Category Archives: Outdoor News

Salomon Opens First US Flagship Store in Utah


Salomon in Salt Lake


This Saturday get your active self down to the Grand Opening Celebration for Salomon‘s first-ever retail store in the US. The flagship debuts at the City Creek Center where you’ll be able to talk with Salomon product experts, eat a little chow, listen to music and win prizes including outdoor gear and an opportunity to trail run with a member of Salomon’s pro running team. WHo doesn’t love free stuff?


Says Tim Wakaruk, Director of Retail Operations for ASWO.  “It’s just time to thank our customers, industry friends, retail neighbors and the community as a whole with a fun party at the store.”


You won’t find skis or boots at The Salomon Store; just apparel, footwear and other softgoods. The company wanted to keep authorized outdoor retailers happy. The party starts at noon, June 2, and runs till 5 p.m. at 50 South Main Street, East Block, Level 2.

Snowbird Gets a Lift ..Or Two

Little Cloud Bowl Photo courtesy Mark Kowalski.

World-Renowned Snowbird Resort in Utah is getting in the game. Starting this summer, The Bird will yank out the Little Cloud chair and replace it with a high-speed quad. The Gad 2 lift will suffer the same fate in 2013. The public has spoken and resort ops finally listened so expect some major uphill changes over the next few seasons. “These improvements focus on improving the guest experience,” said Bob Bonar in a recent press release. “The number one complaint that comes up year after year is the lifts,” explained one resort employee. “They’re slow. People like skiing here but they say they won’t come back because they don’t want to stand in a tram line or ride a slow chair. They want high-speed lifts.”

The Bird has sat on the sidelines for years watching Utah’s other major resorts meet the expectations of today’s riders. The last major on-hill improvement and- boy was it ever- occurred in summer 2005 when they blasted a tunnel from Peruvian Express into Mineral Basin and instantly relieved the pressure on the Tram. But since then every other ski area has added extensive snowmaking, better food services, six-pack and quad lifts, RFID ticket scanning, and enhanced grooming, while Snowbird watched and waited.

Photo by Ryan Freitas

But now, in the wake of a dismissal ski season that not only left season passholders scratching their heads but resort accountants scratching the bottom of the barrel, probably no other resort felt the strain more than Snowbird. They had a base that barely surpassed 100″ and a total snowfall that was about half of the historical average. With scant intermediate terrain, relatively little grooming and snowmaking, and nothing much to do when you weren’t skiing, they suffered. That will all change when the resort adds a snowmaking pump in Peruvian Gulch to blanket Peruvian, Mineral and Gad Valley, and begins to expand its intermediate offerings primarily located on the western side – i.e. Little Cloud and Gad 2.

Park City Mountain Resort’s snowmaking rivals Deer Valley’s

Not Everyone is Psyched

Powderhounds, however, are groaning a tad. Locals jam over to Gad 2 while the congestion at the tram stymies traffic on a white room day. The slow, cold progress was enough to keep most everyone else away. Now with two high speed lifts on that side, the crowds can spread out and become more manageable. Not to mention with quads come “singles lines” and more instant access to the goods. “Snowbird already gets tracked out insanely quickly after a storm, so doubling the capacity up Gad2 and LC makes me think that the Upper Gad Valley area will soon be like Mineral Basin,” said one web commentator. “That place looks like it was attacked by powder locusts like eight minutes after the rope drops.”

Could the Tram line possibly look like this on a powder weekend?

The resort promises not to run the new Gad 2 quad at full speed to “minimize overcrowding on the terrain accessed on the west side of the resort.” They will also modify runs in the area while work is being done in the summer 2013; meaning more friendly terrain for lower-level riders. Doppelmayr, a European company with its North American headquarters in Salt Lake City, will manufacture both quads. It wasn’t a two-for-one deal but definitely a better bargain than buying one lift at a time.

Look to this summer to collect a piece of history (Little Cloud was installed in 1980). Snowbird plans to sell off the original double chairs with proceeds benefiting Wasatch Adaptive Sports (WAS). The non-profit hosts recreational programs for people of all ages with special needs.

