12/20/17 Rocky Start: No Snow=No Paychecks

While the season has jump started in parts of the east and midwest, the picture remains bleak in much of the west. Biggest problem in the region? Without snow, a lot of workers get no paycheck. As a result, Aspen Skiing Co., as well as Vail and Beaver Creek resorts, are all cranking out free meals to feed idle workers. Father Dyer United Methodist Church, in downtown Breckenridge, is serving up twice as many free Sunday night meals as usual. The church’s Rev. Claire McNulty-Drewes told the Denver Post, “It’s a tough time of the year for those who have come expecting to make a living and there’s no snow.” At Winter Park, 100 resort employees showed up at the free Friday dinner at Cranmer Chapel in Fraser — which has seating for about one-third as many.

Tough news in the east, regret to report that Denny Degreenia, 45-year-old mountain ops at Burke Mountain VT, died Sunday after he was thrown from a snowcat. The machine rolled over on the Big Dipper trail. A co-worker, riding as a passenger, was treated and released.

Oregon’s Anthony Lakes hit with a bunch of snow overnight, they’re looking closely at a possible weekend opening. Statement from the resort sez: “Our crews are out on the hill this morning assessing the conditions. While we are excited to open and make turns, we need to make sure coverage [is] adequate and safe.”

In the Dakotas, Terry Peak announced that they’ve shifted to full time ops for the season. They’re also gonna spin on all holidays, including Christmas Day. Right now they’re running the Stewart Lift, the Covered Snow Carpet and the Surprise Express — but terrain remains limited, and for the time being they’re selling discounted lift tix in the Stewart Lodge.

Back east, a couple of “small but mighty” resorts have opened that provide a good indicator of how things are going thus far. Bear Creek in the Lehigh Valley area in Pennsy, as well as West Mountain, Plattekill and Titus Mountain in New York all opened this past weekend, which is a good thing and perhaps a bit earlier than usual.

Another early Pennsylvania opening this past weekend at Tussey Mountain near State College didn’t work out so well; they had a few chairs slip on the ropeway and mush into each other, skiers and boarders included. That’s our photo above. Fortunately nobody fell off, and none of the injuries were life threatening. Apparently the grips had not been fastened properly.

Questions linger following the November death of employee Reggie Antonio at Sunrise Park Resort in eastern Arizona. Apparently the 39-year-old was working on a lift tower when the accident occurred, reports are that he was pulled out of his harness and fell. Other reports state that Antonio was electrocuted. Sunrise, if you aren’t familiar with it, is Arizona’s second-largest ski resort and is operated by the White Mountain Apache tribe. OSHA is currently investigating the accident.

Family members of Kelly Huber, the San Antonio mom who fell to her death after being pitched off a wildly swinging chairlift at Granby Ranch CO, are suing the resort. Considering the police report found evidence of bungled maintenance, it’s not surprising. Granby Ranch CEO Melissa Cipriani has declined comment to local media outlets.

Well that’s a bunch of crappy news, ain’t it? Let’s turn it around and end on a positive note…

Ladies’ World Cup racing in Courchevel today, it was a parallel slalom event in which the women squared off in brackets based on a morning qualifier. As fate would have it the finals came to down to the two best slalom racers on the planet, Mikaela Shiffrin and Slovakia’s Petra Vlhova. The two raced side by side, matching turn for turn, and ultimately the timing computers showed that Shiffrin was better by 0.04 seconds. Wow. The win put Shiffrin at the top of the slalom standings, just ahead of the Slovak slalom ace. It makes Mikki the leader in three disciplines — SL, GS, and DH — although the downhill is really a lark since there’s only been one event thus far. I expect she may compete in one or two more speed events at most this season, but it’s still an indicator of just how good she is.