What this is: This is the first in a series of conversations exploring the ski industry fallout from the COVID-19-forced closure of nearly every ski area on the continent in March 2020. This is not a typical Storm Skiing Podcast, and the format, tone, and focus is intentionally different from those lengthier shows. My goal is to help the skiing community understand why the shutdown was necessary and what it means to our sport in the short and long term.
Who: Chris Diamond, author of Ski Inc. and Ski Inc. 2020, former president of Mount Snow, former head of Steamboat, past director and chairman of Colorado Ski Country USA and the National Ski Areas Association, member of the Colorado Ski Hall of Fame
Why I interviewed him: Diamond’s two books, Ski Inc. and Ski Inc. 2020, positioned him as one of the top experts on the modern North American skiing industry. When examining the fallout from chopping a month of more off the end of the ski season, I think it’s valuable to get a perspective that examines the industry as a whole and does so through a long-term lens. No one was better positioned to do that than Diamond, and he was fortunately available for a conversation.
What we talked about: The atmosphere in Steamboat since the COVID-19 shutdown; how locals are adapting; the new uphill skinning restrictions in Colorado; current industry sentiment; how much it hurts a ski area financially to lose half of March; how much April matters; how fortunate we were that the pandemic didn’t hit a month or two earlier; why this is different from having to close early in a crummy snow year; why season pass sales may be OK; how the industry may respond to keep pass sales at least flat in a tough economic environment; how the COVID shutdown compares to other existential threats to skiing like climate change and attracting more diverse skiers; why this is the most severe shock that the modern ski industry has ever faced; what might happen if next season is cancelled; why there’s still reason for optimism
What I got wrong: I identified Arapahoe Basin Chief Operating Officer Alan Henceroth as Arapahoe Basin “CMO” Alan “Henceforth.” I regret the error. I also stated that economic data revealed “3 million” new unemployment claims in the United States this week, smashing the previous record of “655,000” in 1982. The correct numbers are 3.3 million new claims this week, beating 1982’s record of 695,000.
Why it sounds like I recorded this on a playground: Because I, like everyone else fortunate enough to have a job that enables them to work remotely, have ported my office into my home at the same moment all children have been untethered from school. My 11-year-old has remote classes to preoccupy her, but the 3-year-old does not, and so he is likely joining the podcast as a background singer for the foreseeable future.
Recorded on: March 26, 2020
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