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Ski Resort Life

The Little Guy Strikes Back

In the wake of this summer’s ski resort buying spree, two small resorts capitalize on their rough edges and rebellious spirits to challenge the big players.

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Known for its expert terrain, Silverton Mountain of southwestern Colorado proudly sports a logo loudly reminiscent of a warning sign with a skier tumbling down a cliff. No matter what the rest of the industry does, they’ve always preferred to keep the mountain “all thrills, no frills.” The ski area boasts zero groomers and only a single chairlift, which does admittedly provide great access to powder and unmarked runs with zero crowds.

But lately, this paradise has begun to feel threatened. “The Vail Resorts/KSL model has effectively devalued lift tickets,” the ski area writes in a blog post. “Many people scoff at paying for skiing at window rates when their Epic Pass covers so many areas.”

silverton mountain got balls sticker
Looking at you, Epic Passholder.Courtesy of Silverton Mountain

To counter this, Silverton recently revamped its 2017-18 season passes to add up to 36 free days of skiing at collaborating resorts known for being small and independent, including new partners Mission Ridge in Washington, Monarch Mountain in Colorado, Sundance Mountain Resort in Utah, and Eaglecrest Ski Area in Alaska.

“We are thrilled to announce this new reciprocal season pass program with some of the best independent ski area operators in the country,” said Aaron Brill, CEO of Silverton Mountain. For a ski pass that includes upwards of 36 days of skiing for less than the price of a day ticket at Vail, calling it the best deal in skiing may not be too much of an exaggeration.

Canada Fights the Man

Meanwhile in southern British Columbia, Red Mountain Resort is encouraging North Americans to be a part of history by “becoming an owner of Red” as part of an initiative ruggedly entitled, “Fight The Man. Own The Mountain.”

In a similar vein to Silverton Mountain, Red is attempting to rewrite the playbook for small ski areas to stay independent as many larger ski areas are being gobbled up by massive corporations. Red’s initiative flips KSL and Vail Resort’s game plan on its head by selling the ski area to individuals through equity crowdfunding.

At the project’s core is Red’s FrontFundr campaign, representing a “chance to actually be an owner of an extraordinary mountain that many consider a true sanctuary in a complex world. This is the investment opportunity of a lifetime — and it’s not just an opportunity for the 1-Percent,” as Red’s website puts it.

Within 24 hours of the campain going live in Canada, $508,000 worth of investments broke the country’s previous crowdfunding record by 20%.

The Red Mountain FrontFundr campaign will launch in the USA this November, and will continue as a crowdfunding hockey game between the two countries once it’s up and running, according to Red Mountain CEO Howard Katkov.

With the ski industry headlines dominated by corporate acquisitions (SKI being guilty) it may seem like the fate of the ski industry hangs upon the whims of the giants. Luckily, skiers can still vote with their dollars. As for whether the votes will be for covered escalators to the lift lines, or for what Red Mountain calls “a mom ‘n’ pop/weird uncle feel,” time will tell.

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