By Allen Best
BROOMFIELD, Colo. – Vail Resorts is stepping up its commitment to introduce skiing and snowboarding to ethnic minorities at its four ski areas in Colorado. But numbers issued by one of the ski industry’s loyal critics points out that Vail lags Aspen and several other resorts in commitment, if commitment is measured by pure numbers.
For the last several years Vail Resorts has provided scholarships to local youngsters and also those in the urban Front Range corridor, altogether 2,500 “scholarship days.” This year, it is upping it to 3,000. In most cases, the company is providing not only free lift tickets, but also lessons and other items necessary to complete the ski experience.
Vail also announced it would administer its program in-house. The scholarships were previously administered by a Denver-based group called Alpino, the creation of Roberto Moreno, a former ski instructor. The company, in a press release, did not explain the reason for the move.
Moreno then issued a press release announcing that it would continue its relationships with Eldora, Loveland and Echo Mountain ski areas, and that each would contribute 1,000 scholarship days. Furthermore, he noted, the Aspen Skiing Co. has been a “leader in promoting ethnic diversity on the slopes, making available more than 9,200 visits at Aspen’s four areas to underserved youth in the Roaring Fork Valley last year.”
Moreno has been critical of ski areas, whose customers remain mostly white. And while skiing itself is no longer strictly expensive in Colorado, because of low-cost ski passes, he contends that skiing constitutes something of a country club type use of public lands.
He further points out that the ski industry has essentially plateaued in user days even as the general population has been growing vigorously. To grow proportionate to the general population, he says, the industry must more aggressively reach out to minorities, particularly Hispanics. Part of that strategy is to install Hispanics and blacks in front-line positions, to make the skiing experience less intimidating to novice customers.
Mammoth targets 2 million skier days
MAMMOTH LAKES, Calif. – Back in the day — gulp, was it really 35 years ago? — Mammoth Mountain led the nation in skier days. Then Vail surged, Mammoth slipped a few notches, and that’s been the story pretty much ever since. Vail has been No. 1, Breckenridge No. 2, and somewhere down the list was Mammoth.
But in the last several years Mammoth has been surging again. It has been aggressively reaching out for mid-week business, and the efforts are starting to show. While Vail has held more-or-less steady at about 1.6 million skiers, Mammoth is now at 1.5 million skier days — and hopes to hit 2 million skier days annually, the ski area’s marketing director, Lynn Carpenter, told The Sheet.