Today’s ski day at Breckenridge – my hometown mega-resort – was a timely reminder of one of the main reasons we decided to launch this new business. As far as it’s position in the ski season calendar goes, today is a fairly non-descript Saturday in late February. It’s after Presidents weekend but well before Spring Break. No special events, festivals or parades. It’s not the slowest part of the winter but it’s nowhere near peak season. Courtesy of gracious babysitting offer from a neighbor, my wife and I had carved out a few precious hours to fit a quick “sanity ski” into what has been an insanely busy few months.
As we approached the upload Gondola, our jaws nearly hit the heated paving stones beneath our boots. The line stretched, 10 wide, a good 250 yards all the way across the plaza to Watson Avenue. The prospect of a 20-30 minute wait instantly cut a sizable chunk out of our 3 hour ski window. The bad news was this lift doesn’t even get you to the skiing – just the base of the mountain! That’s me in the blue jacket holding the skis & board. I’m contemplating either brazenly cutting in line whilst looking confused and muttering absurdities from a selection of European languages or heading home for eggs and bacon.
Instead we queued politely, made the best of it and were happy to fit in 4 runs before we (somewhat tardily) scuttled back down into town to collect our handsome boy. We shouldn’t complain. It was really nice to be on the mountain, skiing & riding nice soft snow in the sunshine. There aren’t many folks that have the option to do that on any given Saturday.
But it did occur to me that we might not feel quite so philosophical if we’d just dropped 10 G’s on a “dream” family ski vacation. That’s a lot of money to spend standing in line and dedicating most of the day trying to find a quieter, secret part of the mountain that simply doesn’t exist. The line at the chair to peak 6, usually a haven of relative calm, stretched back to peak 7.
In the past two weeks alone, I’ve heard locals, second home owners and visitors alike all mutter some variation of “Breck is just getting too busy these days. I’m thinking about starting to ski somewhere else”. There hasn’t been a slow week here this winter. The babysitting neighbor (and Vail Resorts employee) commented that practically every day this winter had set a skier visitation record. A fellow gondola rider dropped the figure of 27,000 skiers clustered on the ten mile range each day over Presidents Weekend. He was polishing off a can of Keystone Light at 9.30am so we’ll take that estimate with a grain of salt, but you get the picture.
Don’t get me wrong, i don’t dislike Breckenridge. It’s been my home town for 15 years and I love it here. It’s got a good ski area, an amazing town and an incredible community. I get why people come here on vacation. I understand that it has a lot to offer and will always be one of the most popular ski destinations in the US. My point is more that there are some downsides to the success that Breckenridge enjoys and there are other types of destinations out there that deserve more attention than they are currently getting.
I contrast this morning’s crowded snapshot to the experiences my wife, colleagues, friends and I have intentionally pursued so far this winter. 3 1/2 months (and counting) on the roads of Colorado, seeking out the other side of the skiing and snowboarding experience. We’ve been on a quest to set up vacation package options at the smaller (in size, not scope!), independently owned, “local” resorts. The resorts that are off the beaten track. Not necessarily geographically, but definitely as far as the skiing and riding public’s collective radar is concerned. They’re known as “gems” and rightly so, because they provide a richness of experience that in my opinion can sometimes be lacking at the corporate mega resorts.
This winters trips to Colorado ski country’s unusual suspects have continued to exceed expectations. Two feet of (almost) untracked snow on signed trails two days after a storm. Previously untravelled and inexplicably spectacular mountain highways. Down home hospitality and vibrant, interesting, unusual and engaging conversation with locals everywhere we’ve been. We’ve stumbled into accommodations that have more personality in their lobbies than all of Summit County’s “Grand Lodges” combined. Places that have thoughtful, unique touches that we’d never seen before and can’t help but make you smile. Hot tubs for two on every balcony or front desk staff personally showing you to your room at check in, patiently and helpfully answering any question your “new to town” brain can think of. Most importantly, we haven’t stood in a line yet. Not at the ski area nor in the restaurants. We rocked up at Monarch Ski Area on MLK weekend and parked exactly 37 steps from the base lodge. In five minutes taking in the view from the base lodge deck, precisely 2 skiers snaked their way back into the deserted and entirely unnecessary maze at the base of the main lift.
They say when you start a business, you should focus on removing what the market sees as a blatant admitted pain. We hear the comments about premium resort skiing being overpriced, overcrowded and unoriginal as three pretty sharp and substantial sources of pain. So our plan is to prescribe the relief – affordable, crowd free and unique ski vacation options.
This weekend, our website www.skiwhitediamond.com goes live. We’re in the business of selling exactly the types of experiences i’ve just described. We’re starting by featuring Ski & Stay Packages along with a selection of extras at 14 accommodations across 5 resorts. It’s a modest choice to begin with but in that mix we’ve got:
- The ultimate family or beginner resort – Ski Granby Ranch
- The ultimate expert resort – Silverton Mountain
- Three other “all-rounder” resorts that check boxes for all levels of skiers and riders – Monarch, Eldora & Purgatory
- A complete range of accommodations from homey B&B’s to cozy log cabins to registered historic hotels!
By the end of this season we’ll be adding another 7 resorts – 1 or 2 per week. We’ll be adding to our lodging choices at our existing resorts and providing more equipment rental and ski school lesson options. We’ll also provide airport shuttle, rental car and trip insurance offerings. Sign up for our Newsletter below and we’ll keep you posted on our progress.
Colorado is our home state base camp but it’s just the start. We plan to take this concept across the American west. If there’s a cool, funky, understated & probably underrated ski area out there, we plan to feature it. Untapped diamonds in the ski industry rough in California, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Wyoming, Oregon, Montana, Washington and Idaho are all in the crosshairs! From there, it’s a short hop across the border into the winter bounty of the British Columbia interior…
Sitting for hours in endless I70 traffic, standing in line to fight over leftover scraps of last night’s snow and remortgaging your house to pay for the privilege isn’t my idea of a dream vacation. If you happen to agree, do yourself a favor and check out the trips we have to offer on our site. You might just have a blast skiing something a little different this winter!