is particularly the case in Canada, where a growing part of the population comes from cultural demographics that do not traditionally ski. Therefore, ski areas need to use the mountain environment in a way that will attract nonskiers by either drawing them to skiing or snowboarding or through other recreations, to draw them up to the ski areas, because once they are there, they will likely spend money.
One way of doing this is by promoting skiing and snowboarding as a family activity. The Canada West Ski Area Association emphasized this in their policy on the BC Family Day, which they advocated to move to a day which is not a holiday for neighbouring provinces and states, and by offering half price lift tickets for residents of BC. However this will only draw in people who are interested in skiing and snowboarding, still leaving a large part of the population that for the time being is not interested in those activities. It will also fail to attract those whose interests in skiing and snowboarding have faded away. This can be overcome by utilizing the assets of the mountain environment to tailor a mountain experience product that is more universal in the market. A excellent example of this is Grouse Mountain, which generated over $50 million in revenue in 2011 with less then 3% of the skiable acres of Whistler Blackcomb, by adding non-skiing attractions like a year-round zip-line and wind turbine with an observation deck that over looks Vancouver.
While Grouse is lucky in that it has Vancouver’s population at its feet, other ski areas far from major urban centers may not be able to operate in this fashion. However, they may still consider other activities besides skiing and snowboarding to produce a source of revenue. In the recent years, ski area operators have begun to look at summer activities as an alternative draw to their facilities in order to create revenue. Traditionally, most ski areas remain dormant during the summer months, leaving to waste vacant beds and skilled staff. Ski area operators have begun to invest more money into summer and year-round amenities, and the 2012-13 season will see the lowest capital investment by most ski areas in more then a decade.
The idea behind this alternative investment practice is to draw guest visits to the ski areas during the off-season in order to generate revenue in all four seasons. Although for most ski areas there will not be equal profit returns in all season, but still a source of revenue. Whistler Blackcomb’s extensive bike operations have begun to be a viable source of revenue during the summer months, and other resorts like Fernie and Kicking Horse have seen mountain biking as a recreation to increase guest visits during the summer months. Diversifying the product by creating four season recreational opportunities, will not only get people up to the ski area to eat, sleep, and shop during the summer months, but it will also assist in the resort real estate market by creating added value to a ski area home. The additional recreation activities will change it into a four-season mountain home. Sun Peaks has added value to their resort real estate with their golf course and bike operations.
Climate change has always been a sensitive issue for the ski industry, being that it could result in the loss of a skiing and snowboarding’s most important asset; snow. While advancements in snowmaking technologies have assisted in the ski season’s longevity, it can only work to a certain degree. The 2011-2012 ski season was the driest in 30 years for many American resorts, with Vail, Colorado seeing an 80% decline in snowfall, but only a 15% drop in visits. The CEO of Vail Resorts, Robert Katz, claims that the drop in visits was kept minimal by making their “business about much more than snow fall,” due to their diversified products as a result of asset utilization. For large ski resorts, such as Vail and Whistler Blackcomb, tickets are only about 50% of the resort revenue, with the rest coming from other on-hill business. As stated above, all you need to do is to get people to the hill and they will start spending money.
While most of the American ski areas suffered last season, western Canadian ski areas saw a great deal of snow; Sunshine Village broke its record snowfall, receiving more then 10 meters of snow. As result, Canadian ski areas have begun to take advantage of the colder, Canadian climate to market skiing and snowboarding in the United States. Last season, BC destination ski areas drew in more American ski visits as a result of the good snowfall they had, and the bad snowfall at the American ski areas. This season, Tourism BC and BC ski areas will invest an additional $600,000 on top of $1.1 million, in marketing BC skiing to the American market.
