Resort Report: Wildfires, Monarch, Bellayre, Vail & the Joplin tornado

What is expected to be a devastating wildfire season in New Mexico is underway, as an out of control blaze has already consumed more than 1,200 acres near the ski resort of Sipapu. That, Monarch Mountain's Master Plan, ORDA's possible Bellayre takeover and more in the Resort Report.

A wildfire near the ski resort of Sipapu, N.M., was raging out of control, with zero containment at press time on Aug., 2, 2011. By noon the fire had grown to more than 1,200 acres, and a monastery in the region was evacuated, with more evacuations likely. New Mexico is off to the third driest start to a year on record, and many of the region's mountainous areas are like a tinderbox right now. The “Osha Fire,” as the Sipapu blaze has been named, was caused by a downed power line. The fire is about 30 miles from the town of Taos.

Monarch looks for feedback on Master Development Plan

Monarch Mountain is looking for community feedback in relation to its revised Master Development Plan (MDP), which it recently provided to the U.S. Forest Service for review. The Draft MDP includes a mix of base area guest services and operational facilities upgrades, as well as on-mountain improvements to existing trails and lifts. In addition, the draft MDP includes new lift- served terrain on the backside of Monarch in No Name Basin. Monarch will conduct a public open house to discuss the project in Salida on June 21st, from 6-8 PM. At this meeting, the Forest Service and Monarch will present the MDP process and the projects included in the Draft MDP.

Olympic Regional Authority may add Bellayre as 3rd venue

The New York State Olympic Regional Development Authority is currently in talks to take over operation of Belleayre Mountain Ski Center, according to the Associated Press. ORDA already operates Whiteface Mountain in Wilmington, Gore Mountain in North Creek and the 1980 Winter Olympic venues in Lake Placid. Bellayre, which is located on state Forest Preserve land in the Catskill Park and is currently run by the state Department of Environmental Conservation. DEC spokesman Michael Bopp told the AP that the idea of transferring Belleayre to ORDA is something that's being explored through Gov. Andrew Cuomo's Spending and Government Efficiency (SAGE) Commission. Bopp told the AP, “ORDA's built to do this. This is in their wheelhouse, so to speak. We just thought it would be a better fit.”

Aspen to turn the lifts back on for another weekend

Aspen Mountain will once again be open for skiing and riding on June 4 and 5. The mountain opens with a 54 inch base depth and with the same terrain offered last weekend, 25 runs and 136 acres of mostly intermediate terrain, served by the Ajax Express chairlift. In addition, the mountain may be open on future weekends as conditions allow. Aspen Powder Tours will also be open offering powder and corn skiing tours on the back of Aspen Mountain.

Vail’s IT operation scores CIO honors

IDG's CIO magazine announced Vail Resorts as a recipient of the 2011 CIO 100. The 24th annual award program recognizes organizations around the world that exemplify the highest level of operational and strategic excellence in information technology (IT). “Vail Resorts is honored to be recognized by CIO magazine for excellence in our IT organization,” said Robert Urwiler, Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer of Vail Resorts. “I applaud our team for its hard work and commitment in achieving this award.”

In other news...

The Taos News reports that Kaarlo Johannes Jokela, a former longtime resident of the area, and former owner of The Thunderbird Lodge, was among the victims of the devastating Joplin, Mo., tornado.…The Vermont Ski Museum announced it has changed its name to the Vermont Ski and Snowboard Museum. "The museum's board of directors has long recognized the need to formally acknowledge snowboarding's Vermont heritage and we're pleased to announce our decision to change our name to include snowboarding," said Tom Sequist, the Vermont Ski and Snowboard Museum board chairman…Even as the ski season rolls on in North America, Coronet Peak in New Zealand announced it has fired up the snow guns in anticipation of a June 4th opening.

--Peter Kray

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Bear Paw Outdoor Resort destroyed by tornado

On June 7, a Category 4 tornado ripped nearly a half-mile-wide and 40-mile-long path of devastation through northeast Wisconsin. In its path was the 25-acre paddlesports and adventure resort, Bear Paw Outdoor Adventure Resort in Langlade. Established eight years ago by partners more