- For mid-size ski areas, Vail Resorts ensures a lucrative future ♦
- 6 Passport Rules for Faster Renewal ♦
- Alterra Mountain Co., entrepreneur at odds over “Ikon” trademark ♦
- The 5 Most Livable Ski Towns in the USA ♦
June 8, 2018
by Sam Taggart
In Ludlow, Vermont, the news spread between locals like wildfire: Vail Resorts would be purchasing its hometown ski area, Okemo Mountain, along with three others, namely, Mount Sunapee, New Hampshire, Crested Butte Mountain Resort, Colorado and Stevens Pass, Washington, in another blockbuster deal worth over $150 million in transactions.
As expected, there was backlash; but it seemed cursory and repetitive—like, haven’t we heard these complaints before? Cynics took to the internet to make their voices heard: “The Evil Empire strikes again,” said one; “Goliath gobbles up another David,” commented another. But amidst the noise, there is a silver-lining—one that often goes unheard as the ramblings of pessimists stream over the airwaves and throughout the ski community. For mid-size ski areas, Vail resorts ensures a future.
“First of all, I think that a lot of people forget that Vail Resorts, although it’s a big company, is truly a ‘ski company.’ They started as a ski company and they’ve only ever done skiing,” said Erica Mueller, vice president of Crested Butte Mountain Resort.
Erica is part of the Mueller family, who privately owned and operated the aforementioned resorts over the past 35 years under the name Triple Peaks, LLC. In 1982, her parents, Tim and Diane, bought Okemo, just north of Chester, Vermont, where they lived and raised Erica and her brother, Ethan; in 1998, the Muellers acquired the first lease ever given by the State of New Hampshire to privately operate Mount Sunapee; additionally, in 2004, the family purchased Crested Butte Mountain Resort, which Erica and Ethan oversaw directly.
Pouring countless dollars, time, effort and a contagious passion for skiing into these resorts, the Muellers weren’t actively looking to sell in 2018, and the initial call from Vail wasn’t expected. Yet, once the conversation started, the acquisition by Vail seemed to be a decision that would ultimately protect the future of their relatively small resort holdings.
“We talked about it as a family. Not just looking in the short-term or what the weather was like this past season; it was really looking 10, 20, 30 years down the road and [asking] what can [Vail] do for our resorts, employees and communities,” said Mueller.
As Vail has absorbed resort after resort in blockbuster deals, including Stowe and Whistler Blackcomb, it’s now almost expected that it and other ski resort conglomerates, notably the Alterra Mountain Company, will continue making headlines in this fashion; the biggest concern for core skiers being that these monopolies will whitewash the ski experience. Erica Mueller believes this isn’t the case.
“From every conversation I’ve had, [Vail] intends to keep the soul of each ski area as it is,” said Mueller. “They don’t want to come in and homogenize everything; they realize the value that Okemo, Sunapee and Crested Butte bring to their portfolio of resorts. Keeping that is important to them.”
Inherently, Vail will establish a new corporate structure and operations practices as it begins its administrative oversight of ski areas like Okemo; it will also bring its seemingly bottomless pockets and the ability to fund improvement projects that were unattainable with the Muellers in charge. Depending on the perspective, these changes can merit excitement or concern.
Erica Mueller has faith in the new management. “The human resources side of things that [Vail] can bring, as far as more efficient operations, marketing strategies or leadership development for our team, it’s pretty phenomenal,” she said. “Employees will be more polished, more efficient and there will be more opportunities in general, at all three ski areas. They’ll [also] be able to bring financial resources; that’s one of the clear examples. The announcement [that Vail will spend] $35 million in improvements over the next two years… that’s incredible and each of those areas can benefit from it.”
For Shon Racicot, a lifetime resident of Ludlow and owner of The Boot Pro ski shop, there was some initial concern about the acquisition; yet he discounted it immediately. “Our locals who are employed at the mountain—will they be replaced by the upper management at Vail, and will decisions start to be made off-site?” he questioned rhetorically, only to continue, “I’m not sure that’s something so much to worry about, though, because Vail is a professional business and they realize what it takes to run a ski resort—and that’s the people.”
Eliza Greene runs the Homestyle Hostel and Main + Mountain Bar & Hotel, situated across the street from one another in downtown Ludlow, and her reaction to this news was entirely positive. “As a business owner, I’m super excited. It’s going to bring a lot of new tourism dollars [to Ludlow.] It will really open up avenues and ways to get new people here, who wouldn’t necessarily come to Okemo. It just seems like we’re changing with the times, keeping Okemo current. That’s exciting to me.”