Side NoteIt will be interesting to see what Alta does with their resort over the next few years. The Little Cottonwood neighbor replaced the Collins double with a high-speed lift in 2004/2005 (one year before the Peruvian Tunnel) and instantly drew skiing fans away from the Tram line. Some argued that Snowbird opened the Peruvian Tunnel to compete with Alta. Looks like it’s Alta’s move next.

Utah’s Official Sport

We’ve got an official gun, an official dessert, an official grass, an official cooking vessel, an official vegetable, so why not an official winter sport? “I thought we already had one,” said Nathan Rafferty, president of SkiUtah during the annual Ski Utah Local Media Day. Right. It’s hard for the skiers and boarders in this state to imagine that we don’t. After all, what else is there to do in the winter but ride?

Last week, Governor Herbert signed a bill that made it ‘official’. From now on Utah’s state winter sport is ski and snowboarding, according to House Bill 201.

The proclamation was made in front of Utah’s ski writers and broadcasters at Solitude Ski Resort, Friday, April 6.

It’s not like we really need to have a law in place to know what 25 percent of the state knows. There’s not much else you can do from December to April. Plus, the ski industry brings in $1.173 billion dollars to the state, 20 thousand jobs and a healthy lifestyle. What the bill says is that finally our state legislature sees the value in outdoor recreation and tourism. They’ve even coughed up an extra $2 million over last year for the Utah Office of Tourism budget.

The ski season may not have been all that but it was definitely a banner year for it in the legislature. HB201 is the second recreation bill passed. The first was a resolution for interconnecting the seven resorts in the Wasatch. Park City Mountain Resort, Canyons, Deer Valley, Brighton, Solitude, Alta and Snowbird are primed for a European-style experience.

After Gov. Herbert signed the bill, Park City Mountain Resort’s Jenni Smith took the podium for another official announcement – an exploratory committee has been appointed to study the possibility of hosting the 2022 Olympic Games.

The committee will submit a report to the Governor in the next 60 days. After that, he and Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker would decide whether to present a bid to the Olympic Organizing Committee (IOC). If we do, we’ll be competing with Denver, Reno/Tahoe and possibly Bozeman, Mont., for 2022. “The question isn’t “why?” but “why not?” said Smith.

The former 2002 venues are still active, they meet the stated IOC criteria of sustainability, carbon neutral and compact and would require little money for upgrades. Judging from past freestyle comps, Canyons would have no trouble hosting the newly added skier and boarder cross events. We did it before and we can do it again seems to be the local consensus. “Maybe I’m bragging but we really had a successful Games,” said Smith. A decision on 2022 wouldn’t come until 2015 so there’s plenty of time plan. Of course, it just makes sense that the state with the official sport of skiing and riding should be the one to host the Winter Olympics, don’t you think?

To follow the progress and minutes of the committee go to the Exploratory Committee on the Utah Sports Commission website.

Canyons v. Park City Mountain Resort

It would be a dereliction of my duties as a ski writer and voice of reason not to write, comment and add my two cents regarding the bombshell PCMR dropped on our cozy little Park City community last Friday. You can read the nuts and bolts all over the web- Here and Here and Here and Here and well, Everywhere. I spoke with peeps from both sides and though they’re hinting, they’re hiding behind the phrase “we’re not authorized to talk because of the ongoing litigation.”

I have my own theories. One involves water rights. Talisker purchased the majority holdings of United Park City Mines in a complex merger and acquisition transaction in 2003 and became the principal owner of UPCM. Talisker Mountain Corp (owned by Canada’s Talisker Corporation) also owns Tuhaye, a high-end golf course community southeast of the Jordanelle Reservoir, Empire Pass and Red Cloud developments on Deer Valley’s slopes, Canyons Resort (the whole resort), The Waldorf Astoria Hotel, Talisker on Main restaurant, Bistro restaurant at the Silverado Lodge and a significant portion of PCMR’s 3300 acres. Water’s always a good reason to fight; especially when you need it. This dry season put a terrible strain on resources for snowmaking.

