Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Winter Sport Tourism: Working in Winter Wonderlands

It's out: the only, the newest - and therefore the best - book on Winter Sport Tourism is now available. As avid readers of my ski blog, you are eligible for a 20 % discount – activate by using the code Winter20 at checkout. What a fab Christmas gift idea!

Appealing to skiers, snowboarders, industry workers, winter tourism companies and academics, this book is a concise compendium for the ski industry. In other words, a one-stop need-to-know resource for winter sport tourism.

Beginning with the evolution of winter sports, it covers contemporary products, activities, resorts and supporting industries. With sections on the consumer, customer service, marketing, management, leveraging events, design and planning, it is a fount of up-to-date information. It explores the economic, social and environmental impacts of winter sport tourism, culminating in the latest consumer trends and future forecasts.

Each chapter is built around three fascinating, interview-based case studies which highlight entrepreneurial personalities within the industry.

The writers of Winter Sport Tourism: Working in Winter Wonderlands are ski journalist, Louise Hudson and tourism researcher and professor, Dr Simon Hudson. As lifelong ski bums, we have dedicated their minds, bodies and souls to skiing, basing all our career and personal decisions on optimizing our skiing and ski writing. We are available for questions about the book and interviews via email at: and respectively and by phone on 803 708 2772.

General availability:
1 September 2015 - ISBN: 978-1-910158-40-1
Buy direct from website ( via good book retailers – price for paperback £29.99 €36.00 US$48.00

Inspection Copies:
Free inspection copies are available for academics - <>Click here to request.

- and there are review copies available for journalists. Requests for these can be placed now (see to request) and fulfilled on publication 1 Sept 2015.

Bulk Order Discounts:
To order multiple copies either as gifts, for colleagues or staff or as training manuals, there are price reductions:
10 copies = 15% discount
20 copies = 25% discount
30 copies and above = 35% discount
Also, customized copies can be ordered to feature corporate logos and pictures on the front cover. Contact the authors for more info.

Darren Turner
Individual digital chapters are available, direct from the website or via third party vendors (£5.99; $7.99; €5.99) such as VitalSource, CourseSmart, Dawsonera, MyiLibrary, IngramDigital, Ebrary, EBL. Key titles are also available on Kindle and Kobo and Find it on

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Suggested Tweet: One-stop all-you-need-to-know resource for ski industry:
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Thursday, April 2, 2015

Creating America's Biggest Ski Area

Simon Hudson checking out the Park City plans Feb 2015 - photo by Louise Hudson
Vail Resorts always thinks big and its acquisition of Park City and Canyons Resort in Utah is no exception. Less than two years into its first foray into Utah, the huge ski resort development and management company announced its $50million plan to merge the two areas into America's largest ski resort.

Vail Resorts intended to complete the ambitious reno over the summer and fall 2015 to be launched for the 2015/2016 ski season. By connecting Park City Mountain Resort to neighboring Canyons Resort, they would link more than 7,300 acres of skiable terrain, creating the USA's biggest ski resort. A brand new interconnect gondola (the first for Park City since 1983) was planned to facilitate the merger as well as upgrades to other lifts, runs, snowmaking facilities, and maintenance areas. A new eatery to be constructed near the gondola, as well as expansions to other mountain restaurants and lodges, would create enough lunchtime seating for the anticipated rush of voracious visitors. The two resorts were already linked by road via free public transit.

Park City - photo courtesy of Park City Mountain Resort
"This comprehensive capital plan for Park City and Canyons is one of the most ambitious and impactful plans undertaken at any resort in industry history, transforming the experience at both resorts and creating the largest single ski resort in the U.S.," said Blaise Carrig, president of the mountain division for Vail Resorts. He added: "The improvements offer skiers and riders more terrain and upgraded lifts to enhance the guest experience and reduce crowding and lift lines, new and upgraded restaurants, more snowmaking and an overall ‘touching up’ of all aspects of the resorts. The plan was based on feedback from guests and the local community as well as discussions with the senior operating teams at the two resorts. We look forward to continuing to work with the county and the city and are hopeful we can bring this plan to life for the 2015-2016 ski season."

Waldorf Astoria Park City - courtesy
Waldorf Astoria
For the 2015-2016 season, the company intended to operate the two resorts as one unified branded experience under the name ‘Park City Mountain Resort’. The Canyons base area, home to the only Waldorf Astoria on a ski slope, was to be renamed ‘Canyons at Park City’. The company planned to maintain the unique history and atmosphere of the two different base areas with differentiated marketing for the diverse hotel and hospitality experiences offered.

The ambitious development was scheduled for completion for the beginning of the 2015/16 ski season. “Just one of the improvements would be big news but we’re doing all of them in a few months,” said Park City Mountain Resort’s Communications Manager, Andy Miller. “If Vail says it can be done, it will be done.” With regular press releases, media fam trips and billboards strategically placed all over the slopes, the project attracted massive media, local and visitor attention during the 2015/16 season.

Park City groomer - photo courtesy of Park City Mountain Resort
The ‘Vailification’ of Park City and Canyons meant cheaper skiing for locals via the Epic Local Pass which went on sale from March 10 2015 at $579 per adult for the whole season with multiple benefits at sister resorts. The Epic Local Pass offered unlimited days of skiing (with 11 holiday restrictions) in Park City and also included unlimited access to Breckenridge, Keystone and Arapahoe Basin in Colorado, with limited restrictions at Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood at Lake Tahoe. A total of 10 days at Vail and Beaver Creek were also included (with holiday restrictions). “There truly is no better ski or snowboard value being offered in the state of Utah,” said Bill Rock, Park City’s chief operating officer, who previously oversaw a $30million refurbishment at Kirkwood. “When you consider the acreage and the variety of terrain, and then add in $50 million dollars of improvements that will completely transform the ski experience and the additional access to Colorado and Tahoe, there is no pass in this market that compares with the Epic Local Pass.” To put this price into perspective, compare the Deer Valley, Utah adult season pass at the earlybird discount price of $1,985 for the 2014/15 season.

