Wintersports Hot Sheet: Glad tidings, beat downs and a Beatle

Early snow, early sales and an uptick in mountain reservations are making for quite a Christmas for the snowsports industry. But at least one naughty skier is getting coal -- and a court date! -- in his stocking this year. This week's Hot Sheet has that and more.
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The start to this winter just seems to get better and better. For the third consecutive month, actual lodging occupancy was up among participating western resort mountain communities, according to the Mountain Travel Research Program (MTRiP).

November 2010 was up 14.4 percent from last November, while room rates were up 2.2 percent, according to the most recent MTRiP data. The results are consistent with the trend of the past six months where June-November 2010 was up 8.4 percent from the same period last year.

“With the winter’s booking season well underway and the Christmas season imminent, there is some reason for holiday cheer about the 2010-2011 winter season,” said Ralf Garrison, director of MTRiP. “Despite continued economic uncertainty and a buyer’s market more driven by price than brand loyalty, positive signs do exist. Good early season snow brought out strong early season visitor numbers, while pacing and bookings are positive at many of MTRIP’s subscribing destinations.”

Cash registers are ringing

At retail, the holiday season got off to "an extraordinary start” this year, according to preliminary Outdoor RetailTRAK data from Leisure Trends Group. Leisure Trends is reporting that all November outdoor retail sales not only smashed last November's results by a solid 26 percent, but were also the largest November sales since at least 2006. The strong results this month pushed total year-to-date sales up a solid 10 percent over 2009.

As a whole, specialty store sales increased 28 percent in November, pushing year-to-date totals up 5 percent. November outerwear dollar sales surged 33 percent, footwear, up 36 percent, and outdoor equipment, up 16 percent -- the strongest November since 2006. Scott Jaeger, Leisure Trends' senior retail analyst, said, “November retail margins for all major categories were the strongest they have been in at least three years, a clear sign demand is up and that retailers have been able to keep discounts to a minimum.”

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More big snow totals

And across the country, the snow just keeps falling. Squaw Valley received nearly six feet of snow over five days, bringing the season's snowfall totals to a record-breaking 20 feet. More snow is on the way, with a moisture plume stretching for several miles offshore. Weather experts predict the resort could receive an additional foot or two of snow over the holiday week.

Storm totals at Mammoth since Dec. 17, 2010, are at 11-17 feet of snow. The base depth is 11-17 feet with fresh powder. Steamboat has already received 160 inches of snow this season, and with another three feet of fresh in Aspen, the area has already surpassed its average snowfall for the month of December.

Magnesticks, bad dad and the Beatle

In other news, Alpine Meadows Ski Resort in Lake Tahoe became the first U.S. resort to install a Magnestick child safety harness on one of its ski lifts. The Magnestick keeps a child connected to the ski lift chair with a strong magnetic connection between the lift chair and a vest worn by the child. Alpine Meadows will offer the vest for sale or rent.

The Vail Daily reports that a Georgia man channeled some serious inner Grinch one week before Christmas, punching a 14-year-old girl in the face after she knocked down his 4-year-old son while skiing at Beaver Creek on a beginner's trail.

“The Sheriff's Office gave Scott Filler, 41, of Decatur, Ga., a summons to appear in court for misdemeanor child abuse,” the Vail Dailyreported, adding that a ski instructor stopped Filler before he could continue punching the girl. The victim, on vacation from Mexico, was in a ski school class at the time of the incident, and reportedly hit Filler’s son after swerving to avoid hitting a child who had fallen in front of her.

Ringo Starr and his wife have put their cabin near Aspen up for sale for $4.5 million, according to the Aspen Times. The three-bedroom cabin in Woody Creek is set on 16 acres with frontage on the Roaring Fork River. The realtor handling the property told The Aspen Times “that the Beatles drummer and wife Barbara Bach love the property but haven't visited the 3,200-square-foot home enough over the years to justify keeping it.” Starr bought the cabin 20 years ago.

Happy holidays, everybody. Wishing you a very white Christmas from the SNEWS WinterSports crew!

--Peter Kray

On Oct. 6, 2010, veteran journalist Peter Kray joined the SNEWS team and is now editor of the new SNEWS WinterSports channel. We trust you are enjoying the full offering of WinterSports news. Be sure to email your friends and let them know the best WinterSports news has arrived -- just in time for the start of the winter season. Got WinterSports news? Send your WinterSports news to Kray at pkray@snewsnet.com. Subscribers can also post WinterSports news releases directly to the SNEWS website. Email us at snewsbox@snewsnet.com to learn about posting your own news releases, or for any other questions or comments. We love to hear from our readers!

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