Resort Report: Ski hill fires, July 4th ski-off, late legends and much more

The tale of two summers continues in this week's Resort Report. While two New Mexico ski areas are desperately avoiding being torched by wildfire, at least nine areas across the U.S. are preparing for to open their chairlifts for the 4th.

New Mexico’s ski areas are 3-0 so far this summer in avoiding fiery catastrophe. As of June 28, 2011, the Las Conchas Fire, which consumed 60,000 acres of forest in just 48 hours, and resulted in the evacuation of the town of Los Alamos, had only resulted in spot fires at nearby Pajarito Mountain.

The local Los Alamos ski hill is the third New Mexico ski area to be threatened by wildfire this June. Sipapu Ski Area in the northern end of the state was threatened by fire at the beginning of the month, and the Pacheco Canyon fire above Santa Fe has been burning less than two miles from the Santa Fe Ski Basin since June 18. 

Pajarito, which was still not out of danger at press time, has come the closest to disaster so far. According to a press release sent by the Los Alamos Chamber of Commerce on the morning of June 28, officials reported, “There is fire across the Ski Hill, a slowly creeping fire across the top of Pajarito Canyon, rimming fire near camp May, and fire on Pipeline Road. The Ski Lodge can be saved and that’s why we’re there now, preparing the buildings...We are confident that we can protect structures because of the strike teams we have in place.”

By afternoon on June 28, “campfire-sized” spotting fires on the ski runs were still being reported on the Pajarito Mountain Facebook page, and the ski area’s webcam was showing intermittent patches of heavy smoke.

The 4th is on snow; lifts open at 9 areas!

Ski areas in California, Colorado, Oregon and Utah will turn on the lifts this weekend, with at least nine U.S. areas open for skiing through the weekend of July 4th. The same La Nina weather patterns that turned the mountains of the Southwest into a tinderbox have also resulted in deep snowpacks in the Rockies and Pacific Northwest. And A-Basin, Alpine Meadows, Crystal Mountain, Kirkwood, Mt. Bachelor, Mt. Hood, Mammoth, Snowbird and Squaw are all poised to take advantage of it.

“Whether you want to ski on the upper mountain, or enjoy summer activities and listen to live music at the village, the forecast looks fantastic for a special holiday weekend at Snowbird,” said Bob Bonar, president of Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort, where the area is offering an all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast, as well as, “I skied the Bird on July 4th” T-shirts for $10 each. At Squaw, much of the mountain will be open, including the hike-to terrain of Cornice II, Emigrant and Headwall. 

A-Basin original “Marnie” Jump dead at age 92

Arapahoe Basin COO and Vice President Alan Henceroth announced on the ski area’s Facebook page that Marjorie (Marnie) Jump passed away on June 23, 2011, at 92 years years of age. “Marnie was the wife of Larry Jump, A-Basin’s original president,” Henceroth wrote. “She was an integral part of the opening, development, and operation of Arapahoe Basin. It is fair to say that without Marnie, it is likely that Arapahoe Basin would not have gone from the idea phase to become a legendary Colorado ski area. I was lucky enough to meet her a few times and to see her inducted into the Colorado Ski Hall of Fame. Each day we ski and ride at The Basin, we should appreciate the extraordinary gift Marnie gave us so many years ago.”

Killington founder leads Vermont Ski Hall of Fame class

Preston Leete Smith, who founded the Killington ski resort, is among four people who will be inducted into the Vermont Ski and Snowboard Museum Hall of Fame on Oct. 23. The others include five-time World Mogul Skiing Champion Karen Huntoon, cross-country ski champion and later Dartmouth College head skiing coach John Morton, and Greg McClallen, who was ski coach at St. Michael's College.

In other news…

Tanglwood Ski Area in the Poconos has been sold, but the buyer remains a mystery. The 85-acre property sold just before it went to auction in the spring, and the buyer cannot be named until he or she completes the deal. The minimum bid for the property at auction was set at $595,000…Logging for new ski trails and a chairlift has begun at Arizona Snowbowl north of Flagstaff. The area plans to log about 14 percent of the remaining tree canopy within the area boundaries…The Ashland Daily Tidings reports that proponents and opponents of a planned expansion of the Mt. Ashland Ski Area are mustering their forces in the wake of the U.S. Forest Service's May approval of the project. The Forest Service will review any appeals of the decision internally for 45 days…Pats Peak Ski Area in Henniker sold 92 of their old Valley Double chairs in just over three weeks. The area had buyers from as far away as California and Colorado. The chairs sold for $195 each.

--Peter Kray

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