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Alta, Deer Valley, Mad River Glen Must Allow Snowboarding, Court Rules
All three resorts to be transferred to custody of neighboring ski areas
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A federal court yesterday ruled that the three remaining U.S. ski areas that ban snowboarding must allow the activity immediately. Calling the bans “silly” and “antiquated,” Judge Hallowell Thompson of the 17th District Court in Salt Lake City also ordered the current owners of all three ski areas to relinquish custody of all trail networks, lifts, and facilities to their neighboring resorts “to expedite the transition to a more modern snowsports experience.”
The ruling permits snowboards on the lifts and trails of all three resorts immediately. Utah’s Deer Valley will be absorbed by adjacent Park City Mountain Resort, which is owned by Colorado-based Vail Resorts. Alta, which is also in Utah, will become part of Powdr Corp-owned neighbor Snowbird. And Mad River Glen, the feisty, cooperatively owned Vermont mountain, will come under the stewardship of Alterra Mountain Company’s Sugarbush.
“Brah I’m hella stoked,” said Den Carruthers, the 19-year-old Carlsbad, California-based snowboarder who brought the suit after he skied over Sugarloaf Pass from Snowbird in 2019 and Alta personnel refused to allow him to board the lift back up. “They made me take the bus home and shit. I was like, ‘Brah do you even know how much money my dad makes?’”
Snowboarders who had experienced similar encounters at Deer Valley and Mad River Glen joined the suit, and yesterday’s ruling ends all on-slope snowboard bans in the United States. Carruthers said he intended to head back to Utah “as soon as my mom is done ironing my hoodies.”
“Brah I can’t wait to kick it eight wide with my boys below the blind lip of a double D,” Carruthers said. “Just, you know, chill for 45, 90 minutes, and, like, scope out kickers, vape mad amounts, compare Eminem playlists, rock hoodies in January, say ‘hella’ eight times in a sentence, and basically just talk about all the lames and chumps on skis.”
The lifting of snowboard bans at the last three U.S. holdouts will have significant implications, both locally and nationally, both for the snowboarders who now have more freedom of movement, and for the resorts that will suddenly find themselves a part of new coalitions and management teams. Here’s a resort-by-resort breakdown of what to expect from this transition.
Park City is Epic
Vail Resorts was quick to welcome Deer Valley into their portfolio on Thursday evening, rebranding the two soon-to-be-interconnected resorts as “Vail at Park City.” This will be one element of a national campaign to rebrand the company’s “41 aspirational destinations in a way that leverages the power of the Vail brand name,” according to a press release. Vermont’s Stowe will become “Vail at Stowe,” Whistler will become “Vail at Whistler,” Vail will become “Vail Mountain at Vail Village,” and so on.
The company is also launching a Park City Is Epic version of Vail’s popular Epic Pass. The pass, which will cost $99 for the 2022-23 season, will grant skiers unlimited, unrestricted access to all 9,500 acres and 64 lifts at the combined resort.
“For far too long, Deer Valley has emphasized a quality ski experience and uncrowded slopes at the expense of profit,” said Jason Overby, a Vail Resorts spokesman. “This is no way to run a ski resort. When skiers have to wait longer to board a lift or use a bathroom, they really develop an appreciation for how popular our mountain destinations are. It’s hard to have the Experience of a Lifetime if you’re so busy skiing that you don’t have time to slow down and think about how great of a time you’re having.”
While there is no official public ski connection between the side-by-side resorts, Deer Valley’s Empire Express terminates just above the Georgeanna run on Park City’s eastern boundary, and Vail did not foresee any engineering issues in connecting the two ski areas.
Vail will immediately convert all 2022-23 Deer Valley season passes into Epic Passes, and issue an on-mountain credit for the remainder. The former Alterra property did not offer unlimited access on the Ikon Pass, and sold its own season pass at a starting price of $2,675 for next year. The credit, “should be enough to buy two or possibly even three hamburgers,” said Overby.
Interviews with several Deer Valley locals on Friday morning indicated that a blend of confusion and anxiety had consumed the community. “What is this snow-boarding you speak of?” asked Esquire Sampson IV, who was standing near the Silver Lake Express chair and said he’d recently completed construction on his “ninth or 10th” home, a slopeside mansion at Deer Valley. “Is that the thing where the fellows strap both feet to one board? And at Deer Valley? Sounds like bringing a bottle of 2010 Chateau Lafite Pauillac to a 2016 Petrus Bordeaux party. Can you even imagine?” He then chuckled, blew his nose on a white leopard pelt, threw it into the garbage, and skied away.
“Well this is the last thing we needed,” said Cindy-Anne Jenkins, who was standing near the Snow Park Lodge holding a “Gone with the Gondola” sign to protest the proposed lift connection between the resort and downtown Park City. “Why don’t we just empty the prisons right onto our slopes? Why don’t they just put a methamphetamine bar at the lodge? I’m so tired of this. Life would be so much easier if everyone realized that everything needs to stay exactly the way it was on the day I was born.”
While Carruthers was less excited about the possibility of snowboarding Deer Valley than Alta, he said he would still probably “float through” the Park City mountain. “I’m thinking me and my boys can scoop a bucket of those hella tasty curly fries, post up five wide on Empire, and talk all kinds of mad shit about lames.”
A Fast Track to unification
The combination of Alta and Snowbird will be the simplest operation of the three: the two resorts have been connected and shared season passes and lift tickets since 2002.