Canyons iconic Orange Bubble heated and covered chairlift - Courtesy of Canyons Resort
Bent on attracting newcomers to winter sports, Vail Resorts also introduced new cut-price kids’ passes for local residents including the Park City Youth Pass features unlimited, unrestricted access to Park City for $289 for children (ages 5-12), $309 for teens (ages 13-18) and $399 for college students. Another innovation for the Utah resorts was the Vail Resorts Season Pass Auto Renewal Program whereby the next year’s pass is guaranteed at the lowest price for a $49 automatic credit card down-payment each spring.

Caitlin Martz, Senior Communications Specialist for Canyons Resort, said that the community response to the merger, infrastructure upgrades and investment in the local economy was very positive. “It is a great thing for the town,” she added. “How can you argue about somebody coming in and investing $50million? It is also very obvious that Vail Resorts cares about the area.”

Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Wonders of Winter Zip Lining

Alpine Rush Zip Line at Copper Mountain - photo by Tripp Fay
It’s all about the rush, the sense of flying through the towering treetop canopy, with a bald eagle’s view of the immense whiteness of a winter wonderland. Winter zip lining started spreading around North American ski resorts in the mid 2000s, adding yet another activity-based après ski alternative.

Winter Ziptrek at Whistler - Courtesy of Ziptrek EcotoursWinter Ziptrek 
This was part of the ski industry’s push to diversify, appealing to a wider demographic, keeping visitors on the hill longer into the evening, and providing a menu of non-skiing options. Zip lining also adds a significant cool factor and helps provide all-season appeal for ski areas.

Jori Kirk
One of the early pioneers of zip lining in Canada is Jori Kirk, who started Cypress Hills Eco-Adventures Ltd in 2010 after graduating from the Haskayne School of Business at the University of Calgary. “If I'm not mistaken, the first commercial canopy tour in the U.S. was built in 2005 in mainland Ketchikan, AK,” says Kirk. The first in Canada was at Grouse Mountain, Whistler.

Super Fly Ziplines at Cougar Mtn
Since the early days, there has been some confusion in terminology between canopy tours and zip line tours. “Canopy tours are guided, with a series of zips and suspension bridges through the natural canopy of trees,” Kirk explains. Zip line tours, on the other hand, take participants through a series of manmade structures. However, even the industry has used the terms interchangeably. 

The wide appeal of zip lining, says Kirk, is the “storytelling factor” as well as the social aspect: it can be enjoyed by any age-group, both genders, and in relatively large groups of family or friends. “It is also very inclusive as it takes very little expertise to conquer a zip line tour,” Kirk adds. Although most winter zip lines were originally summer structures, it is relatively cheap and easy to winterize them and keep them running year round. “People are already there, the zip line course is there, staff are there. Close it down or make incremental revenues? I would choose the latter 10 times out of 10,” says Kirk. “I don't believe the places that do this are expecting to operate at full capacity, but it is a great way of offering another option for guests.”

Zip lines vary considerably from resort to resort – some have seats, some dangle participants from ropes and hooks, some are single, others double lines, and some have more of an assault course set up with climbs and platforms.

Take off at Copper Mountain - photo by Tripp Fay
Copper Mountain’s ‘Alpine Rush’ is a village experience with dual zip lines strung 30 ft above West Lake, enabling tandem riders to traverse the ice rink between condos, shops and restaurants. The Guided Canopy Tour at Crested Butte Mountain Resort has five lines ranging from 120 - 400 feet long, connected by three wooden suspension bridges and massive platforms designed for winter use with tough grips and snow grates. “It’s about a two hour tour, with two guides, that make it fun and interactive,” says Director of Innovations, Erica Mueller. “It is something different for people to do on a day off from skiing or after skiing and really attracts all age groups,” she adds, although participation is limited to those weighing between 70 and 250 lbs. It is open summer, fall and winter, with some weather-friendly modifications in the colder months.

Vail’s all-season, four-line, 1,200-foot-long zip line provides another après ski experience, next to the tubing hill at Adventure Ridge. The Purgatory Plunge at Purgatory Durango Mountain Resort drops zippers on two lines off a massive tower, offering vertical as well as horizontal plummeting. Gunstock MountainNew Hampshire has five ziplines, the longest 1.5 miles, with speed control and opportunities to stop and appreciate the scenery and wildlife.

Dual seated Zip Line at Park City - photo Dan Campbell/Courtesy Park City Resort
The longest zip line in Utah is at Canyons Resort with two different routes over mid-mountain pine trees. The Flying Eagle Zip Line at Park City, Utah is a two-person circuit, 110 feet above the resort, starting and finishing at the same spot.

Ziptrek Ecotours Twilight Winter Tour
Two companies operate zip lines at Whistler Blackcomb, Canada. Ziptrek Ecotours runs a network above Fitzsimmons Creek between the two resorts offering Twilight Tours in winter. And the Adventure Group has multiple side-by-side Super Fly Ziplines connected by trails and boardwalks at Cougar Mountain.

So is zip lining here to stay? “I really do not know. I don't seeing it going away any time soon,” says Kirk. “There will likely be less development of new tours and closures of poorly managed ones as the profitable one rise above the rest. If the current zip line companies place their focus on providing a great experience, it is doubtful that they will disappear from the scene.” Kirk’s company was named the 2014 Canadian Tourism Small to Medium-Sized Business of the Year.
Super Fly Ziplines at Cougar Mtn