For all of the negativity floating around, the finger-pointing and name-calling in the direction of Vail Resorts and its 31 mountain destinations, it seems most of it is unwarranted.
In the eyes of passionate skiers and businesspeople like the Muellers, the presence of Vail not only brings opportunity to towns like Ludlow, Crested Butte and Newbury, NH (the location of Sunapee), it ensures a future for these ski areas. For local business owners, Epic Pass holders are seen with wide-eyes as prospective clientele and potential returning customers. And, for all of us—the skiers who enjoy carving a path down a snowy hill—not much will change, and if things do, it’ll most likely be for the better.
Posted from FreeSkier
The post For mid-size ski areas, Vail Resorts ensures a lucrative future appeared first on Ski Federation.
Applying for or renewing a passport in a timely fashion might be easier said than done for a while thanks to a massive surge in applicants, but following some little-known passport rules might help.
“Fiscal year 2017 was record-setting for Passport Services,” Kevin Brosnahan, a spokesperson for the State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs, told me. The U.S. State Department is seeing a rise in passport renewal applications thanks to the 10-year anniversary of the 2007 law that first required passports for travel to Mexico and Canada (adult passports are only valid for a decade, after all). And as the State Department warns of longer-than-usual processing times, it’s important to make sure your application for passport renewal is following all the rules so it won’t take even longer.
Do you know how to take a valid passport photo, for example, and which documents to include with your forms? Plus, there’s one big change slated for this year that could take your entire renewal process online.
Passport Rules You Need to Know
To increase your chances of a quick and painless renewal (or first-time application), follow these six passport rules.
Know When to Apply
The first step to passport renewal is recognizing when you need it. Know when your passport expires, especially if you’re visiting a country that requires six months of passport validity for you to enter the country, like Brazil and Botswana. Unique passport rules also apply to people who might not look like their photo any more. The State Department says on its website that you’re responsible for the following changes to your appearance:
You may have to apply for a new passport if you have:
- Undergone significant facial surgery or trauma
- Added or removed numerous/large facial piercings or tattoos
- Undergone a significant amount of weight loss or gain
- Made a gender transition
Remove Those Glasses
These next two rules are for taking a valid passport photo, which can apparently be a somewhat difficult feat to accomplish. “Photos that do not meet our requirements are the number one reason applications are removed from standard processing,” Brosnahan told me. “We want to avoid delays as much as you do.”
The newest major change to passport rules is that glasses are no longer permitted in your photo. The rule took effect in November 2016, and of course also applies to sunglasses. Other passport rules for your photo include its size, lighting, and that the backdrop be white or off-white. Check all the rules for taking a valid passport photo here.
Smile, But Not Too Much
Yes, you can smile in your passport photo—just not too big. Passport rules for photos dictate that your face have “a neutral expression or a natural smile, with both eyes open.”
“Contrary to popular belief, we don’t have a rule against smiling!” Brosnahan says. “We’re just looking for a natural expression with both eyes open, with a full front view of the face, that realistically depicts the passport holder.”
Pay the New Fee
The State Department recently announced that some fees for passport processing are increasing by $10. According to Brosnahan, that includes “all first-time passport applicants, all kids under 16 (first time and renewals), and any adult that is renewing a passport that is over 15 years old. It does not affect anyone using the DS-82 form, which is a standard adult renewal and is done by mail.”
Renewing via mail will require a check or money order for the correct amount: Find the necessary fee amount according to your application type here.
Don’t Forget Your Supporting Documents
Some passport renewal applications require you to gather supporting documents, like citizenship evidence or a signed personal statement. The latter is required if you wear religious attire that could otherwise deem your passport photo invalid, and people unable to remove glasses or other items for medical reasons can submit a doctor’s note for an exception.
Passport renewal also requires applicants to mail in their old passport, but don’t worry—you’ll get it back with your new one.
Keep an Eye Out for Online Renewal
Anyone with internet access, rejoice: You might soon be able to apply for passport renewal without having to mail anything. Online passport renewal has been buzzed about for a while now, with a rumored soft release of mid-2018. Brosnahan tells me “online passport renewal is a planned update which will be released in the near future.”
Online passport renewal could be a game changer for the application backlog just in time for the Real I.D. changes that might soon require some people to fly with a passport domestically—see if your state ID is affected here.
More from SmarterTravel:
- Real ID Passport Awareness: Why You Should Apply for Passport Renewal Now
- Why Some People Might Not Be Able to Use Their License to Fly in 2018
- U.S. Passport Changes: What You Need to Know
- Passport Book vs. Passport Card: Which Do I Need?
