PHOTO: The ticket office at Montana’s Beartooth Basin, site of the first annual Summer Shredfest.
In April alone, 26 ski areas came under the ownership of two companies. As skiing continues to be owned and defined by corporate giants Vail, and, now, its emerging rival, Aspen/KSL, skiing’s unique identity, not to mention its growth, is increasingly in jeopardy.
But small ski areas are mobilizing, too. In June, the Mountain Rider’s Alliance, a nonprofit that supports mountain playgrounds, will host the first annual Summer Shredfest, a small ski area symposium, at Montana’s Beartooth Basin, a summer ski area with 700 vertical feet and two Pomas.
"Competition just became way more heated. Now more than ever, community and independent ski areas are at risk," says Jamie Schectman, the CEO and founder of the MRA. “We know the ski industry is flat. Participation is stagnant, and these mega-resorts consolidating puts the pressure on the smaller guys even more. When a Walmart moves to town, it squeezes the ma and pops out.”
The event kicks off on June 16 with a SheJumps "Get the Girls Out" ski day at Beartooth, where capes and tutus are highly encouraged. The symposium continues that evening with a showing of Last Tracks, a short documentary showcasing the demise of local ski hills, followed by a keynote speech from Jon Reveal, a former COO of Aspen and the Yellowstone Club and the current general manager of Wyoming's Sleeping Giant Ski Area. Following Reveal, Schectman will host a panel discussion that includes POWDER Editor-at-Large Matt Hansen.
On Saturday, Summer Shredfest will include a 2-star Freeride World Qualifier event, and on Sunday a USSMA randonee race. The event’s primary purpose, though, is to bring awareness to community ski areas, which introduce new skiers to the sport and are often drivers of small, rural economies.
Schectman says Summer Shredfest is designed to showcase that little ski areas still rock. “It's time for small ski areas to get together and have a celebration,” he says.
POWDER is a proud sponsor of Summer Shredfest. For more information, go here.