Western Canadian ski areas are utilizing the asset of a colder climate, to promote their product as more consistent from year to year than other ski areas. This may lead to question, “why not create more ski areas in Canada in areas that have more reliable skiing weather?” and expand the areas that we already have. While there are sound arguments and ambitious plans to create new Canadian mega-resorts, like Jumbo and a Valemount Glacier Destination, many feel that now is not the time. As mentioned before, the current economy does not favour large-scale expansion, as new ski areas may erode the bottom line for existing ski areas. In an article on resort capacity, Grouse Mountain owner Stuart McLaughlin argues that “we need current resorts to flourish…there’s lots of capacity in the system right now. Once all resorts are successful, that will create the need for more resorts and improve the likelihood of success for anyone who comes later.” Essentially, the Canadian ski industry needs to utilize their assets on the big picture too, and invest in existing ski areas to create a demand for expansion. A step towards that expansion will be promoting Canada as a haven from climate change.
In looking to the future for viable career options in the ski industry the theme of asset utilization continues. A position at a ski area that allows an individual to use their creativity to increase guest visits will render a rewarding future. The area of sales and marketing is one that frequently uses the concept asset utilization on a daily basis to bring people to the hill. In the traditional sense, a marketing department will often use a recent snowfall to market the ski area’s excellent conditions, but this is easy and will only really appeal to the core of the skiing market. A future career in sales and marketing will require an individual to make use of other aspects of the mountain experience to entice guests, even when snow conditions are bad. In addition, with the growing trend of ski area operations becoming year round, recreation businesses, an individual working in sales and marketing will have to be creative in selling people on the mountain experience year round. A substantial knowledge in what assets of the ski area can be utilized at what time of the year and how to market it the population is ideal.
Asset utilization to diversify the mountain experience product is a trend that the ski industry is developing and needs to continually invest in, in order to generate revenue in the coming years. This can be done by offering different mountain recreations in the winter and summer to both the traditional skiing market and to the other demographics of the population. However, skiing and snowboarding will remain to be the bread and butter of the ski industry in Canada. None the less, a shifting focus of investments via asset utilization can result in increased skier visits in the winter, and not doing so will likely result in financial struggle for ski area operators in the future.
Can’t wait a year. I want this now.
From the makers of All.I.Can comes the new feature film: INTO THE MIND
Blur the lines between dream state and reality, as you perceive the world through the minds of many. Into the Mind contemplates the experiences passed between mentors and peers to paint a philosophical portrait of human kind. What drives us to overcome challenge? How do we justify risk? What forces are at the core of a mountain addiction? Unique athlete segments over a multitude of mountain sport genres depict the connectivity of Earth, and window into never seen before moments. Explore how we begin our perception of self, construct the foundations of confidence, and are ultimately led up the path of self-actualization.
As Buddha once said, “The mind is everything. What you think you become.”
Into The Mind is about becoming.
Presented by The North Face – COMING FALL 2013
Directors: Dave Mossop and Eric Crosland
Producer: Malcolm Sangster
Music: A Tribe Called Red – Electric Powwow
Original Score by Jacob Yoffee, Sound Design: Cody Petersen
The other day, a few of my friends and myself, went up to Whitewater and toured/hiked up to the top of the Summit Chair. Since the hill is not open yet, you are allowed to hike around the mountain as long as you don’t get in the way of the staff.
We arrived to the main parking lot a little bit after 8:00 AM, thinking we would be the first ones there, only to find that there were groups of skiers already packing up to leave. A group of local skiers packing up to leave informed us that the conditions were prime and with the blue-bird sky (which is not common in Nelson) more and more locals would be coming up to take advantage of the beautiful day.
After getting all of our gear together, we trailed over to the cat-track and began our trek up to the top of what would be are first tracks of the season at Whitewater. The journey up the cat-track took us about an hour and a half which in comparison to the seven minute chair ride seems to be a silly thing to do. But the point of the tour up is not only so you could ski down but also to enjoy the scenery and get the heart beating.
After taking a little break at the summit, we converted ourselves from uphill mode to shred mode. To make sure we reaped the most out of our reward we carefully strategized our route down based on the powder that we saw on the way up.
To capture the essence of the day, I recorded the rip down the slope on my GoPro. Its not the greatest video, but it gives you an idea of what the awesome preseason conditions were like that morning.