The winter of 2014-15 brought a season of change to the skiing and snowboarding world. More accurately, much of the news involved ownership shifts and agreements that would signal changes for the seasons to come. In other words, many of top 10 news stories of 2014-15 listed below should affect the news for next season and beyond.
1. Utah resorts consolidate.
The legal battle between Vail Resorts and Powdr Corp. ended with Vail Resorts in control of the soon-to-be-joined Park City Mountain Resort and Canyons Resort. Next season, a new gondola will connect the Utah areas to create the largest single ski resort in the United States. Other than the Canyons base area that will be renamed “Canyons at Park City,” the combined resort will be branded simply as Park City Mountain Resort.
In a much less contentious scenario across town, Deer Valley Resort agreed in October to buy Solitude Mountain Resort in Big Cottonwood Canyon. Deer Valley officially takes over operations on May 1, 2015. The Solitude brand name is expected to stay with perhaps a slight addition to indicate the tie with Deer Valley.
2. Durango Mountain Resort goes back to Purgatory.
An ownership change also prompted a name change in Colorado. When investor James Coleman bought Durango Mountain Resort, he decided the ski resort should revert to its former name of Purgatory. Of more practical importance for visitors, Coleman announced that he will replace the Legends chairlift with a high-speed detachable quad in time for next season.
3. Powderhorn plans high-speed lift.
Another western Colorado area, Powderhorn Mountain Resort, announced a big step forward in February. As part of a $5 million investment, a Poma high-speed quad will be installed this summer to replace the current Take Four lift.
With the ski area’s first high-speed chair, a slow lift system will now be a complaint of the past. Always blessed with solid terrain, the resort near Grand Junction could become much more prominent in the coming years.
4. Squaw and Alpine announce gondola.
Near the close of the ski season in April, Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows grabbed headlines with the announcement of a new base-to-base gondola. Owned by the same company, the California ski areas came to an agreement with the owner of the private land between the resorts.
With the governmental approval process still ahead, the timetable for the gondola is still uncertain. However, the long-anticipated connection took a huge step toward realization.
5. Kachina Peak lift opens.
While future plans may be exciting, New Mexico skiers and boarders were actually able to experience a new Taos Ski Valley lift, starting in February. Going up to an elevation of 12,481 feet, the steep terrain of Kachina Peak has long been open to hikers. The lift removes the need for a hike of at least 45 minutes.
Keeping with the theme of new ownership and improvements, billionaire Louis Bacon’s purchase of the ski area in 2013 prompted the new lift.
6. Tahoe and Pacific Northwest deal with low snowfall.
The resorts around Lake Tahoe and those in the Pacific Northwest should be ready to put the 2014-15 season behind them. For the fourth consecutive season, Tahoe fell well short of its average snowfall numbers and several resorts had to close early. In Washington and Oregon, much of the precipitation came down as rain, rather than snow.
7. East enjoys feast of snow.
On the other hand, the East enjoyed a big year of snow. February in particular produced a bounty of storms. When Boston has its snowiest winter on record, that’s a good sign for skiing in the East.
8. World Championships held in U.S.
The United States got an extra taste of World Cup ski racing in February. The 2015 Alpine World Ski Championships were held in Colorado at Vail and Beaver Creek. The last time the event was held on American slopes was in 1999.
9. Vonn sets victory record.
American Lindsey Vonn came back from a serious knee injury to overtake Annemarie Moser-Proell of Austria for the most career women’s World Cup wins. By the end of the season, Vonn’s record total stood at 67 race victories.
10. Miller suggests retirement.
While Vonn was setting records, Bode Miller, the best-known American skier on the men’s side, told NBC Sports in February that he was “leaning pretty heavy towards not going out there anymore.” However, this is not the first time Miller has hinted at retirement. If the 37-year-old follows through this time, he will finish with 33 World Cup wins, a record for U.S. men’s skiers.