Listen and Learn. PodSAM is launching with the Summit Series, a leadership development program we kicked off in November of 2017. Sit back and listen to the movers and shakers of the industry share their stories with ten up and comers (learn about them here) about what they’ve learned through the years and how they learned it.
We'll be hearing from John Rice, general manager of Sierra-at-Tahoe, Blaise Carrig, senior advisor of Vail Resorts Mountain Division, Jody Churich, executive vice president at POWDR Corp/Woodward, Bill Jensen, CEO at Telluride Mountain Resort, Barb Green, president of Blue Mountain, and Kris Blomback, GM at Pats Peak.
These conversations, moderated by Paul Thallner of High Peaks Group, provide a rare deep dive inside the minds of some of the most experienced players in ski area operation. Each podcast covers a different topic including management skills, problem solving techniques, finance and revenue management, capital planning, risk management, and more.
The launch of PodSAM is in partnership with Alex Kaufman of the Wintry Mix Podcast. Theme music is by Breakmaster Cynlinder. Share this with a colleague, subscribe where you get pods, and thanks for tuning in.
Ski Area Management magazine’s 55th year in print is officially in the books, but it’s too early to send all its content to the archives. To help readers catch up on articles they may have missed, we have compiled the following list.
As always, we received incredible contributions this past year from so many people who don’t wear a SAM nametag—mountain resort operators, suppliers, a variety of experts in legal, risk management, and staffing, and, of course, a talented group of writers. All work to bring our readers the most useful and timely articles possible.
All of us at SAM are very proud of every article and story from this past year, so choosing a favorite is darn near impossible. That said, here are some “staff picks” for articles that stood out in the minds of each member of our team.
We are pleased to share the full stories below of articles that ran previously in SAM Magazine. If you are a subscriber, you would have enjoyed seeing these articles first in the past year. If you are not a subscriber, we hope you will consider becoming one in 2018. We will even offer you 50% off the subscription rate making this the best deal of 2018! Email email@example.com
“My pick of the year was "A Challenge to the Jay Way.” JJ Toland presented in a humorous way a first person account of the infamous day the SEC seized Jay Peak and how the resort was able to overcome adversity and forge ahead triumphantly.” – Sharon Walsh
“I really liked JJ Toland’s piece, “A Challenge to the Jay Way.” Why? Because we don’t typically run articles in the first-person, so it was a nice change to our usual pace. More impressive was JJ’s tone—entertaining with a pinch of dry humor, and so engaging. I couldn’t stop reading it. It kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time.” — Liz Mettler
“I liked “Roughing It?” and September’s Mountain Spy, both about glamping. It's a really fun and interesting trend that I think will see some big growth in the next couple years as people find ways to have authentic experiences with their increasingly limited vacation time. Glamping seems like a good opportunity for mountain resorts, given their naturally beautiful landscape and abundance of space.” — Olivia Rowan
“I really liked Patrick Torsell’s “Groom Safely” from the November issue. Patrick was able to say things that are seldom said—the mistakes groomers make that can end in disaster—but are rarely publicized. I liked how he called it what it is: groomers need to be aware of their surroundings, probably more now than ever before. And it’s good that everyone else knows it, too. It’s not just talked about among the inner circles of groomers.” —Liz Mettler
“It was interesting to learn about the process that Killington went through to turn the resort from ‘a summertime afterthought’ into a ‘warm-season hub.’ It was a good tie-in to SAM's Summer Ops Camp as well.” —Sharon Walsh
“Employee housing could be the most serious issue many resort towns face. Peter Oliver did a great job illustrating its impact and what is being done to fix it. Resorts need to be a part of the solution, and this article provides some ideas for how they can do it.” — Sarah Borodaeff
Brand extensions can be tremendously effective when done right, and this piece is practically a guidebook for that. All a resort needs to add is its own, unique, complementary product and concept. — Rick Kahl
“Scott Hannah’s piece makes the dollars and cents argument for basing all operational decisions on the guest experience. We’ve presented many articles on the practical steps resorts can take to improve the guest experience, but this article focuses on the why.” — Rick Kahl
“In my years on the resort side, I sat through and was a part of presenting dozens of staff orientations—and it’s really, really difficult to make them entertaining/engaging. How can this glut of vital information be communicated effectively? Stage a game show, dress like a yeti, and hand out prizes, to start. Nice to see some resorts are putting a ton of effort into making their orientations more fun rather than a check-the-box snoozefest.” —Dave Meeker
I love that Katie Brinton, a 2017 SAM “10 Under 30,” wrote the article about a staff recruiting program that Molly Ross, another 2017 “10 Under 30,” started at Blue Hills Ski Area, Mass. It a shining example of the versatility and smarts our industry’s future leaders possess, which points toward a bright future for all. And, with Molly recently being named GM at Blue Hills—at 25 years old, quite possibly the youngest GM in the industry—this makes me proud that SAM helped shine the light on their talents. — Olivia Rowan
“The original idea for this story was to have Mermer Blakeslee write about how we, as an industry, can re-engage disenchanted moms so they stay in the sport. It turned into so much more than that. Mermer’s philosophical explanation of why we should focus on the experience of skiing and riding rather than the performance aspect of it really struck a chord. This change in mindset is already helping me enjoy my time on the mountain even more.” — Dave Meeker
We all really liked this one. It was a last-minute idea for the September issue to ask leaders from resorts of all sizes in all parts of the country what the yet-to-be-named NSAA president’s first priority should be, and offered for their response to be anonymous. We received a variety of remarkable responses immediately, and they kept coming in, even after the magazine was sent to print.
