Browse Our Archives

November 2008

Blue Pages :: November 2008


Written by Staff | 0 comment

Jay Taps visa program to fund Hotel
Jay Peak, Vt., owner and entrepreneur Bill Stenger has an ambitious base-area development dream, and he’s using some creative thinking to fund it: the EB5 foreign investment visa program. EB5 grants a permanent resident visa by virtue of investing in a U.S. company, and the program offers incentives for investing in economically challenged areas. Jay sits in Orleans county, one of the most economically depressed in Vermont, and Stenger has generated state and federal support for his development. By investing $500,000 each in Jay’s two hotel projects (total investment: $100 million), foreign investors have completely funded the first $20 million hotel, and Stenger is well on the way to raising the necessary capital for the second, $80 million project, which will include an indoor water park (to help build the year-round economy). Jay could have this project fully subscribed by February; it was about 65 percent sold out in early October. Oh, and did we mention that there’s no interest to be paid back—-this is free money?

Well, not exactly free. Stenger has been working to develop this project for 12 years and employed partners in London to scour the globe for willing investors.

Alternate Energy Picks Up Steam
First, there was Jiminy’s wind turbine. Then, Kirkwood, Aspen and Vail (among others) began to investigate the idea. Now, Whistler/Blackcomb has upped the ante considerably: construction is underway on a hydro plant that will offset the resorts’ total annual energy consumption. The 7.5 megawatt Fitzsimmons Creek Hydro Project, located entirely within Whistler Blackcomb’s operating area, will produce 33.5 gigawatt hours of hydro electricity per year, the equivalent of powering the ski resort’s winter and summer operations--including 38 lifts, 17 restaurants, 269 snowguns, and countless other buildings and services.

While a local power consortium will own and run the plant, Whistler Blackcomb facilitated the water rights licensing and worked with the various stakeholders during six years of project assessments, planning, and discussions. The resort is also directly involved in the construction and environmental stewardship of the project, which moves the resort toward its goal of a net zero energy footprint within its operating area by 2020.

China: Power to the (Rich) People
Among the many luxury touches being added to China’s leading resort, Yabuli, are many rather elite amenities described as “well beyond the standard available in European or North American ski resorts” [and, we would guess, beyond the wildest dreams of most citizens in the people’s republic] “and more consistent with the quality of hotels expected in Asian cities.” Take that, Western capitalists. New heated gondola cabins sport polished timber trim, leather seating, a mini bar, cabin lighting, and BOSE stereo system. Three premium hotels set to open in December will add 24 luxury sky suites with sauna, outdoor hot tub and observatory.

All this anticipates rapid growth in skiing in China, where some predict that participants will double, to 10 million, by 2010.

Showdown Offers Free Learn-to Program
Trial and retention ideas (see “Success Stories,” p. 52) are getting creative. The latest idea we’ve heard: For the opening weekend of the 2008-09 ski season and on alternate Sundays after New Year’s, Montana’s Showdown offers a free beginner lift/lesson/rental package for skiers (not snowboarders) age 7 and older. Newbies are then encouraged to buy a $79 “upgrade” for two additional days. After that, newly minted skiers receive three free lift tickets to cement their passion for the sport and their loyalty to Showdown. —C.W.

We Always Knew Doubles Were for Lovers
Southern French ski resort Risoul is applying the concept of speed dating to its chairlifts. Well, to one in particular, a romantic fixed-grip double chair (natch) that takes a leisurely 10 minutes to complete its uphill trip. During Single’s Week March 28 to April 4, riders will be matched with strangers for their fateful rides. At the top comes the moment of decision: time to ski off together, or schuss to the bottom and ride up with someone else? Sounds like a novel way to drum up summer wedding business.

