Shaun White, near-record season, & more from NSAA opener

Superstar snowboarder Shaun White helped open the National Ski Areas Association's annual convention in his hometown of Carlsbad, Calif., where he was honored with the industry's Impact Award. SNEWS kicks off its convention coverage with a quick peek at the how the industry is celebrating the end of a busy year.

Superstar snowboarder Shaun White was honored with the National Ski Areas Association’s Industry Impact Award to kick off the organization’s National Convention & Tradeshow in Carlsbad, Calif., on May 5, 2011.

The two-time Olympic gold medalist, who grew up just a few miles from the La Costa Resort & Spa where the convention is being held, brought his parents and several family members with him to the award ceremony. After receiving a standing ovation, the former kid phenom and now 24-year-old sports icon told the assembled crowd of ski resort presidents, CEOs and marketing managers that it was unbelievable how he had already built a nearly two decade career after “Being a 6-year-old who was a little more than a helmet riding down the hill.”

White was also mentioned as one of the inspirations for the near-record number of skiers and snowboarders who hit the lifts at U.S. ski areas this year. Although official numbers won’t be released until May 6, NSAA President Michael Berry said the industry enjoyed its second best season on record, with over 60 million total skiers this year. Berry said the season probably would have seen record visitors if not for “too much snow in California,” variable late winter conditions in the East, and a late Easter. “I’ve got a memo to call the Pope about this late Easter thing for next season,” Berry joked.

In other NSAA news, Dick Kun, CEO of Snow Summit Ski Corporation, has been selected as the recipient of the 2011 NSAA Lifetime Achievement Award. Snow Summit Ski Corp. owns and operates Snow Summit and Bear Mountain ski areas in Big Bear Lake, Calif.

Snow Summit was started in 1952 by Kun’s stepfather, Tommi Tyndall. With a large snowmaking system installed in 1964, Snow Summit was generating about 500,000 skier and snowboarder visits annually by the end of the 1970s. The company purchased Sierra Summit in 1982, and operated the area until 2010 when it was sold.

By 2002, the company bought its next-door neighbor, Bear Mountain. Both areas are now marketed together as “Big Bear Mountain Resorts,” with 20 chairlifts, 100 percent snowmaking and generate about 750,000 to 800,000 visits annually.

--Peter Kray

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