We can’t present a list like this without mentioning two of our most popular perennial pieces, “Best and Worst in Marketing” and “10 Under 30,” as well as our most well-loved department, “Mountain Spy.” They are all available in their entirety on saminfo.com.
Top Headline News stories from saminfo.com
The following is the top ten most read “Headline News” stories that were posted on saminfo.com in 2017.
1. NSAA Names Kelly Pawlak as New President, Oct. 9 (6,963 views) 2. NSAA Names Riehle as New President, Aug. 28 (3,553 views) 3. Killington Lift Mechanic Dies After Fall from Terminal Catwalk, Jan. 9 (2,833 views) 4. Mount Snow Names Erik Barnes as New General Manager, Oct. 11 (2,383 views) 5. SNOW Operating to Operate Mountain Creek Ski Resort, Aug. 22 (2,332 views) 6. Riehle Declines NSAA Presidency; Candidate Search Resumes, Sept. 12 (2,178 views) 7. Snow People, July 2017 (2,172 views) 8. KSL/SkiCo Joint Venture to Acquire Deer Valley, Aug. 21 (2,171 views) 9. Boyne Appoints McGregor and Kelley to Expanded Roles; Scambio to Lead Loon, Aug. 31 (1,915 views) 10. KSL, Aspen Complete Intrawest, Mammoth Purchases, Name New Leaders, Aug. 1 (1,816 views)
The landscape of leadership in the mountain resort industry is poised for upheaval as the old guard retire and the new generation of leaders move up through the industry. To identify these future leaders and fuel a movement that fosters relationships between the old guard and the new, SAM has embarked on a pilot program called the SAM Summit Series.
SAM has invited ten young managers to participate in our inaugural year. The 2017-2018 class was nominated by the advisory team and the team at SAM due to their demonstrated strong leadership potential in their various roles within the industry. The mentees will participate in the program which consists of six monthly calls on topics including management skills, problem solving techniques, finance and revenue management, risk management, project management, and a leadership roundtable. The mentees are invited to engage in the calls and in a variety of related exercises designed to help them dive deeper into the call topics and expand their leadership knowledge.
Each call will be led by members of our advisory team who bring decades of industry experience to the program in departments ranging from mountain operations and marketing to accounting and resort management. This team brings a wealth of knowledge to the next generation of industry leaders. In partnership with our advisory team, each call will be facilitated by Paul Thallner, CEO of High Peaks Group, a U.S.-based firm that creates thriving and meaningful workplaces for all.
Paul and the advisory team work together to create meaningful discussions on each monthly call with the help of Colorado State University’s online graduate Ski Area Management Program (SKAMP).
Follow along in the print magazine and on PodSAM. Subscribe to PodSAM where we are kicking things off with a six-episode podcast series based on the Summit Series.
For over 55 years, MountainGuard has led the ski resort industry in providing customized insurance coverages, claims handling, and loss control services. Our ability to help each of our clients adapt to the ever-changing risks that they face, while always keeping an eye on the fundamentals, has established us as the benchmark in the industry. Whether you have 5,000 or 5,000,000 skier visits, your resort needs the expertise and experience that only MountainGuard can provide. MountainGuard is proud to partner with Ski Area Management Magazine (SAM) as the sponsor of the 2017-2018 Summit Series leadership program. MountainGuard is committed to the ski industry and supports the development of the future leaders of the industry.
High Peaks Group Paul Thallner is CEO of High Peaks Group, a US-based firm that creates thriving and meaningful workplaces for all and the facilitator of the Summit Series program. He received a master’s degree with honors in Organizational Development from Case Western Reserve University. He is a Partner at Great Place to Work, the firm behind Fortune's 100 Best Places to Work list, where he works with C-level executives to create high-trust/high-performance workplace cultures. He has advised senior level executives at companies like Carhartt, NorthFace, Timberland, Sunglass Hut, Synchrony Financial, and the Philadelphia Police Department. He was an instructor at the Presidio Institute where he coaches mid-career executives from the government, business, and NGO sectors to solve tough societal problems. He also served as executive advisor at America's Promise Alliance as a Fuse Corps fellow. He's an avid cyclist who rides to raise money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, and he often hikes in the Adirondack Mountains with his family.
Colorado State University Dr. Natalie Ooi is an Assistant Professor and Program Coordinator of the Ski Area Management Program at Colorado State University. An avid skier and hiker from Australia, Natalie did what many Australians do - came to the USA on a J-1 visa in search of powder. After a season as a rental technician at Steamboat Springs, she combined her background in business and sustainable tourism to complete her doctorate in mountain resort tourism development, and subsequently develop, the online Graduate Certificate in Ski Area Management at Colorado State University. Natalie and her team at CSU are providing resources and opportunities to dive deeper into the subject matter of each month's call.
THE ADVISORY TEAM
For the inagural SAM Summit Series, we are very fortunate to have six of the mountain resort industry's most respected and influential leaders serving as advisers to a group of 10 up-and-coming resort staffers. This group of accomplished individuals will leverage their knowledge and experience to collectively help guide, mentor, and advise the participants throughout the Summit Series.