Stowe Reborn, AIG on sick bed
Resort owner AIG went into the tank this fall, having starred in Wall Street’s spectacular meltdown, but not before Stowe’s multi-year, $400 million Spruce Peak development was essentially complete. This includes new slopeside luxury hotel and spa, base area, inter-mountain transfer gondola, trails, beginner area, two high-speed detachable quads and fully-automated snowmaking. The new Spruce Base Camp will be Stowe’s central source for skier and snowboarder services: restaurants, a bar, indoor and outdoor fireplaces, rental shops, retail, tickets, event space and public lounge areas. Question is, now that the work is done, will Stowe resort remain part of the AIG empire? Will the empire itself even survive?

The $100,000 Season Pass
Even in this economic climate, there remain those for whom money is no object. It’s for such superwealthy powderhounds that Great Canadian Heli-Skiing in Golden, B.C., offers its $100,000 season pass. A hundred grand buys unlimited vertical in the operation’s vast permit area in the Purcell and Selkirk ranges, accommodations, and first-in-line privileges when the choppers are flying. With heli time going for up to $12,000 a week, that’s not such an enormous price to pay, is it? If it is, GCH offers other passes for $25,000 to $70,000, for 16 to 48 days and lodging discounts of 25 to 50 percent.

There’s a limited market for this sort of thing, but a market nonetheless. More proof: Points North Heli-Skiing in Valdez, Alaska, offers an even more incredible lifetime pass, for $250,000.

Learn a Snow Sport Month Gathers Steam
Raelene Davis is on a mission. With little fanfare, the Ski Utah marketing director has organized 22 states to take part in a nationwide “Learn a Snow Sport” month (January 2009) and enlisted broad support to promote it. PSIA has helped fire up its troops, and prepared ads that most major ski and snowboard pubs will run for free in December and January. The ads encourage existing participants to introduce their friends to winter sports.

Jackson: the tram is back!
After a two-year absence, the Jackson Hole tram is back. By early fall, crews were finishing the terminals, the haul rope was up, and the trams were ready to go on. But Jackson wants to keep the exterior graphics a secret until the official unveiling Dec. 19, so local skiwear manufacturer Marmot crafted custom “slipcovers” to keep the cars under wraps until then. To celebrate the “Tramformation,” Jackson is hosting a drawing for two lucky folks to be flown in for the first ride up. Get your entries in by Dec. 1 (hint: visit

To make it worth the wait, the Doppelmayr tram has nearly double the capacity of the old (100 v. 55 or 60, depending on who you talk to), and a faster ride time (nine minutes now, 12 minutes then). The unparalleled 4,139 vertical, though, remains epic as ever.

Xanadu Moving Closer to Reality
Meadowlands Xanadu, the 4.8 million-square-foot family entertainment, sports, retail, office and hotel complex at the Meadowlands Sports Complex less than five miles from Manhattan, could become home to the first indoor ski center in the U.S. Much of the facility is built, including the ski slopes. Xanadu has already installed two Magic Carpets, a Doppelmayr quad, and platter pull, and is pushing to have its lift inspections and load tests completed by the end of December. The entire complex is scheduled to open in August 2009. It looks like this controversial project just might fly.

Winter Trails: Best-Kept Newbie Secret
We all know the importance of attracting newcomers. So it’s a little surprising that SIA’s Winter Trails program remains little used. Ski Liberty (and a handful of others) have found it’s a great way to get people out to see what our sports are all about.

Winter Trails introduces newbies to snowshoeing and XC skiing, both unintimidating ways for people to get on snow. Liberty has hosted the program for the past four seasons, and each year, newbies’ reactions are the same: “We didn’t know the resort was this close to home” or “We didn’t know Liberty had this much to offer.” Liberty encourages them to return by offering snow tubing and learn-to package coupons. All this makes a positive impression on many people who never would have visited otherwise.

SIA, the coordinator of Winter Trails, makes this program very flexible and easy to work with. And SIA does plenty of PR work to get strong media coverage. Winter Trails Day is usually held the Saturday before Martin Luther King weekend. Get more information at