Alterra Mountain Company and the New Ikon Pass

 

For years, skiers and snowboarders had only one option when it came to a multi-resort pass.  Yes there were passes like the Cali4nia pass, the Mountain Collective, the M.A.X. Pass, the Rocky Mountain Super Pass, but these were very region driven or meant for somebody who can take many ski vacations in one season, which is not a large number of people.  Really, if you were a skier/snowboarder in most places that are not the East Coast, your best choice was the Epic Pass from Vail Resorts.  Now, a new company, Alterra Mountain Company, has compiled a collection of major ski areas and released a pass that looks to rival the epic pass.  Alterra Mountain Company owns eleven ski resorts in five U.S. States and three Canadian Provinces.  They have also strategically partnered with fourteen other ski resorts across the country, including Jackson Hole, Deer Valley, and Aspen. The resorts Alterra Mountain Company owns/partnered with are:

  • California: Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows, Mammoth Mountain, June Mountain, Big Bear Mountain Resort
  • Colorado: Aspen Snowmass, Steamboat, Winter Park Resort, Copper Mountain Resort, Eldora Mountain Resort
  • Maine: Sugarloaf, Sunday River
  • Montana: Big Sky Resort
  • New Hampshire: Loon Mountain
  • Utah: Deer Valley Resort, Alta/Snowbird
  • Vermont: Stratton, Killington Resort, Sugarbush Resort
  • West Virginia: Snowshoe
  • Wyoming: Jackson Hole Mountain Resort
  • Alberta, Canada: Banff Sunshine, Lake Louise, Mt. Norquay (SkiBig3)
  • Ontario, Canada: Blue Mountain
  • Quebec, Canada: Tremblant
  • British Columbia, Canada: Revelstoke Mountain Resort, CMH Heli-Skiing & Summer Adventures

The new pass, the “Ikon Pass”, will feature two different price levels, the full Ikon Pass ($899) and the Ikon Base Pass ($599), as well as both a college and military discount ($719 – Full, $419 – Base for both discounts).  Both passes will also features different levels of access to this list of undeniably iconic resorts (no pun intended haha).  The full Ikon Pass will allow you the following access:

  • Unlimited: Steamboat, CO, Winter Park Resort, CO, Copper Mountain Resort, CO, Eldora Mountain Resort, CO, Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows, CA, Mammoth Mountain, CA, June Mountain, CA, Big Bear Mountain Resort, CA, Stratton, VT, Snowshoe, WV, Tremblant, QC, Blue Mountain, ON
  • Seven (7) Days at Each: Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, WY, Big Sky Resort, MT, Killington Resort, VT, Sugarbush Resort, VT, Revelstoke Mountain Resort, BC, Deer Valley Resort, UT
  • Seven (7) Days Combined: Aspen, CO, Alta/Snowbird, UT, Loon Mountain, NH, Sugarloaf, ME, Sunday River, ME, SkiBig3: Banff Sunshine, Lake Louise, Mt. Norquay, AB

The Ikon Base Pass is much more regionally based, has blackout dates, and drops the seven days to five days, but is still a great deal if you call one of the unlimited access ski areas your home mountain:

  • Unlimited: Winter Park Resort, CO, Copper Mountain Resort, CO, Eldora Mountain Resort, CO, Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows, CA, June Mountain, CA, Big Bear Mountain Resort, CA, Snowshoe, WV, Tremblant, QC, Blue Mountain, ON
  • Five (5) Days at Each: Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, WY, Big Sky Resort, MT, Killington Resort, VT, Sugarbush Resort, VT, Stratton, VT, Revelstoke Mountain Resort, BC, Deer Valley Resort, UT, Steamboat, CO, Mammoth, CA
  • Five (5) Days Combined: Aspen, CO, Alta/Snowbird, UT, Loon Mountain, NH, Sugarloaf, ME, Sunday River, ME, SkiBig3: Banff Sunshine, Lake Louise, Mt. Norquay, AB

So, looking at these lists, the Ikon Pass could be somewhat of a gamechanger.  The major differences in the two levels of passes, in my opinion, are that Mammoth, Steamboat, and Stratton are not unlimited in the Ikon Base Pass.  For most people in these areas that buy season passes, this shouldn’t be much of a problem because the full Ikon Pass is a similar price to the Epic Pass and cheaper than most of these mountains single passes from previous years (i.e. Mammoth – $950, Steamboat – $1500, Squaw/Alpine – $1150).  If you live in these towns, you’re obviously riding at these mountains, because they are so isolated (not Squaw, but if you already rode Squaw when it was $1150, you’re definitely still riding Squaw when it’s now $900) and now you get a cheaper pass and multiple other mountain privileges.