Thank you to this esteemed group of advisers for taking the time to encourage and grow our industy's future leaders.
Kris Blomback, General Manager, Pats Peak, N.H. Kris Blomback started at Pats Peak, N.H., in 1991 as the operations manager before being named as the resort’s general manager—a position he’s held for the last 21 years. Prior to Pats Peak, he worked at Magic Mountain in Vermont as the snowmaking supervisor and base area operations manager. Raised on Long Island, Kris headed to the mountains at age 18 to pursue his passion for the ski industry. He has been in the ski business in one way or another—from leading group ski tours to running general operations—for the last 32 years. As a leader, Kris contributes to several boards and committees, including: the NSAA Small Ski Areas Committee, two terms on the NSAA Board of Directors, and former chairman of Ski New Hampshire. He recently spent 18 months serving as a representative of outdoor recreation interests on New Hampshire’s Water Sustainability Commission, and was then appointed by the Governor to serve on the Air Resources Council. Kris has also been recognized as a strong leader in the mountain resort industry, having been named a 2006 SAMMY Award winner. Kris’ wife Jennifer works for the Vermont Attorney Title Insurance Company, and they have a 20-year-old daughter, Halle.
Blaise Carrig, Senior Advisor, Mountain Division of Vail Resorts With more than 40 years of ski industry experience, Blaise Carrig has helped elevate the resorts and companies he’s been a part of since his first job at Sugarbush, Vt., in 1976. At Sugarbush, he worked in a variety of positions, from ski patrol to president and eventually as the resort’s managing director until 1997. He then moved out west to become president and managing director of The Canyons in Park City, Utah, leading the resort from 1997 to 2002. Blaise moved even further west in 2002 to Heavenly Mountain Resort, Calif., where he was senior vice president and COO for six years. After a brief stint as Vail Resorts’ executive vice president in 2008, he was promoted to the role of president of Vail Resorts in September of that year. Blaise was responsible for overseeing all of the company’s mountain resort operations, mountain resort capital projects, budgeting and strategic planning. In 2015, he transitioned into his current role as senior advisor for Vail Resorts’ mountain division. Blaise recently served as chairman of the National Ski Areas Association, and is now past chair. In the past he has served as chairman of Vermont Ski Areas Association, Ski Utah, and the California Ski Areas Association.
Jody Churich, Executive Vice President and COO, Powdr Corp. - Woodward Jody Churich began her ski industry career in 1998 as director of sales and marketing at Alpine Meadows, Calif., where she spent more than seven years managing the resort’s advertising, corporate and group sales, PR, and events planning. In 2006, she stepped up to become president and GM of Boreal and Soda Springs ski areas and Woodward Tahoe in California. During her time there, Jody oversaw all resort business operations, development, strategy, and finance for the ski areas. Then in 2012, she was promoted to her current role of executive vice president and COO for Woodward, Powdr Corporation’s growing youth lifestyle brand. She sits on Powdr’s executive team, managing corporate business development, strategy, operations management, and expansion for Woodward. Also in 2012, just as she was making the transition to her corporate role, Jody was recognized with a SAMMY Award.
Barb Green, President, Blue Mountain, Pa. Throughout Barb Green’s career, she has been an integral part of managing and growing successful companies in a variety of industries. Her first job out of college was with international CPA firm Earnst & Young where she supervised audits on manufacturing, construction, health care and insurance clients. She moved on to spend seven years as controller for Rouse & Associates, a now billion-dollar real estate company headquartered in Malvern, Penn. During her time there, Barb played a vital role in growing the company from a staff of 80 with three regional offices and 70 partnerships to more than 250 staff members, 12 regional offices and over 200 partnerships. Her first foray into the ski industry was from 1993 to 1998 when she served as controller for Blue Mountain, Pa. After three years working as director of sales operations for internet provider Breakaway Solutions, in 2001 she started Gestalt, LLC—a system integration consulting company for the energy and defense industry—serving as owner and CFO. Gestalt grew to a $50 million company by the time it was sold to Accenture in 2007. Since 2007, Barb has been president of Blue Mountain. Over the past 10 years, she has orchestrated millions of dollars in capital improvements at the resort, with more in the works.
Bill Jensen, Partner/CEO, Telluride Ski & Golf, Colo. Bill Jensen has enjoyed an accomplished and influential 43-year career in the ski industry, starting in 1974 as a lift operator at Mammoth Mountain, Calif. He then went on to work in operations at Sun Valley, Idaho and Ski Bluewood, Wash., before spending nine years with PistenBully as a sales manager and eventually vice president. In 1989, he got back in the resort game as VP of marketing for Sunday River, Maine. He then moved on to Fibreboard Resort Group as president and GM of Northstar at Tahoe, and was promoted to president of the resort group in 1994. Bill joined Vail Resorts as COO of Breckenridge Ski Resort in 1997, and then became COO of Vail Mountain in 1999. In 2006, he was promoted to president of Vail Resorts’ mountain division with oversight responsibility for Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone and Heavenly, as well as Vail Resorts’ retail division. Then from 2008 to 2015 he was CEO of Intrawest before moving on to his current role as partner and CEO of Telluride Ski and Golf. In addition, Bill is past chairman of the NSAA, a SAMMY Award winner in 2002, and was inducted into the Colorado Ski Hall of Fame in 2008. He also serves on several local and national boards and committees. Bill and his wife Cheryl have homes in Telluride and Vail, Colo.
