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YCQM: December 8, 2013 - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

YCQM: December 8, 2013

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BURLINGTON, Vt. -

>>> GOOD MORNING, EVERYONE, THANK YOU FOR JOINING US, I'M KRISTIN CARLSON. THIS SUNDAY WE ARE TALKING ALL ABOUT THE SKI SEASON, WHICH IS OFF TO A GREAT START BY ALL ACCOUNTS. WE ALSO WILL TALK ABOUT WEATHER FOR SKIERS. PARKER RIEHLE THE HEAD OF THE VERMONT SKI AREA ASSOCIATION. THANK YOU FOR BEING HERE.

>> GREAT TO BE HERE.

>> STEVE BOTTARI JOINS ME AS WELL.

>> YOU ARE COMING OFF A GREAT YEAR, THE BEST YEAR IN MORE THAN A DECADE IN TERMS OF THE VERMONT SKI ASSOCIATIONS AND RESORTS. WHAT DOES THIS YEAR HOLD?

>> THIS YEAR, AN AMAZING START. IN FACT, A RECORD START TO HAVE 11 RESORTS OPEN THE WEEK BEFORE THANKSGIVING. I CAN TELL YOU THAT'S NEVER HAPPENED IN THE HISTORY OF THE VERMONT SKI INDUSTRY BEFORE. ESPECIALLY GIVEN THAT TWO OF THOSE RESORTS WERE NORDIC AREAS. THE OTHER NINE RESORTS WERE ABLE TO OPEN EARLY DUE TO SNOW-MAKING, AND NATURAL SNOW IS THAT CAME ALONG THE WAY, BUT IT IS JUST AN INCREDIBLE INNOVATION AND TECHNOLOGICAL DYNAMIC IN THE SNOW MAKING. IN THE NORDIC AREAS, WE HAVE SEVEN NORDIC AREAS THAT MAKE SNOW IN VERMONT, MORE THAN ANY OTHER SKI STATE IN THE COUNTRY.

>> THESE ARE OPEN NOT BECAUSE MOTHER NATURE IS DUMPING SNOW, BUT BECAUSE ALL THE MAN MADE SNOW.

>> THAT'S RIGHT. THE ONLY TIME, FOR EXAMPLE, SMUGGLERS HAS BEEN ABLE TO OPEN A WEEK BEFORE THANKSGIVING IN THEIR HISTORY WAS MAYBE TWICE BEFORE WHEN THERE WAS AN AMAZING BLIZZARD THAT CAME ALONG. BUT THEY CONFIRMED THAT, LIKE THE OTHER RESORTS, THIS WAS THE FIRST TIME FOR THEM THAT THEY OPENED A WEEK BEFORE THANKSGIVING ENTIRELY DUE TO SNOW MAKING. AND THEY SPECIFICALLY, LIKE SO MANY OTHER RESORTS MADE SO MANY INVESTMENTS IN IMPROVEMENTS AND EXPANSIONS TO THE TUNE OF ABOUT 250 NEW SNOW GUNS THE LAST TWO YEARS. AND WHAT'S CRITICAL ABOUT THAT INVESTMENT IS THEY ARE THE LOW-ENERGY, HIGH-EFFICIENCY SNOW GUNS. THEY MAKE SO MUCH MORE SNOW AT ADVERSE CONDITIONS, USING A FRACTION OF THE ENERGY OF THE OLDER INFRASTRUCTURE.

>> SOUNDS LIKE WE'RE TALKING ABOUT A SHIFT IN THE INDUSTRY, WHERE THE SEASON MIGHT START SOONER AND MIGHT START LATER AND MIGHT NOT BE AS DEPENDENT ON MOTHER NATURE IN THAT REALLY BEGINNING STARTUP.