Considering the ski areas on these lists, one region has now been practically completely wiped off of the Vail Resorts map: Southern California.  Because Alterra owns Squaw/Alpine, Mammoth/June, and Big Bear, people living in Southern California really have no choice but to buy the Ikon Pass.  The two main mountains for Southern Californians are Big Bear and Mammoth Mountain.  And on the off chance that anybody from SoCal wants to drive past Mammoth and all the way to Lake Tahoe, they can use their Ikon Pass at Squaw/Alpine.  Some key areas where it will be interesting to see what happens with season pass sales are the Bay Area in California, the Denver Area in Colorado, and the New England Area in the Northeast.  The Bay Area is usually split between people who go to Tahoe and people who go to Mammoth, but if word gets out that you can go ride in both locations on the same pass, it could possiby hurt Vail’s Epic Pass sales in the Bay.  People in Denver will obviously have a big decision to make, and that may just come down to whether or not you take ski vacations and where you like to ski/ride.  If you have been riding Vail mountains for years now, you may very likely continue to ride those mountains, but the Ikon Pass introduces an option for those who are sick of Vail Resorts or prefer the atmosphere at one of Alterra’s Colorado mountains.  Finally, the New England Area, to me, is still somewhat up for grabs.  If you’re a Stratton Mountain skier, then you will probably be thrilled, but the rest of the resorts in the East are only “partner resorts”.  This means, if you ride a lot, and you live in, say, Rutland, VT or Bethel, ME, you’re not going to buy an Ikon Pass because you only get 5-7 days at Killington and 5 or 7 COMBINED days at Sunday River (outside of Bethel), Sugarloaf, and Loon.  Alterra could see some pass sales in the Mid-Atlantic and in New York, however, but only to people who like to take ski trips to VT/ME/NH or to Canada for Tremblant.  And if you rode Stowe before Vail bought the mountain, when they were charging Adults $2000 for a season pass, you’re not even paying attention to the Ikon Pass, because you can now buy two season passes to Stowe with money left over and many other resorts at your disposal (granted they’re in other states), thanks to Vail Resorts.

Hopefully this little summary/op-ed has been helpful for everyone reading this.  I just wanted to tell you what has been happening and to give my thoughts on what has happened to maybe help some people understand the current climate (again, no pun intended) of the ski industry.  And maybe this will help a skier or two decide which pass they want to get for next season.  The Ikon Pass goes on sale in March 2018.

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Signal Snowboards: Signal 6 – The Best Way To Buy A New Board

Let me start this post by saying, I now own six snowboards, all from different manufacturers, and I have had great experiences both purchasing and using all of my boards, and with the customer service I have received from each of these companies.  Having said that, Signal Snowboards customer service has gone above and beyond what is normally expected.

Based out of Huntington Beach, California, Signal is a relatively small company that builds great snowboards.  They even had a show on their YouTube channel in which they built a bunch of unique snowboards (i.e. a full candy snowboard, a Lego snowboard, an all glass snowboard) called “Every Third Thursday”.  But I digress.  Since the addition of John Jackson, one of the best backcountry snowboarders around, to the Pro team, Signal has started to put out new progressive shapes and technologies.  One of the changes they made in the 2015-2016 season that has returned for the 16-17 season is their new Quad side cut, which was designed by and for John J.  This new side cut was designed with help from JJ and is supposed to help you hold an edge better while riding fast and traversing.  It does an excellent job all over the mountain and the few times I’ve been able to take it out have been incredible (review coming soon).  They also now have a board with a full carbon fiber layer in the core and a carbon fiber topsheet.  Like I said before, Signal builds some amazing snowboards and I think everyone, from park rats to powder hounds, should pick up one of their boards.  You will not be disappointed.

Now, you’re probably thinking “oh I can’t afford another snowboard for $500+ dollars” or “why buy a snowboard right before summer?”  Well, along with the new technologies Signal has been working with, they’ve also been developing snowboarding’s first ever subscription service called “Signal 6”.  This is how I came to own my first Signal board, the 15-16 John J Sierra Series.  This was a no-brainer for me.  I desperately wanted a new board, one that I could really charge on, but I didn’t have the money to buy a board in the $500 dollar price range.  I had been watching ETT for a while on YouTube and I had been becoming familiar with Signal and their program.  When John Jackson joined their team and they came out with his pro model, I knew I needed it (he’s one of my favorite riders/I knew the board would rip).  With Signal 6, I was able to get the board plus a TON of extra gear.