John Rice, General Manager, Sierra-at-Tahoe, Calif. John Rice has worked in ski area management throughout his entire 40-year career, holding management positions at several California resorts including Squaw Valley USA, Sierra Summit, Snow Summit, Bear Mountain, and currently serves as general manager of Sierra-at-Tahoe. He is known for his work in bringing the sport of snowboarding to the ski resort industry in the 1980s, and is credited with building the first full-time snowboard terrain park in the U.S. He also works as a consultant and expert witness in safety, terrain parks, and ski area operations at resorts in the U.S., Canada, Europe, Asia and Australia. John is a professional member of several organizations, has served on many industry boards, and is currently an elected officer of the Lake Valley Fire Protection District. As a motivational speaker, he has delivered keynote and topical presentations to a variety of organizations. He was also a 2001 SAMMY Award winner. In addition, John is an avid skier and snowboarder, a professional musician, family man, and enjoys all forms of outdoor recreation in his free time.
These 10 resort staffers represent a sample of the mountain resort industry’s next generation of leaders. All have years of industry experience already under their belts, and are major contributors to the success of the resorts where they work. They were all nominated by current industry leaders to participate in the inaugural SAM Summit Series.
Throughout the program, these rising stars will benefit from the guidance and mentorship of the Summit Series advisers and facilitators. They will participate in monthly conference calls and complete topical assignments aimed at helping them grow as managers and future resort leaders.
We are proud to introduce the SAM Summit Series class of 2018.
Megan Altemose, Red River Ski Area, N.M.—Megan Altemose started in the ski industry at the age of 16 working as a ski school instructor and a member of the terrain park crew at Camelback Ski Area in Pennsylvania. After graduating from high school, she moved to Vermont and studied resort and hospitality management at Green Mountain College’s satellite campus in Killington. As a part of her schooling, Megan worked in several positions at Killington, including lift operator, night base lodge cleaner, and food and beverage. After college, she was the ticket-checking supervisor at Killington for two years. She then took a few years off from the ski industry to “get a real job,” and realized no amount of money or stability could replace the love and passion she has for the ski industry. So in June of 2016, Megan got back in the game as lift operations supervisor at Red River Ski Area in New Mexico.
Sarah Demmons, Pats Peak, N.H.—Sarah Demmons was born in Maine to parents who were missionaries in Botswana, Africa. After living in Botswana, she learned to take nothing for granted—a lesson she applies to her work today as the assistant director of mountain operations for Pats Peak, N.H. Sarah got to where she is by starting in a seasonal job as a nighttime snowmaker at Pats Peak in 2006. The following season she was promoted to the year-round position of snowmaking supervisor. Four years later she became the lift operations manager, a job that included managing the lift ops, tubing park, and parking staff. Sarah was promoted to her current role in 2015 and manages a crew of 100 staff. She says, “Now, with the help of my three amazing supervisors, I am able to train and manage lifts, tubing and parking staff, as well as all payroll for grooming, snowmaking, terrain park, tubing, parking, lifts, garage and lift mechanics.” Sarah also is responsible for coordinating safety meetings, interviews, work schedules, invoices, and is in constant communication with the resort’s mountain ops director daily happenings. She does all this as a single mom of two kids, ages 13 and 23.
Joe Forte, Blue Mountain, Pa.—Joe Forte has been a part of the Blue Mountain Resort (Pa.) family for more than 19 years. During the winter he serves as the Learning Center director, and when the snow melts he switches gears to his role as director of summer adventures. Joe has a passion for teaching and creates a program where education comes alive with adventure. His philosophy is to teach a curriculum that isn't taught in school. Joe says, "Out here on the mountain is where people find confidence, leadership, long lasting friends and a deep love for the outdoors." He holds a Master’s Degree in Education, is a PSIA ACE Coach, AASI Level 3, and has numerous certifications in rock climbing, high ropes courses, teambuilding, archery, and outdoor emergency care.
Nate Ellis, Boreal & Soda Springs Mountain Resorts and Woodward Tahoe, Calif.—Nate Ellis started his ski industry career as a snowboard instructor 18 years ago at Boreal Mountain Resort, Calif. Now as the director of guest operations, Nate oversees all guest experience functions for Boreal & Soda Springs Mountain Resorts and Woodward Tahoe. Leading up to his current role, he was manager of snowsports and director of mountain services at Boreal and Soda Springs. In those positions, Nate was been part of the team that developed and implemented multi-year initiatives to create new skiers and riders. The most successful of these programs include: the nationally recognized “Take Three Ride Free” conversion initiative, the “Planet Kids” program at Soda Springs, and the “Ride with Woodward” program at Woodward Tahoe. Nate has lived in the Truckee area for more than 15 years and currently resides there with his wife and three children. In his free time he enjoys outdoor activities, snowboarding, traveling with his wife, and spending time with his family.
Kyle Gornell, Steamboat, Colo.—Growing up in Oswego, Ill., Kyle Gornell learned to ski at the age of two during a family ski vacation. He eventually moved to Colorado, initially to attend school, but wound up stumbling into the ski industry. Since then, he has worked at multiple ski areas in various capacities including snowmaking, slope maintenance, and lift operations. Currently, Kyle is the activities manager at Steamboat Ski & Resort Corporation overseeing both summer and winter activities.
