Resort Report: Vermont aims for 4 million, in-bounds avys & more

Near-record snow and great holiday skiing has Vermont ski visits nearing the 4 million mark in today's Resort Report. Plus two in-bounds avalanches hit North American ski areas, season pass sales start, and Justin and Jessica call it quitsville at an unnamed Colorado ski resort.

Already deep into the third snowiest winter on record, Vermont ski areas are cautiously optimistic that skier visits will soon crest the 4 million mark. Vermont Ski Areas Association's Parker Riehle told the Associated Press that ski areas are trending in that direction, but he's not speculating on a final figure with six weeks of skiing left. Vermont’s Times-Argus of Barre newspaper said Vermont's 18 ski areas enjoyed three strong holiday periods over Christmas-New Years, Martin Luther King and Presidents week, with a mid-March 2011 storm setting up for a strong spring as snowfall broke a record for March with 25.8 inches.

“At this point, there’s nothing set in stone—there’s much more season to be had,” Jen Butson of Ski Vermont told SNEWS®. She said the state tracked 4.1 million skier visits last season, and hit its all-time record of 5.2 million during the 1986-87 season, adding, “However this pre-dates modern measuring of skier visits, which started in (the) 91-92 season.”

According to the AP, Vermont’s Magic Mountain reports that skier visits this season are up by 15-20 percent, while Stowe Mountain Resort also reports a double-digit increase over last season.

Huge in-bounds slide hits Mt. Hood’s Meadows Heather Canyon

Mt. Hood Meadows blog is reporting that, “Sometime in the morning of March 10, 2011, prior to 0815 a large avalanche ran through the Clark side of Heather Canyon.” Meadows ski patrol is still investigating the cause of the slide, which deposited a significant amount of debris “well past the confluence of the Clark/Heather drainages and the bottom terminal of the Heather Chair.”

The patrol has been openly exchanging information with its customers on the blog, including a note stating that the slide “looks like it started within our permit area, in Super Bowl, most likely as the result of our avalanche reduction operation efforts. We opened Absolute Magnitude on a very limited basis today for a few hours to allow guests a chance to see the deposition zone. We're moving ahead deliberately with investigation and evaluation.” For more, including a couple of jaw-dropping photos, check here.

In other in-bounds avy news, an avalanche that started out of bounds swept in-bounds at Alberta’s Mt. Norquay ski resort on March 11, 2011. After a search was conducted, it was determined that no one was caught in the slide.

Vail passes up $50 next season

You know it is getting close to the end of the present ski season when season sales for the next season start. Vail Resorts is introducing its new Tahoe Value Pass, with limited access to Heavenly and the recently acquired Northstar-at-Tahoe for $379. A $49 down payment guarantees the price through May 30 with the remainder due in mid-September.

In Colorado, Vail is introducing the new Epic Local Pass (formerly the Colorado Pass), for $499—a $50 jump over last season’s $449 pass--with unlimited skiing at Breckenridge, Keystone and Arapahoe Basin and 10 restricted days at Vail or Beaver Creek. The Epic Pass also jumps $50 at sticker price, from $599 this season to $649 for next season, with unrestricted skiing at Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone, Heavenly, Northstar-at-Tahoe and Arapahoe Basin.

Also in season pass news, Idaho’s Tamarack Resort, which has been run the Tamarack Municipal Association while the ski area’s owner is in bankruptcy court, announced season pass sales for next season at $199. The association is presently running the lifts on a Thursday through Sunday schedule, with plans to be open daily for spring break from March 26 to April 3, 2011.

Ski Bus offers service to Keystone, Breckenridge

While Denver continues to pine for the return of the Ski Train from Union Station to Winter Park, Vail Resorts has partnered with a California businessman to launch a new bus service ferrying skiers and snowboarders from Breeze Max locations in Colorado’s cities of Littleton, Lakewood and Aurora to Breckenridge and Keystone ski resorts. The “Ski Bus” celebrated its first day of business on March 12, 2011, with $26 roundtrip tickets. According to Colorado’s 9News, “There are plans for special promotion rides in April, offering a roundtrip bus ride and lift tickets for $69.”

In other news…

Attitash hosted potential 2012 presidential candidate Mitt Romney on March 6, 2011 during a trip around the country to line up contributors and support for a possible second run at the office. Attitash’s Doug Tulin told SNEWS, “It was completely packed and certainly brought additional attention to the Attitash Grand Summit Hotel and their ability to handle any and all functions on the biggest stage, so to speak.”…Aspen ski legend and Sport Obermeyer founder Klaus Obermeyer, who is 91-years-old, broke his leg while skiing at Snowmass. Obermeyer told the Aspen Daily News that he looks forward to skiing again when his leg heals…Ski and Snowboard Club Vail athletes were in Naeba, Japan on Friday, March 11, 2011 when the 8.9-magnitude earthquake struck. Coach Nigel Cooper told the Vail Daily that he was tuning skis when the first tremors occurred, but that no one on the team was injured. “We’re good--safe and sound,” he told the paper…And apparently Colorado’s abundance of powder wasn’t enough to stave off heartbreak for Hollywood’s Jessica Biel and Justin Timberlake. The New York Post is reporting the pair broke up on March 7, 2011 while on vacation at an unnamed Colorado ski resort.

--Peter Kray

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