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Hot Sheet: more retail, Ashland expansion, + ski team and people news

Hot news from around the wintersports industry, including smoking cash registers at outdoor retail, Ashland's expansion, a couple fond farewells, and a bunch of new Ski Team scoops.

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After the record year at snowsports retail officially closed with $3.3 billion in sales, the outdoor market continues to see momentum at the cash register. Leisure Trends Preliminary Outdoor RetailTRAK data reports April was another positive selling month for outdoor retailers with dollar sales up 8 percent over April 2010. Outdoor specialty store sales increased a healthy 6 percent, outdoor chains jumped 9 percent and outdoor online retail sales picked up 8 percent as well.

Even with gasoline pushing $4 a gallon, it was a record-breaking month. April retail sales for both specialty retailers and the outdoor chains were the strongest they have been in the last ten years and internet sales were the strongest they have been since Leisure Trends Group began tracking online sales in 2005. Outdoor retailers benefited from the general rising retail tide which, according to Thomson Reuters tally of 25 major retail chains, jumped 9 percent in April, one of the biggest upticks in the last few years.

Forest Service gives Ashland expansion the OK

The U.S. Forest Service announced May 24, 2011 that it has approved the expansion of the Mt. Ashland Ski Area. The area could begin logging on the mountain to create new runs as early as this September. The Mt. Ashland Association, the nonprofit group that runs the ski area, would need to raise about $300,000 to pay for the run clearing, and according to General Manager Kim Clark, plan to raise that money through fundraising. “We will not take on any debt for the expansion,” Clark told the Ashland Daily Tidings. A 45-day administrative appeals period on the project will start on June 2.

Udall sponsors bill to make ski resort concerts legal

Summertime activities at ski resorts such as concerts and mountain biking help the areas stay solvent in the off-season, but they may not be legal. According to the Aspen Daily News, a bill sponsored by U.S. Sen. Mark Udall aims to change federal law restrictions to allow the aforementioned activities, even though law enforcement is not actively policing them now.

The Energy and Natural Resources Committee’s Public Lands Subcommittee discussed the bill on May 18, 2011, which is the first step to having it introduced on the Senate floor. “This is not going to change the way we currently do business with the Forest Service,” Aspen Skiing Company’s Jeff Hanle told the Aspen Daily News. “It’s just legitimizing what we and a lot of ski areas are already doing.” 

IOC bigwigs gives kudos to departing Ebersol

The news that Dick Ebersol was resigning from NBC Universal had special significance for the ski industry. In his role as former chairman of Universal Sports & Olympics, Ebersol was instrumental in promoting ski stars from Picabo Street to Bode Miller, and in beaming the Olympics into millions of American homes. U.S. Olympic Committee Chairman Larry Probst had this to see about Ebersol?s departure: “Dick Ebersol has been a true visionary and champion of the Olympic Movement in the United States for more than forty years. I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with him, get to know him, and gain insight from his unique perspective and experience with the Olympic Games. No one has benefited more from Dick’s lifetime of achievement than our Olympians whose stories he has told with unrivaled dedication and passion.”

Monster week for Ski Team news

Along with the announcement that the U.S. Ski & Snowboard Association will unveil its own eCommerce site in September it was a big week for Ski Team news. Olympic champion Hannah Kearney and cross-country star Kikkan Randall headlined the list of honorees as the USSA announced its annual awards. Kearney was honored with the Beck International Award as the top USSA athlete for the season. Randall was recognized with the Buddy Werner Award for leadership and sportsmanship.

On the snow, nearly a dozen of the most promising young alpine skiers in the country have been at Mammoth Mountain battling for a shot to train and race with the U.S. Ski Team during the 2012 season. The brainchild of men’s Head Coach Sasha Rearick, “tryout camp” is designed to identify athletes who may not have the world ranking to make the U.S. Ski Team’s criteria, but have the ability to make the jump with the right opportunities. Among the talent pool is NCAA giant slalom champion from the University of Denver Seppi Stiegler (son of gold medalist Pepi Stiegler and little brother to Resi), NCAA First Team All-American Robby Kelley from the University of Vermont, Dartmouth College standout Ace Tarberry and Christopher Acosta from the University of New Mexico.

Also at Mammoth, Professional Ski Instructors of America (PSIA) Team Captain Michael Rogan joined the back-to-basics annual spring training camp for the women’s alpine team. “It was an extremely successful partnership,” said speed Head Coach Chip White. “I met with Mike ahead of the camp and spent a whole day doing drills with him. As a staff, we’re demanding perfection, so bringing Mike in was a good way to get closer to that. He saw what we needed and then took the ball and ran with it.”

In other news…

The 2011 Class of Inductees for the Intermountain Ski Hall of Fame has been announced. Being honored September 22, 2011 at the Intermountain Ski Hall of Fame ceremony are: Kit DesLauriers, William Levitt, Raymond Stewart, and Dean Robert Theobald…Austria’s Hans Grugger is working on coming back to the World Cup ski circuit four months after a crash in downhill training at Kitzbuehel left him in a coma. “I have the will to race downhills and super-Gs again,” Grugger, who is the brother-in-law of Kastle Skis President Siegfreid Rumpfhuber told Austrian national radio station Oe3…A fond farewell to Henry “Hank” Lewis, the first ski patroller at Mount Hood, who died at the age of 98 on May 21, 2011. Lewis helped create the patrol in 1937, served with both the 10th Mountain Division and as a trainer for the 92nd Infantry Division “Buffalo Soldiers” during WW II…After major leg injuries and double knee surgeries knocked Tanner Hall off the snow for two years, he will be back this August in a new movie from Retallack Lodge, in which he is a part-owner…And SnowSports Industries America (SIA) announced today it has signed on with Reese Brown and his company, RDB Marketing & Event Services, to act as SIA’s Nordic Program Director. Under this new agreement, Brown will be managing the Winter Trails program as well as the SIA Snow Show’s Nordic On-Snow Demo.

–Peter Kray

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