Thea Hardy, Sierra-at-Tahoe, Calif.—Thea Hardy is a 27-year-old optimist with a love for traveling, skiing, biking, horse-riding, and her dog, Mick. She got her start as a ski industry professional in San Diego as an account manager for Big Bear Mountain Resorts (Bear Mountain and Snow Summit) just after college. Ready to settle in the mountains, she collected her love of ski resort communication and applied it closer to home, landing in South Lake Tahoe. Now as communications manager for Sierra-at-Tahoe, her experience ranges from public relations and team management to social media, content creation, and finally, advertising and ad design—she is a self-described “marketing Swiss-Army knife.” Thea brings a healthy dose of positivity and energy as well as results-driven professionalism fueled by her core passion for the winter sports industry.
Andrew Lanoue, Jay Peak, Vt.—Andrew Lanoue grew up halfway between Burke Mountain and Jay Peak Resort, learning to ride in the Green Mountains of Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom during the winter and enjoying time with friends at Lake Willoughby in the summer. He fell in love with Jay Peak and the resort’s community, so in 2004 he applied to work part-time as a snowboard instructor. Andrew remained an active employee from high school through college graduation. While living and working in Burlington after college, he still worked a second job as a part-time snowboard instructor. And finally in 2012 he inquired about a possible opening for in-house media production, and has been working in Jay Peak’s marketing department as the interactive marketing coordinator. Andrew is responsible for the resort’s social media, photography and video content production, and helps with the website.
Andrew Roy, Eldora, Colo.—Andrew Roy grew up in Massachusetts, 15 minutes from his home resort, Wachusett Mountain. He began his ski industry career with the park crew at Waterville Valley, N.H. After graduating from Plymouth State University (N.H.), Andrew dove right into snowmaking at Wachusett. He always had an urge to go out west, so he made the move to Beaver Creek, Colo., and experienced a different role as a lift operator. But when the terrain park manager position opened up back at Wachusett, he moved back east and spent several years in the role. The desire to expand his horizons led to another move out west, this time to Eldora Mountain Resort soon after Powdr Corp. had acquired it. Since being at Eldora, Andrew has helped develop a new Woodward Terrain Park Program, from the welding shop to the snowcat. Last season, he was honored with Colorado Ski Country's Terrain Master award, and now proudly serves on the CSC board as vice chairperson.
Brandon Swartz, Heavenly, Calif.—Growing up in New York, Brandon Swartz had a fascination with the ski industry that bordered on obsession, so he decided to turn it into a career and has already been in the industry for 15 years. It all started in high school when he worked for three years as a kids’ ski instructor at Mount Snow, Vt. After graduating from high school, he was offered a mountain operations internship at the resort, gaining experience in building maintenance, snowmaking, grooming, tubing operations, lift operations, and summer trail and bike crew. While attending Lyndon State College (Vt.), he worked as a patroller at Burke Mountain, completed his practicum program by working at Jay Peak and Stowe, and spent is final internship working in the race and event department at Keystone, Colo. After Brandon graduated from Lyndon’s recreation resource and ski resort management program, he spent time as a lift mechanic at Hunter Mountain, N.Y. He then moved out west to Heavenly, Calif., where he started as the assistant manager of lift operations, and now four-and-a-half years later he’s the senior manager of lift operations.
Anya Whiticar, Lake Louise Ski Resort, Alberta, Canada—Anya Whiticar is a Canadian/American dual citizen, born and raised in Hawaii on the island of Maui. She moved to Montreal 10 years ago to study political science and international development at McGill University and has been living in Canada ever since. After graduating, she traveled extensively throughout Southeast Asia, Australia, the western U.S. and Canada, and Central and South America before settling in Banff National Park in the little hamlet of Lake Louise. She currently works as the guest services manager at Lake Louise Ski Resort and Summer Gondola. She is passionate about the ocean and the mountains. When not working, she loves snowboarding, scuba diving, hiking, camping and spending time outside with friends.
After 13 years of hosting this contest, we continue to be amazed by the range of creative features and events builders and organizers dream up. We received dozens of entries this year, from across north america and around the globe. We hope this year’s collection inspire more progression in design and events this coming winter.
Voting for the 2017 sam terrain park contest is now closed, but you can still check out all the entries below, and comment at the bottom of the page. We'll announce the winners soon, so stay tuned.
1. Feel the Push and Pull
This multi-hit feature was designed and built for the filming of Magnetic, Whistler’s first-ever, full-length ski and snowboard film. The team at Whistler Blackcomb, B.C., decided the film needed a hip-type feature and let builder Ty Weed run with it. The feature has a 70-foot middle jump, 40-foot-wide channel jump, and 75-foot hips with 55-degree takeoffs. The feature took seven full days to build before filming. Photo: Robin O'Neill Video: (Magnetic Trailer) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I4yK1w4q3GU
2. SAVE THE WHALE TALE
Terrain Park Takeover Tuesday (TPTT) has been part of the vernacular at Sierra-at-Tahoe, Calif., for a few years. But in the 2016-17 season, the team at Sierra got the ski and ride community involved in the design of the park. The area kicked off the season with a bi-weekly invitation for submissions of TPTT feature designs, and selected the winner in January. The feature, with a step-up butter pad to a whale’s tail into a hip, was submitted by Alec Bowman. The park crew invited Alec to come join them in the build, experience what it’s like to be a member of the Sierra park team, and take a design from idea to finished product. Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I4yK1w4q3GU
3. Late-Night Leftovers
The crew at Sun Valley, Idaho got a bit creative with some leftover features last winter. The team took four, 4 foot x 4 foot cubes that were originally part of the GoPro “Out of the Box” competition, cut the cubes in half horizontally, reframed the bottoms, and staggered them to ten-inch stair heights. That created two 16-foot-long stair sets. While usually set up side-by-side, the team set them up one after another and paired them with a 40-foot round bar for this urban-rail-style setup.