>> IT'S BEEN A DYNAMIC GOING ON FOR SEVERAL YEARS NOW WITH THE SNOW-MAKING EXPANSION, AND WE SEE EXAMPLES IN THE PAST FEW YEARS OF WHERE THEY HAVE BEEN ABLE TO REALLY SHOW THAT PROWESS IN ORDER TO REBOUND FROM AN ADVERSE WEATHER EVENT. BUT I'VE NEVER SEEN, I DON'T THINK THE INDUSTRY HAS EVER SEEN SUCH A NOTABLE EXAMPLE OF THIS SNOW-MAKING INFRASTRUCTURE AS THIS EARLY OPEN WE'VE SEEN. BUT YOU ARE ABSOLUTELY RIGHT, THAT'S WHAT TRIGGERED THE EARLY INNOVATION OF SNOW-MAKING WAS THE FRUSTRATION OF WAITING FOR MOTHER NATURE TO SHOW UP. BACK IN THE 50s, IT WAS NOT UNUSUAL FOR SKIERS NOT TO OPEN UNTIL AFTER CHRISTMAS. AND THERE IS NO GUARANTEES WHEN OR HOW LONG THEY COULD STAY OPEN TIL.

>>> WHAT DOES THIS MEAN? I KNOW YOU DON'T HAVE A CRYSTAL BALL, BUT --

>> YES.

>> BUT WHAT DOES THIS MEAN, THEN, I MEAN, THAT YOU ARE SEEING AN EARLIER START, YOU ARE HEARING GOOD THINGS FROM THE MOUNTAINS OPEN. WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR THEIR SEASON? DOES THIS GUARANTEE SUCCESSOR IS IT STILL A NAIL-BITER?

>> THERE IS NEVER A GUARANTEE OF SUCCESS, BUT IT IS A GREAT START A. FIRST OF ALL, ECONOMICALLY, BUDGET-WISE, OBVIOUSLY THEY ARE FAR AHEAD OF WHERE THEY WOULD TYPICALLY COMING OFF THANKSGIVING WEEK. THANKSGIVING VACATION WEEK IS IS ALWAYS A TOSSUP FOR THE SKI INCHED US TRY, NEVER ANY GUARANTEE THEY CAN BE OPEN TO ANY CRITICAL MASS. THIS YEAR OF COURSE A HUGE EXCEPTION, AND A TREMENDOUS START. AND THAT'S GREAT, OBVIOUSLY, FOR THE ROOMS AND MEALS TAX REVENUES, SALES TAX REVENUES FOR THE STATE, ESPECIALLY AS WE KNOW, AT A TIME --

>> VERMONT NEEDS MORE MONEY.

>> EXACTLY. THE OTHER THING, TOO, COMING OFF A HUGE SEASON LIKE WE HAD LAST YEAR, IT'S THAT MOMENTUM THAT CARRIES FORWARD AND SKIERS AND RIDERS HAVE THAT ASSURANCE THAT WE'RE OFF TO ANOTHER GREAT START, I BETTER BUY MY SEASON PASS NOW AND NOT WAIT. THAT'S KEY AND CRITICAL. YOU WANT TO WALK THEM IN EARLY. THAT'S A GREAT INVESTMENT FOR THE AREAS. A GREAT INVESTMENT FOR THE SKIER OR RIDER, BECAUSE THEY ARE COMMITTED TO THE SEASON. GREAT WAY TO GET GOING.

>> WE HAVE THIS TECHNOLOGY NOW, THIS IS SORT OF THE THING THAT'S HAPPENING IN THE INDUSTRY, ALL THE SNOW-MAKING. WHAT IS THE NEXT BIG THING IN THE SKI INDUSTRY FIVE YEARS FROM NOW, WHAT'S THE THING WE WILL BE TALKING ABOUT?

>> I THINK THE CONTINUING BIG THING WILL BE THE FOUR SEASON AMENITY DYNAMIC WE'VE SEEN UNFOLD THE LAST SEVERAL YEARS. IT'S CRITICAL THAT THEY HAVE THAT KIND OF HEDGE AGAINST, AGAIN, WHAT SOMETIMES MOTHER NATURE CAN BE STINGY ABOUT DURING THE WINTERTIME. AGAIN, WE HAVE THAT INSURANCE IN PLACE NOW WITH THE SNOW-MAKING, BUT IT IS CRITICAL FOR THE AREAS TO BE ABLE TO EXPAND INTO THE OTHER THREE SEASONS AND BRING IN THE ADDED BUSINESS FOR YEAR-ROUND BUSINESS FOR THE INDUSTRY.

>> WE'VE SEEN THIS IN SOME PARTS, FOR VERMONT, TOURISM IS LARGER IN TERMS. NUMBER OF PEOPLE THAT COME TO THE STATE IN THE SUMMER VERSUS THE WINTER. TRYING TO CAP TAM EYES ON THAT MARKET -- CAPITALIZE ON THAT MARKET.

