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Feb. 8, 2021
What this is
This is the 12th in a series of conversations exploring the fallout to the ski industry from Covid-19. Click through to listen to the first 11: author Chris Diamond, Boyne Resorts CEO Stephen Kircher, Magic Mountain President Geoff Hatheway, NSAA CEO Kelly Pawlak, Berkshire East/Catamount Owner & Goggles for Docs founder Jon Schaefer, Shaggy’s Copper Country Skis Cofounder Jeff Thompson, Doppelmayr USA President Katharina Schmitz, Mt. Baldy GM Robby Ellingson, Alterra CEO Rusty Gregory, NSAA Director of Risk & Regulatory Affairs Dave Byrd, and Schweitzer Mountain President and CEO Tom Chasse.
Molly Mahar, President of Ski Vermont
Why I interviewed her
Because Vermont skiing is in trouble. The Burlington Free Press reported in January that skiers visits were down 30 to 70 percent from the same period last year. Culprits included lousy weather, state-mandated capacity restrictions, strict quarantine requirements for out-of-state visitors, and the Canadian border closure. The snow, thankfully, has finally arrived, but the other problems are unlikely to disappear before season’s end. I wanted to understand the full impacts of the business slowdown on Vermont ski areas and to see how they were coping with life in our Covid-modified Matrix.
What we talked about
An update on those dire skier visit numbers from January; the size of Vermont’s ski industry in a normal year and the extent and impact of the downturn; the percent of Vermont skier visits that originate out of state (it’s huge), and where those visits come from; Vermont’s quarantine requirements and the Canadian border closure and whether these travel restrictions could be relaxed before the end of ski season; working with the state of Vermont to develop Covid operating rules; how widespread compliance to those restrictions has been among skiers; the importance of Canada to central and northern Vermont; Jay Peak filling in the blanks; how Ski Vermont collaborates with member ski areas, the state government, and the NSAA; Covid-induced acceleration of technology adaptation; the cost of Covid ops; Magic Mountain way out ahead; working with the NSAA to promote their Ski Well Be Well guidelines and how the organization just basically killed it prepping the industry as a whole for the ski season; helping Vermont ski areas take advantage of federal and state aide; the long-term upside of Covid-era operating pivots; how mega-mountains, large independents, and smaller community hills are managing under Covid restrictions; job market impacts; the out-of-state takeover of large Vermont ski areas and what that means for the state’s industry long-term; whether Jay Peak or Burke would be better off under a conglomerate or remaining independent; thoughts on megapasses, including the Indy Pass; shout-out to Smuggs; the decision to suspend the 5th grade ski passport this season; and Ski Vermont’s diversity initiative.
Questions I wish I’d asked
I wanted to talk a bit about the cost of doing business in Vermont and development under the state’s Act 250 rules, but we didn’t have time. Next time.
Storm Skiing Podcasts: Killington & Pico GM Mike Solimano | Plattekill owners Danielle and Laszlo Vajtay | New England Lost Ski Areas Project Founder Jeremy Davis | Magic Mountain President Geoff Hatheway | Lift Blog Founder Peter Landsman | Boyne Resorts CEO Stephen Kircher | Burke Mountain GM Kevin Mack | Liftopia CEO Evan Reece | Berkshire East & Catamount Owner & GM Jon Schaefer | Vermont Ski + Ride and Vermont Sports Co-Publisher & Editor Lisa Lynn | Sugarbush President & COO Win Smith | Loon President & GM Jay Scambio | Sunday River President & GM Dana Bullen | Big Snow & Mountain Creek VP of Sales & Marketing Hugh Reynolds | Mad River Glen GM Matt Lillard | Indy Pass Founder Doug Fish | National Brotherhood of Skiers President Henri Rivers | Winter 4 Kids & National Winter Activity Center President & CEO Schone Malliet | Vail Veterans Program President & Founder Cheryl Jensen | Mountain Gazette Owner & Editor Mike Rogge | Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows President & CMO Ron Cohen | Aspiring Olympian Benjamin Alexander | Sugarloaf GM Karl Strand – Parts One & Two | Cannon GM John DeVivo | Fairbank Group Chairman Brian Fairbank | Jay Peak GM Steve Wright | Sugarbush President & GM John Hammond | Mount Snow GM Tracy Bartels | Saddleback CEO & GM Andy Shepard | Bousquet owners and management | Hermitage Club GM Bill Benneyan | Powder Magazine Editor-in-Chief Sierra Shafer | Gunstock GM Tom Day | Bolton Valley President Lindsay DesLauriers | Windham President Chip Seamans | Sunday River GM Brian Heon |