You wouldn’t think crashing Santa’s Sleigh would be a recipe for success, but the Windham Mountain, N.Y., crew decided to build on last year’s Nightmare Before Christmas event with a themed feature. “We crashed Santa at the drawing session and started laughing pretty hard. We knew we were onto something,” says park manager Keith Kreischer. The sleigh is 24 feet long, with two double slide rails. The sleigh itself is covered in a top sheet, giving athletes two creeper options on the outside of the sleigh or on the wide box in the center. The lower sides were banked to allow for rideability all the way around. The feature made its debut at the Nightmare Before Christmas event and remained in the park for the rest of the season.
5. Junkyard Dog
We all know a kid who can find fun anywhere. Josh Bremer from Whitecap Mountain, Wis., is no exception. As a volunteer, Bremer has no budget for feature builds, so he has to get creative. Salvaging posts and 4x4s from a junkyard, he spliced the logs into a smooth joint to create a flat-to-launch rail. Another found treasure: a large barrel ride was added at the termination of the rail for an extra bit of fun.
6. Ninja Walk
The Ninja Walk was designed and built at Area 51s in Japan for a local slopestyle event. The feature was inspired by “NINJAYA,” which we’ve all seen in movies when a ninja runs on a narrow roof and leaps onto a steep roof. To mimic this action, the combo feature includes a flat-down banked box and a transfer rainbow box. The setup took just two hours of cat time to put together.
7. What the Bonk!
The team at Burke Mountain, Vt., did a little salvaging and put together a propane tank bonk, which quickly became a park favorite. The tank, mounted on a post, sits about five feet off the ground, in normal conditions. Cut into the side of a hip-style jump, it gives riders the option of going up over the top or bonking the tank from the side, making it approachable for all levels of riders. The post itself has a bit of flex to it, making this feature very multi-dimensional.
8. Wally World
This A-frame wall ride was built in-house at Chestnut Mountain, Ill., for the 2016-17 season. The wall’s expanded metal surface makes for a lightweight sliding surface that can be moved with the forks on the blade of a cat. As a bonus, the operator moving the feature can see through it. Usually set up at the bottom of the rail park, the crew at Chestnut decided to mix it up and placed it in the main park, with five distinct lines leading to it.
9. Frozen Humpback
Sometimes, the coolest features at Crotched Mountain in New Hampshire aren’t the monster jumps, gnarliest rails, or most creative designs. Sometimes, all you need is an icy East Coast day, a busy snowgun, and a group of friends to get creative on a “man made” feature. Hand plants on frozen snow ensued. During the 2016-17 season, Kade Colen, Brandon Reis, and the crew sessioned the wheels off this frozen whaleback in Crotched’s Zero G Park. Photo: Kade Colen.
10. The Baker’s Dozen
During the 2016-17 winter season, the team at Grouse Mountain, B.C., worked with Mark McMorris and Seb Toutant to bring to life their ideas for a course designed around technical features, not technical tricks. The result was Red Bull Uncorked. A key feature on the course was The Baker’s Dozen, a center step-over jump with banked walls, giving riders three different takeoff options. With 20-foot gaps to the 16-foot-tall pads, and a 40-foot middle takeoff that sailed over a 20-foot gap to the knuckle, riders were flying at Grouse. Including Baker’s Dozen, the course took 260 hours of work to complete, moving some of the 600cm (235 in.) of natural snow received last winter and supplementing with another 30 acre-feet of snowmaking. https://www.redbull.com/ca-en/red-bull-uncorked
11. Vista Quarters
Is it possible to have too much of a good thing? Mt. Hood Meadows didn’t think so, and took advantage of the excessive snowfall last season to create the Vista Quarters. Using an 18-foot Zaugg, the Meadows crew cut transitions into the massive 70-foot-tall snow drift that developed down the riders’ right side of the Vista Park. According to park manager T.J. Moloney, the best part about these features was they allowed the team to maintain proper chairlift clearance on the quad that runs through the middle of the park, and also created a great vantage point for non-park riders.
12. Au Natural
What a difference an epic snow year makes. Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows received more than 700 inches of snow last season. That abundance allowed the park crew to build out the parks to their heart’s content. The return of the Mainline jumps was one thing, but the hulking 22-foot superpipe was an even bigger deal. As one of only two superpipes in California, it was shredded daily by pros and locals alike. The pipe took 12 days to complete. The most impressive part? It was built entirely out of natural snow that the crew farmed from the surrounding area.
