Resort Report: La Niña return, jail time, same for Shames and more

After helping to spur a record year in skier visits and retail sales, La Niña could be back for an encore. That, a former ski area exec who is headed for jail and Shames Mountain's losing streak in this week's resort report.
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The same weather patterns that helped push industry records in terms of skier visits (60.54 million) and retail sales ($3.3 billion) could be set for a return visit. The National Weather Service has officially stated that, “while tropical Pacific oceanic anomalies indicate ENSO-neutral, the atmospheric patterns continue to reflect La Niña-like conditions.”

ENSO-neutral, which was reflected in the overall pattern of small sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies across the equatorial Pacific Ocean, would essentially result in a normal winter forecast, with all of the season’s typical vagaries of fluctuating jet stream patterns, temperatures and precipitation. But the NWS said that while atmospheric circulation anomalies were more variable during the past month of comprising late July and early August, “the monthly means still reflect aspects of La Niña.” 

Beyond the early fall, the forecasts are less certain, the NWS report stated, with half of the models persisting ENSO-neutral conditions continuously through early 2012. But other models predict La Niña to re-develop during the fall. “Therefore, ENSO-neutral is expected to continue into the Northern Hemisphere fall 2011,” the report stated, “with ENSO-neutral or La Niña equally likely thereafter.”

The marketing team at Whistler Blackcomb is certainly betting on it. In a release touting upgrades for the upcoming season, they couldn’t help but mention the forecast, as well as some startling snow totals from last year. “For Western Canada, the La Niña weather pattern typically means cooler than normal temperatures and consistent heavy precipitation during the winter months,” the release states, adding that with 51.8 feet of snow, “the 2010.2011 winter was the second snowiest season on record.”

Former Elk Meadows developer going to jail

Mike Gorrell reported in the Salt Lake Tribune that Marc Sessions Jenson, who was a key figure in a failed attempt to transform little Elk Meadows ski resort into a $3.5 billion resort community is going to prison. Gorrell said Jenson had been given three years to pay $4.1 million in restitution to two victims of a shady “business deal that resulted in the Utah Attorney General’s Office charging Jenson in 2005 with five second-degree felony counts of securities fraud and racketeering.” Since Jenson has failed to pay restitution, he has been ordered to jail.

Shames strikes out at town council

The Terrace, British Columbia town council has again turned down a request to give a local group money to help it buy the Shames Mountain ski facility from its current owners, the Shames Mountain Ski Corporation. As reported earlier on SNEWS, proponents of the ski area have been reaching out to local communities to help fund the purchase of the area--to no avail. This time the request was for $90,600 with the city being able to secure the money against equipment and buildings on the mountain.

Stratton snowsports school looks to add indoor space

The Stratton Mountain School has submitted applications to build an athletic training facility and student center to enhance snowboarding lessons and provide the campus with a new auditorium and more recreational space. The proposed structures are subject to a major site review. Aparently, part of the campus master plan is to move forward with a facility that features a skate park with a Zero Gravity-style foam pit, ramps and trampoline.

--Peter Kray

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