>> THAT'S TRUE. IT IS REALLY SPLIT INTO THIRDS. IT IS BASICALLY ONE-THIRD WINTER, ONE-THIRD SUMMER, ONE-THIRD FALL. OF COURSE THE FALL --

>> MUD SEASON.

>> THAT'S TRUE.

>> AND OF COURSE THE FALL IS PROBABLY THE MOST POTENT TIME, TALKING LIKE A FOUR, FIVE-WEEK PERIOD, ESSENTIALLY MACHGS ALL OF THE SUMMER BUSINESS AND PRETTY MUCH ALL THE WINTER BUSINESS. YOU HAVE FEWER PEOPLE, ACTUALLY, COMING HERE IN THE WINTERTIME, BUT THE EXPENDITURES EXCEED THE OTHER TWO KEY SEASONS. YEAR -- OF THE YEAR. FOR THE SKI INDUSTRY RESORTS TO TAP INTO THOSE FALL TRAVELERS AND SUMMER TRAVELERS, IT IS AN ENORMOUS BENEFIT TO THEIR SUSTAINABILITY, COMING OFF A GREAT STRONG YEAR LIKE LAST YEAR, YOU NEVER WORRY ABOUT IT QUITE AS MUCH, BUT THE YEAR BEFORE, PRETTY DISMAL. SO THAT'S A YEAR WHERE IT'S DOUBLY IMPORTANT FOR THEM TO COME OFF A SEASON LIKE THAT AND BE ABLE TO REBOUND WITH A STRONG SUMMER AND FALL. WE'RE SEEING, OBVIOUSLY, ALL THE MAJOR RESORTS HAVE GOLF COURSES, THEY HAVE HAD THEM FOREVER, BUT THEN THE OTHER AMENITIES OF COURSE THE INDOOR WATER PARK AT JAY PEAK, YOU KNOW, GUARANTEEING A WEATHER-PROOF VACATION GET-AWAY, REGARDLESS WHAT'S GOING ON DURING THE WINTER. ALSO YEAR-ROUND, SUMMER, FALL, MUD SEASON AS WELL. PACKING THAT PLACE ALL THE TIME, AND IN FACT, LAST YEAR THEY REPORTED THAT THEIR WATER PARK VISITS EQUALLED OR EXCEEDED THEIR SKIER VISITS, WHICH IS PRETTY REMARKABLE.

>> SO IS JAY PEAK, I WAS GOING TO ASK YOU, WHO IS DOING THIS THE BEST. I FEEL LIKE YOU'VE ANSWERED THAT QUESTION.

>> THEY HAVE BEEN A REAL GAME-CHANGER IN TERMS OF THE INDOOR WATER PARK, BUT THAT TAKES NOTHING AWAY FROM, FOR EXAMPLE, SMUGGLERS' NOTCH. THEIRS IS NOT INDOORS, BUT THEY HAVE HAD THE CORNER ON THE SUMMER BUSINESS MARKET OF ALL THE RESORTS FOR MANY, MANY YEARS. AND THEY CONTINUE TO BE A MAJOR PLAYER IN THAT GAME. STOWE HAS COME ONLINE WITH A LOT MORE AMENITIES IN ADDITION TO GOLF, YOU HAVE THINGS AT STRATTON, OKEMO, YOU HAVE GOT THE ROADS COURSES, THE ZIP LINES, THE MOUNTAIN COASTERS. IT GOES ON AND ON, BECAUSE IT'S NOT ONLY JUST GIVING THE TRAVELLER ANOTHER AMENITY. I MEAN, THOSE AREN'T NECESSARILY DRAWS TO THE MOUNTAIN, AS A PRIMARY DRAW, ITS A WAY OF SAYING, HEY, IF YOU COME HERE, YOU HAVE ALL THIS, AND WE ALSO HAVE THIS ADDED FEATURE THAT YOU HAVE NEVER SEEN BEFORE. AND IT'S ALSO BEING COMPETITIVE WITH THE OTHER SKI STATES, RESORT STATES NOT ONLY IN THE EAST, BUT OUT WEST. THAT'S CRITICAL.