1. Bode Merrill Quarterpipe Classic
The inaugural Bode Merrill Quarterpipe Classic is a continuation of the pro snowboarder’s long-running Merrill Minipipe Invitational at High Cascade Snowboard Camp. The contest itself is pretty straightforward: hit the quarterpipe and do whatever you can to impress the judges. The feature itself took some work: about a week for the 15-20 park crew, cat crew, and volunteers to sculpt the quarterpipe and the two tombstone extensions on either side. The cat crew pushed out the basic shape, and stepped out into platforms on the transition side. From there, since Brighton no longer has a pipecutter, the park crew filled in the gaps in the steps by hand to build the transition. Roughly 150 amateur and pro riders took part. Photo: Tom Monterosso | Rider: Hans Mindnich (2nd place in the event) Video: https://m.youtube.com/watch?feature=youtu.be&v=zs6Troa6YYI
2. Holy Bowl-EH?
The Holy Bowly (aka, Holy Bowl-eh?) is an international gathering of creativity and flow. This weeklong session is the brainchild of Snowboy Productions’ Krush Kulesza. Two hundred of the best riders from around the world are invited to come get creative on the half-kilometer-long course (which graces the cover of the November issue). Builders from Sunshine Village and Arena Snowparks spent eight days sculpting it. With the sheer size of the build and the amount of hand maintained features, all riders, media, and staff spent an hour following each day’s session doing hand maintenance on the course. The course was open to the public for an additional week after the event was over, so guests could ride the same features as the pros. Photo: Rob Lemay. Video: https://vimeo.com/215585579
3. Girls Rock the Park!
The future is female at Ski Sundown, Conn., thanks to the annual Girls Rock the Park event. Open to girls ages 8 and up, the event is designed to develop safe and confident park enthusiasts, and welcome more girls into the parks. Last year, the Ski Sundown park crew and freestyle coaches provided demos and instruction to about 35 participants on a small progression park with two boxes and a jump designated for the event. Cost to participate was only $5. Last season was the event’s fourth year, and it has been so successful that Sundown started a lesson program of the same name. Video: https://vimeo.com/209571339
Presented by Airblaster and orchestrated by Snowboy Productions, SKØLF combined the games of S-K-A-T-E and golf into a two-day tournament on the slopes of Loon Mountain, N.H. The course consisted of 18 holes, all built and designed by Loon. Each involved an awkwardly creative feature that challenged riders to perform a particular trick, and a “par” set for number tries it should take to complete that trick. Features included snow cliff drops, jumps amid mogul fields, and even a traditional miniature golf hole—except competitors used their snowboards as putters. On day two, like any traditional golf tournament, the holes were altered to add more difficulty: tricks got harder, pars were lowered, and the jump in the mogul field was now a street-style down rail. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nr10rpT5k1k
5. Frosted Fatty
The Frosted Fatty at Spirit Mountain, Minn., pits skiers against snowboarders against mountain bikers—yes, bikers—on a 600-foot-long dual slalom course. “The idea of putting all three disciplines together came from the fact that we include these disciplines in our winter operations, and who doesn’t want a king of the hill race?” says Jon Regenold, Spirit’s action sports and events manager. The build took roughly three days of work between cat operators, Spirit park crew, the bike trail lead, and community volunteers. Roughly 60 racers participated in the bracket-style format, with a fairly even mix between the sports. https://youtu.be/5yywoLdA8N8
6. One Hit Wonder
The team at Thredbo in Australia isn’t afraid of a little snow, but when the Blizzard of Oz 2.0 buried its 100-foot booter, 50-foot mini booter, and hand-shaped minipipe, the crew had to pull out all the stops to ensure the One Hit Wonder took place. Two machines spent the first day post-storm clearing drifts from the decks. The next four days were spent grooming the run in, building the last takeoff, and sheer cutting the ways. Finally, a crew of 10 re-shaped the mini pipe by hand. Video: https://www.facebook.com/onehitwonderdu/videos/1473841909583863/
7. The Scott Delforte Park Jam
The 13th annual Scott Delforte Park Jam, hosted at Bristol Mountain, N.Y., raises money for the local school’s snowsports program—100 percent of the proceeds help pay for grade-school students to get out on snow. Since its inception, this fundraiser has paid for 335 students to ski and snowboard. The event is open to all age groups and skill levels. It takes about three days for roughly a dozen Bristol park crew and Scott Delforte Foundation staff to build the setup, which includes two 35-40-foot big air jumps (with smaller platforms on the side of each for beginners), and a rail garden that hosts a rail jam. Bristol Mountain park rangers award medals for biggest air and best trick. As many as 90 participants come out for the competition every year. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Ncrxr3edto
8. Sam Adams Air and Après
In an effort to bring park riding to the masses, Camelback Resort, Pa., teamed with Sam Adams and SOL Events to stage the Sam Adams Air and Après. “We wanted to create a show that all of our guests would enjoy, not just those who are already familiar with the terrain park world,” says events manager AJ Stack. Olympic bronze medalist Scotty Lago put together a team of riders who came in to hit a 110-foot big air jump covered in 3D projections. The projections were synced to music, using the snow as a screen to enhance the show. “It really took our whole team to pull this off,” says Stack. “It involved a lot of scaffolding, IT equipment, and some unique electricity needs.” Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z2PEynVLyN8
The Avant-Ski event, now in its third year at Camp Fortune, Ontario, is an early season stoke-building event held before most areas are fully open. The invite-only competition features some of the best skiers and riders in Eastern Ontario and Western Quebec. The event featured two routes with two features each, to give athletes the opportunity to get creative. The 10-person park crew builds the course the day before and the morning of, to keep the layout a surprise. In addition to the competition, the halftime show is a rail jam featuring The Shred Queens, a community of girl skiers that collaborate with Camp Fortune to get more girls out to compete. Photos: Credit Josh Brose/Camp Fortune Video: https://vimeo.com/199716914 Credit: Ajax Visuals/Camp Fortune
10. Level 1 SuperUnknown
Sierra-at-Tahoe, Calif., hosted the Level 1 SuperUnknown presented by Newschoolers in April 2017. Since its inception in 2003, SuperUnknown has uncovered some of the most impressive up-and-coming ski talent across the world. This year, the event was hosted at Sierra, with competitions in Sierra’s terrain parks and in its iconic backcountry zone, Huckleberry Canyon. The competitors "sent it” for a week straight: the event showcased enormous tree stalls, countless spins, lofty inverts, and an undeniably higher ceiling for ski talent across the board. Skier and mountain met their match.
