By: Jackson Hogen
Published: May 2, 2017
We live in turbulent times.
While it’s silly to compare the tribulations of the ski trade to the powerful tides currently transforming the world at large, 2017 has already proven to be a year of seismic change in our little corner of it.
Nothing matters more to skiers than the mountains where they most frequently ski. A bond exists between man and mountain that borders on the mystical, which is why skiers are such passionate watchdogs of how “their” resorts are operated. Season passes don’t turn skiers into stockholders, but the effect on their sense of ownership is much the same, only deeper. The skier/mountain connection resides in the soul, not in the wallet, and is therefore far more powerful.
If the transition from family ownership to corporate ownership of ski resorts over the past 25 years has taught skiers anything, it’s that who owns the joint has everything to do with how it operates. Now that the Aspen Ski Corp has teamed with KSL to acquire a handful of Intrawest resorts and Mammoth, there are two well-managed, amply capitalized behemoths (they other, of course, is Vail Resorts) vying for world supremacy. We can only hope that the toe-to-toe competition between these heavyweights will yield a bounty of consumer-directed appeals with the net effect of making skiing more affordable.
In the equipment supplier sector, the biggest news of 2018 so far has been an event that hasn’t happened. When Newell Brands acquired Jarden, the sale perforce included K2, Line, Full Tilt, Volkl, Marker and Dalbello, venerable ski brands all, which the new CEO proceeded to declare were disposable detritus so inconsequential that if they didn’t sell as a bundle, and soon, Newell would simply shutter them.
That hasn’t happened, but these iconic brands are still on the block. They are also still busy making and marketing skis, boots and bindings as if the sword of Damocles that dangles above them was suspended by carbon cable instead of thread. While all involved are soldiering bravely onward, one can’t help but wonder about their fate.
The silver lining to this particular cloud is the likelihood that the next owners will come from within the ski industry, as it would seem that most consumer goods conglomerates, like Newell, don’t see the point in owning a ski brand. Having proprietors who understand that owning a legacy ski brand requires a sense of stewardship can only help these cornerstone companies.
Oh, and Armada was absorbed into Amer, whose Atomic facilities had been building core models in the Armada line practically since the brand’s inception, demonstrating that path from garage brand to mainstream status can be a rocky one.
And in the itsy-bitsy microcosm of what passes for ski journalism, both in print and online, the casualty count continues to mount. First came the announcement in January that SKIING, a publication that had endured for over 50 years, would print no more. During the same time frame, onthesnow.com decided to discontinue its annual ski test, although it will continue to publish without this feature. Then Epicski.com, comprised of enough threads to re-carpet the White House, revealed that its days were numbered; Epic is scheduled to expire May 12.
Evidence of Jackson’s tireless labors this past season on behalf of his readers.
Despite the carnage that surrounds us, you’ll be relieved to know, Dear Reader, that Realskiers.com will not only continue on, but will invest time and energy in instituting several key initiatives for 2018:
Because site improvements entail going off line for short periods, please be patient if you can’t access the site 24/7 during the summer months.
Realskiers.com remains dedicated to providing the best, most comprehensive coverage of the ski market. I’ll spend the next few weeks analyzing hundreds of lines of ski test data and composing some 200 ski reviews. Realizing these ambitions plans will command my full attention, so you’ll have to live without your weekly Revelation for a while.
Meanwhile, ski season in this part of the world is far from over. I was just at Mammoth putting 16 Powder skis through their paces, a fascinating exercise that will be part of Realskiers’ coverage next fall. Next on the docket is an on-snow examination of a couple of 2019 prototypes, keeping me au courant with the cutting edge of ski technology.
Expect to hear from me again on Labor Day or thereabouts. Until then, please accept my deepest gratitude for your continued support, without which Realskiers.com would not be possible.