Another thought is that when the lease came due, Talisker saw it as an opportunity to ‘adjust’ the tab on PCMR. The lease was up March 1, 2011, and PCMR didn’t provide written confirmation that they wanted to extend the lease to 2031 until April 30, 2011. Whoops. Written notice aside, however, Canyons cashed the rent check and allowed PCMR to put $7 mill in renovations back into the resort. Some would argue that’s constructive consent to the lease. As a landlord, if I want to raise my tenant’s rent when the lease is up, I don’t take and cash a check for the former amount. I hand it back with a note saying that rent’s gone up.

Perhaps the amount PCMR has been paying on their lease was well below market value? I don’t know how much UPCM was charging the resort for the surface rights to the slopes but I’d have to wager it was a steal considering they’ve been extending the lease since 1963. But PCMR is a worldly smart corporation. They know the value of the land, the operation and their employees and you can only ride a good deal for so long until the new leasors want to bring you up to speed.

But if, as Canyons says, they have made a fair proposal and if, as PCMR says, they have tried to be ‘more than fair’ on their side, then why wouldn’t the two be able to reach an agreement that makes sense? No one wants to see Park City’s anchor resort sit dormant for 2012-2013. Not even Canyons. “It doesn’t make sense to anybody,” said Canyons’ Steve Pastorino. “PCMR’s success is critical to all of our success.”

Fair market value offer?

Is Canyons trying to squeeze PCMR for more than fair market? Both sides that I spoke with say they “have no idea” what the other side wants. Canyons was surprised PCMR filed a lawsuit and PCMR is surprised they’re surprised. “Maybe they felt like they were stuck,” surmised Pastorino. “But it’s kind of odd. For the last three months, we’ve been talking about how well we (the resorts) cooperate but this flies in the face of that.” (He’s referring to SkiLink and efforts to connect Utah’s seven resorts.)

PCMR controls their water rights, the parking lots and the base area. So what could or would Talisker do with the muffin top if they couldn’t have the whole muffin? So far no one’s talking- to me or to each other. So it makes sense to file a lawsuit to force Canyons to say exactly what they’re after and to find out where you stand but why would PCMR go so public? Most of the time lawsuits fly well under anyone’s radar. This one might have as well. But perhaps PCMR’s throw the first punch strategy is working. They are even posting these ‘what Park City means to me’ video vignettes on YouTube. Talisker is now looking like the Big Bad Wolf in all of this. Someone even tweeted me- “What’s next? Deer Valisker?”

Truthfully, I’m in the dark like everyone else and I don’t have much more to go on than the statements the resorts have released to the public. It seems crazy that two hometown resorts are duking it out like this. I’m sure someone can point to a similar sitch in history somewhere else – Aspen? Tahoe? Winter Park?- but I can’t.

I’m waiting to hear when the date’s been set for that court hearing. It should be mighty interesting.

Another Print Pub Bites The Dust

Got this letter this morning. Sigh.

To all our friends and advertisers:

Due to Frontier Airlines’ escalating fuel costs and the terms of our publishing agreement, the costs to distribute the Wild Blue Yonder magazine going forward is unsustainable. Therefore, this announcement is the official notice that effective December 31, 2011 we will cease publishing the Wild Blue Yonder magazine for Frontier Airlines. We are very sorry for any inconvenience this may cause you.

Thank you all for your business and well wishes over the years, as this was a labor of love for all involved.

All the best.


David A. Henry


It’s not that the number of media outlets is shrinking faster than a dude’s yahoo in a cold swimming pool but the number of talented, available newly crowned freelance writers is flooding the market. Damn. More competition. I hate competition because I’m super competitive. Thanks, Dad. Luckily the ski season is here and I start my ski instructor’s gig at Canyons this week. It’s only a scheduled 15 days but I can always work more if I want (and if there’s snow and if there’s business). Then there’s that plan to be a big movie star and mediator. Goals are good.

Sorry to hear you’ll be out of a job, Mr. Henry, and that we didn’t have a chance to work together at Wild Blue Yonder; but trust me when I say you’ll land on your feet in an even better situation. Working for yourself rocks. And there’s always the resort industry. 🙂

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