When you subscribe to Signal 6, you have two options: pay for the board outright, get 5 months of gift boxes, and receive your board as soon as it’s finished, or, you can pay $89.99 a month for 6 months, receive gift boxes each of the first 5 months, and get your board during the sixth month (you can also pay $44.99 a month for just the gift box or $99.99 a month for a board with a custom graphic).  This service is unreal.  The gift boxes are put together by the guys at the Signal factory and the riders on the Signal team, with the help of many different brands.  I was ecstatic with the gear I received in my boxes.  Each month I eagerly awaited the day I received my box, it was like I was a five year old on Christmas.  The board in total cost $540 dollars, which I would have paid in full if I had purchased virtually any similar board.  The gear I received inside the gift boxes easily tallied a few hundred dollars.  Just a few examples, I received an old school snurfer from Signal one month, another month my box contained a pair of Wu-Tang Clan x Celtek Collab mittens (easily one of my favorite pieces of gear), and another month I got a necklace from John and Eric Jackson’s new mountain-themed jewelry company (another favorite haha).  Those three items alone are over $200 dollars of extra gear, and there was way more in all of the boxes.  I honestly don’t know how it could get any better.  Lastly, I started my subscription over the summer, and I think that’s the best way to do it.  If you start in the summer, the gift boxes work as the perfect thing to keep you connected to winter and ready for the snow.  Plus, you end up getting your brand new board right as winter is starting and the resorts start to open up.

The day I got my brand new Signal Snowboard was surreal.  Knowing it was coming but not really knowing what to expect, the anticipation was crazy.  But as the months went on and the gear started to pile up, the stoke level ended up insanely high, and my first day on that board was amazing.  It held up to all of the hype and I could not have been any happier with the decision to buy it or how I bought it.  Like I said, if you’re thinking about a new board, give Signal a chance.  They’re driven by snowboarders, for snowboarders and aim to make everything exactly how you want it.  Scoop a board through Signal 6 and get a ton of extra gear and spread out payments so it’s easier to afford.  I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.

Here’s a few photos of some of the stuff I got while on Signal 6

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Mr. Fun Snurfer
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Snapback, Stance Socks, Beanie, Koozie, Bliss Mag
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Wu Tang Mittens, Signal Shirt, Jerky, Signal Sharpies, Stickers
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John Jackson Sierra Series w/ Nitro Team Bindings

Vail Resorts on the Front Line of Technological Innovation

Have you ever been heading to the mountain and wonder whether it was crowded or not?  Maybe you’re trying to get to the top after lunch the fastest way possible? Or maybe you’re just trying to pack as many runs into your day as you possibly can.  Well now you can always figure out the fastest way to your favorite terrain as Vail Resorts has just released EpicMix Time, a crowd-sourced phone app that posts estimated wait times for different chairlifts on a resort map.

Vail Resorts EpicMix Time

For the 2015-2016 season, Vail Resorts will have the app setup to cover Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, and Keystone, and they will be looking to expand the app to include more resorts for the 2016-2017 season.  The app uses a mix of WiFi and Bluetooth signals from your mobile phone to track and calculate up to the minute chairlift wait time estimates.  The app will cover 55 chairlifts/ Gondolas which service 13,600 acres of skiable terrain.  They say that once the app debuts in Colorado, they are looking to move it to many different resorts in the 2016-2017 season.  They are currently testing the app at Perisher Resort in Australia, who just recently became a member of Vail Resorts.

Striking in South America

While most of South America is gearing up for a monster snow storm that, at one point was predicted to bring 19 feet of snow (!!) to the Andes (Now it’s more like 90 inches), the people of Bariloche, Argentina and patrons of Cerro Catedral ski area are being left high and dry.  That’s right, because at Cerro Catedral, the lift operators have bound together to go on strike, blocking off access to the different lifts around the mountain.  But then the issue escalated when frustrated shop owners and instructors confronted the lift operators in what turned into a large fist fight.  The police had to be called to break up the brawl.  The lift operators are seeking a 30% wage increase to continue working.  Again, this comes at a majorly bad time with this massive snow storm moving through the Andes.  Skiers and Snowboarders may have to look elsewhere to get their fix of the white stuff.

Valle Nevado getting 19 feet of snow?!?!

With it being summer in North America, South America is enjoying a healthy dose of snow during their winter months.  Because of El Nino, South American resorts have been getting hit hard.  Earlier this week, Valle Nevado ski area, in Chile, was expecting 19 feet of fresh powder!  While this sounds outrageous, that was only a prediction.  The real number, however, is also very impressive, as they were now expecting 88 inches of snow this week, with 64 inches of that coming during Thursday, August 6th.  As morning broke on Valle Nevado, resort goers and staff awoke to find 20 inches already laying on the mountains around them.  There is no question that if you are in the northern hemisphere and can get to Chile, now is the time to do it because it is firing down there in the Andes.IMG_1452-300x225

*Morning at Valle Nevado Ski Area, Chile