Posted from Smarter Travel
Founder of Glenwood Springs-based Ride In Harmony Athletics recently sent a cease-and-desist notice to Alterra
By Rick Carroll, The Aspen Times
May 21, 2018
The Eldora Ski Area Alpen Chair on February 22, 2018. (Cliff Grassmick, Daily Camera)
The upcoming debut of the Ikon Pass from the newly created Alterra Mountain Co. is intended to spur competition with Vail Resorts’ Epic Pass, but it’s also shaken loose an entrepreneur who claims his intellectual-property rights have been violated.
Carbondale resident Cary Thompson, founder of Glenwood Springs-based Ride In Harmony Athletics, a ski and snowboard instruction program, recently sent a cease-and-desist notice to Alterra — which is co-owned by Henry Crown and Co., also owners of Aspen Skiing Co. — and its partners.
Thompson claims he holds the rights to the use of the word “icon” or any of its derivatives, such as “Ikon” being used by Alterra. Alterra, however, says it had the term “Ikon” federally trademarked in November.
According to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s online database, Alterra registered for the “Ikon” trademark on Nov. 3. It is considered a “live trademark,” according to the office, which means Alterra has filed the necessary documents to federally register “Ikon.”
“It’s been federally registered,” said David Perry, a former Skico executive and now president and chief operating officer of Alterra, last week. “There are no issues with it.”
Upon receiving Thompson’s cease-and-desist letter in April, Alterra responded with its own cease-and-desist letter to Thompson on May 11, Perry said.
“He has taken the liberty of sending this letter to a number of our partners about the Ikon trademark,” Perry said, noting that Alterra is now demanding that Thompson stop using “Ikon” and its derivatives through his business programming. Perry said Alterra would not have taken such measures had Thompson not sent the letters to Alterra and its partners.
Henry Crown and Co. and affiliates of KSL Capital Partners combined to acquire Intrawest, Mammoth Resorts and Deer Valley Resort in 2017. In January, the joint venture was named Alterra Mountain Co.; the following month the new company announced the roll out of the Ikon Pass, an $899 package providing unlimited access to 12 ski areas and up to seven days at 13 additional destinations. Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands, Snowmass and Buttermilk are included in the package.
Thompson said he believes Alterra should stop its use of “Ikon” because it is being used through his federally trademarked brand Ride the Snow in Harmony, as well as another one of his brands, What Animal Are You? He said he also filed for an “Ikon Pass” trademark in Colorado.
“We’ve used ‘icon’ in our online presentations since at least 2012. Our brands, and product are identified with icons, images that make lessons easy to recall,” Thompson said in an email responding to questions from The Aspen Times. “They are the underpinning of RIDE THE SNOW IN HARMONY®, and WHAT ANIMAL ARE YOU?® federally registered trademarks. The law requires that those have to be defended as well, so we’ve filed trademarks on IKON PASS in Colorado, using words available to the public where necessary to describe our product, to protect RIDE IN HARMONY?/WHAT ANIMAL ARE YOU?, its unique character, and grow the brand.”
Thompson once was a Skico employee and said he was fired from his instructor job because of his “innovative teaching methods.”
So far he had not hired an attorney but suggested he will.
“We’ll be crowdfunding legal fees, if necessary to keep our rights and presence in the industry intact,” Thompson said.
Perry played down the dispute.
“He’s doing what he’s doing for whatever reasons he’s chosen,” Perry said. “And we’ve just told him to stop.”
Posted from the Aspen Times
The post Alterra Mountain Co., entrepreneur at odds over “Ikon” trademark appeared first on Ski Federation.
SnowBrains | May 24, 2018
Earlier this month, we published:
Today, we’ll look at the other half. This is where you wanna move if you’re a ski bum.
Outside Magazine released what they are calling the 5 most livable ski towns in the USA. These are the easiest places to live as a local due to low home prices, low rent, high amounts of rental units available, and low cost of living.
It’s fun to watch as locals get priced into great ski towns.
These ski towns are ready for you to move in right now.
The 5 Most Livable Ski Towns in the USA:
according to Outside Magazine
Median age: 29
Median home sale price: $122,800
Median household income: $71,500
Average rental price: $758
Cost of living: 12.8 percent lower than U.S. average
South Lake Tahoe, CA
South Lake Tahoe, CA.
Median age: 39
Median home sale price: $313,929
Median household income: $36,311
Average rental price: $841
Median age: 45
Median home sale price: $251,838
Median household income: $33,913
Average rental price: $892
Median age: 33
Median home sale price: $368,590
Median household income: $55,014
Average rental price: $1,068
Median age: 48
Median home sale price: $211,352
Median household income: $35,780
Average rental price: $683
Posted from Snow Brains
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