“We are proud to welcome Alta into Powdr’s portfolio of adventure lifestyle brands,” said Powdr spokeswoman Gilchrest Horton. “Everyone thinks we lost Park City to Vail because of our own administrative ineptitude, but this was our plan all along.”
Powdr moved quickly overnight to begin work on its combined resort master plan. On Friday morning, workers were already dismantling the Wildcat lift, a 42-year-old Yan double that Horton called “a hunk of junk.” A high-speed detachable quad will rise in its place over the summer, and the entire area will be reserved exclusively for skiers and snowboarders who purchase a $249 Ultimate Fast Tracks add-on to their lift ticket.
“A core value at Powdr Corp is that people with more money are better,” said Horton. “But having a lot of money doesn’t mean much unless everyone else knows about it. When all the poors in the Collins lift queue see you poling up to Wildcat, they are really going to be impressed with how much better you are than them.”
An examination of the resort master plan acquired by The Storm Skiing Journal outlined future ticket-restricted lifts that would access the Baldy Chutes, Devil’s Castle, and Alf’s High Rustler sections of the resort.
“We believe these special areas should be open to everyone who can afford to ski them,” said Horton. “The culture of hiking up Alta’s terrain to ski down is silly and antiquated. I mean, did you ride a horse and buggy up the canyon this morning? We’re putting an end to that and transforming Alta into a real ski resort, where rich tourists are prioritized over these broke-ass locals who really have a bad habit of complaining.”
Alta skiers interviewed on Friday morning weren’t so sure the change was positive. “I feel like the Alta I’ve always known is getting ripped away from me,” said Steve Johnson, who said he had moved to Utah from Virginia in November. “Hardcore locals such as myself feel forgotten. We’re already being overrun by these stupid tourists with their stupid Ikon Passes, and now we have to deal with all these so-called ‘local’ snowboarders who live down in Provo. It’s really frustrating.”
Carruthers, however, was thrilled. “Brah there are some hella sick chill spots on that mountain,” he said. “I can’t wait to assemble 14, 19, possibly even 32 of my boys and just post up halfway down High Main, pass around a pack of gummies, and crank the backpack speaker up to like a 100 or some shit.”
A mad idea
By far the trickiest resort connection will be from Stark’s Nest, at the top of the Mad River Glen single chair, over to the summit of Mount Ellen, two miles distant. The engineering challenge will be similar to connecting the Olympic and Alpine Meadows sides of Palisades Tahoe, where Sugarbush parent Alterra Mountain Company, which owns both resorts, has been building a base-to-base gondola.
Alterra spokesman Reed Wescott shared plans with The Storm Skiing Journal for a similar, five-stage gondola connecting the three Vermont peaks (a two-mile-long high-speed quad already connects the Lincoln Peak and Mt. Ellen sides of Sugarbush). The high-speed, 10-passenger gondola will start at Sugarbush’s Lincoln Peak village, ascend to the top of Castle Rock, cross Slide Brook Basin to Mt. Ellen, cross the valley to Stark’s nest, then descend to the Mad River Glen base along the current single-chair line. The resort will remove the single chair this summer.
“Who needs these old-ass chairlifts?” said Wescott. “General Stark Mountain has 2,000 vertical feet, and you’re sending people up one at a time? What is this, a Porta Potty or a ski resort?”
Alterra’s 125-page plan also calls for clear-cutting “up to eight trails” in the Paradise area, and re-grading the mountain to “get rid of that stupid waterfall.” The terrain, the documents say, “is too difficult for most skiers, and a liability for the mountain itself.” Alterra also plans to purchase up to six additional Snowcats to ensure that “100 percent of Mad River Glen’s terrain is groomed nightly.”
Additional offseason projects include a $20 million investment to extend snowmaking to both Mad River Glen summits, replacement of the Sunnyside Double with a high-speed six-pack chairlift, tree removal on Lynx and Marten, and construction of a new, $50 million, 200,000-square-foot lodge. Alterra will demolish the old lodge immediately.
“We’re going to need somewhere to put all the people,” said Wescott. “While current Mad River Glen regulars spend more time skiing than relaxing in the lodge, the opposite is true of the average Ikon Pass holder, who is mostly here to take selfies and be surprised that there’s no parking when they show up at 10:30 on a Saturday. They only ski an average of three to six runs per day, and the rest of the time, they need someplace to kick back, spend $90 on lunch, take conference calls on speaker phone, and remind everybody that they live in New York.”
Wescott confirmed that 2022-23 Mad River Glen Ikon Base Pass access will mirror that at Sugarbush, with unlimited days save 10 holiday blackout dates. Full Ikon Pass holders will get unlimited access to Mad River Glen.
The ski area’s loyalists quickly gathered online to express their outrage over the court ruling.
“I didn’t spend nine years growing this beard so that I could share the mountain with snowboarders,” said a poster who identified himself as Mackk Truckk. “If there’s one thing I’ve learned from my Flat-Earther Facebook group, it’s that time is best spent around people who share your exact interests and worldview.”
While Carruthers, the snowboarder who brought the suit, has no plans to visit Vermont anytime soon, he said that he was, “stoked for my boys up there in Canada.” He won’t rule out an eventual trip, however, as “I heard they got a lot of good vape shops over there.”
This is a work of satire. April Fools. Snowboarding is still banned at Deer Valley, Alta, and Mad River Glen, which, frankly, I do find a little silly.
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