11. Expression Sessions
The Expression Sessions is a homegrown contest event series at Boreal Mountain Resort in Cali. Each installment of the three-event series takes place at night, a month apart, starting in December. The Boreal park crew designs and builds the course in the day leading up to the session. It takes up to six hours for a crew of one or two cat operators and up to four diggers to build the park, which usually includes 6-10 medium and large street-style, low-impact features. The venue entices participants to lap the course and find new and creative ways to make their way through it.
12. Peace Park Qualifier
Okemo, Vt., played host to the first-ever qualifier event for Danny Davis’ Peace Park—a unique, ever-evolving elite snowboard park that expands beyond the traditional competition-style courses. The qualifier gave roughly 30 amateur snowboarders the opportunity to earn a spot at the renowned Peace Park event last April. The Okemo Parks crew, in collaboration with Snow Park Technologies, constructed a highly progressive, flow-inspired course that encouraged participants to creatively choose their line. Danny himself judged the two-day contest, and awarded Luke Winkelmann the golden ticket, all expenses paid trip to Peace Park at Grand Targhee, Wyo.
13. Kaatskillz Pro-Am
Freestyle skiers and riders competed in the annual Kaatskillz pro-am event located on the main face of Hunter Mountain, N.Y., on Park Ave West. The event build took 8 to 10 days to complete, including additional snowmaking that needed to be done in the area. About 10 crewmembers worked on building the venue, which was comprised of skate-park inspired features including hips, bowls, and rails.
14. Ski The East Spring Shoot
With ample snow leftover in its T72 terrain park after closing day last season, Sunday River in Maine hosted the crew from Ski The East for a private spring shoot. The six-person Sunday River park crew spent two weeks pushing snow and hauling metal to create a massive 70-foot kicker and 11-feature rail park for the event. Features included a 35-foot flat-to-35-foot triple kink, one shooter tube into a wall ride, flat rail into a small, wide box landing, one extra-large tub, and more. The park was decorated with buoys, lobster traps, and even a rowboat to round out the Down East theme. Present were some of the East Coast's best athletes, including Émile Bergeron, Bobby Sullivan, Sawyer Sellingham, Nicky Hartmann, Jacob Belanger, and Tyler Duncan, along with the Les Khroniques du Québec crew.
15. 1817 Monday Minute
When pro snowboarder and native Minnesotan Joe Sexton and Co. were looking to partner with a Midwest resort to build a park around their brand, 1817, Buck Hill stepped up. The park was up all season, but for a full week last winter it was home to some big names filming for the “Monday Minute” video series, include Sexton, Jake OE, Lucas Magoon, and more. It took one full night for about five park staff and one cat driver to build the park for the weeklong event. They set a mix of down rails, boxes, a wall ride, and other street-oriented features. “We left the park open during the event and it was really cool to see kids interact with the pros, and see how the entire filming process happens,” says Buck Hill president and CEO David Solner.
With Alterra Mountain Co.’s Ikon Pass replacing the MAX Pass, the season pass game has changed again. Several resorts have joined either Vail Resorts’ Epic Pass or Ikon, either for advantage or to limit losses. Who will emerge victorious over the other—or will both succeed? And will independent resorts gain or lose in all this?
So much remains in flux, if only because the big battle has just begun. In an exclusive interview with SAM (we’ll have the full interview in the July 2018 issue), Alterra CEO Rusty Gregory said the Ikon Pass is selling “incredibly, incredibly well. I’d love to give you numbers but I can’t. It’s still too soon to tell where it’s all going to end up. As prices change, volume goes up. We really won’t know until next season, but we are pretty significantly exceeding our forecasts. But the forecasts were a guess.”
And VR and Alterra are not the only players. The Mountain Collective and Powder Alliance remain intact, too, and both have gained members. Individual resorts are sweetening their offerings to customers, also. Again, from Gregory: “We are all forced to think differently, but at the end of the day that will be good for the consumer, because we are clawing and scratching for ways to connect with them better, in ways they want to experience mountains. ... If we keep doing this, you will see growth, and not just the regurgitation of market share.”
This chart was created with data available on 04/05/18. Questions or comments? Email firstname.lastname@example.org