>> NOT EVERYONE CAN BE JAY PEAK. IS THERE A WORRY WHEN YOU LOOK AT ALL YOUR MEMBERS SOME MIGHT GET LEFT BEHIND? YOU KNOW, THE EB5, FOREIGN INVESTORS, GUARANTEE OF A GREEN CARD IF THEY CAN MATERIALIZE WITH THESE JOBS, AND THAT'S NOT GOING TO WORK FOR EVERY REGION.

>> IT DOESN'T WORK FOR EVERY REGION, ALTHOUGH IT IS AVAILABLE FOR EVERY REGION. THE WHOLE STATE IS ONE EB5 ZONE, THE ONLY EXCEPTION BOLTON VALLEY, BEING IN CHITTENDEN COUNTY, THEY ARE AT THE $1 MILLION MARK FOR THE EB5 INVESTOR. A HALF MILLION. THAT'S A REAL DEAL, A REAL ATTRACTIVE BARGAIN FOR THOSE EB5 INVESTORS FROM ALL OVER THE WORLD. SOME OF THE RESORTS HAVE TAPPED INTO THAT TO SOME EXTENT. SUGARBUSH HAS, MOUNT SNOW EXPLORING THAT FOR THEIR EXPANSION DOWN THERE. SO IT IS NOT FOR EVERYBODY. AND THEN, BUT THOSE WHO HAVE UTILIZED IT, OBVIOUSLY, NOBODY HAS UTILIZED IT TO THE EXTENT THAT BILL HAS UP AT JAY PEAK, BUT THOSE WHO HAVE UTILIZED IT, THEY'VE BEEN HAPPY WITH IT. AND THEN BECAUSE YOU DON'T ALWAYS HAVE THE TRADITIONAL, YOU KNOW, COMMERCIAL LOAN FINANCING OPTIONS AVAILABLE. AND IT'S VERY DIFFICULT, ESPECIALLY IN THE RESORT AREA, TO GET THAT KIND OF FUNDING, BECAUSE AS WE TALKED ABOUT AT THE BEGINNING OF THE SHOW HERE, THERE'S NEVER A GUARANTEE OF HOW THE SEASON IS GOING TO TURN OUT, REGARDLESS OF WHAT YOU DO UNDER YOUR OWN, YOU KNOW, MANPOWER.

>> SO WHAT DOES THAT DO IN TERMS OF PRICES? ALREADY WE'RE SEEING PEAK PRICING WHEN IT COMES TO SKIING, PEOPLE ARE PAYING BASICALLY THE COST OF A TICKET TO DISNEY WORLD TO SKI FOR THE DAY. NOW WE ARE ADDING ATTRACTIONS, THAT MEANS EXTRA CAPITAL, MORE PROFITS AS CERTAINED. -- ASCERTAINED. WHAT HAPPENS, GRAVITY PREVAILS EVENTUALLY, ARE PRICES GOING TO BE LOWERED TO BRING IN MORE VOLUME, OR IS THE SORT OF HIGHER PRICING GOING TO CONTINUE?

>> WELL, WHEN YOU LOOK AT THE LIFT TICKET PRICES, ADMISSION PRICES FOR ANYTHING THEY ARE DOING WITH WATER PARK OR SKIING, YOU FIRST HAVE TO START WITH THE COST SIDE OF THE BALANCE SHEET. AND THAT'S REALLY WHAT DRIVES THAT STICKER PRICE THAT YOU MIGHT SEE WHEN YOU GO UP TO ANY TICKET WINDOW. I'LL TALK ABOUT THAT IN A MINUTE. WHEN YOU LOOK AT THE EXPENSE SIDE, NO SURPRISE HERE, ENORMOUS EXPENSE TO RUN A SKI AREA IN VERMONT, OR ANYWHERE FOR THAT MATTER. THE TOP MOST COMPONENT IS PAYROLL FOR EMPLOYEES. THE MOST CRITICAL, UNCOULD HAVE RS -- OF COURSE. BUT THAT'S 140 MILLION FOR THE INDUSTRY STATEWIDE. THE SECOND BIGGEST COST COMPONENT ENERGY. MOST OF THAT, OF COURSE, ELECTRICITY. MOST OF THAT ELECTRICITY FOR SNOW-MAKING, WHICH, AGAIN, SO CRITICAL. YOU'VE GOT TO HAVE IT. IF YOU DON'T HAVE THAT INSURANCE ABILITY TO REBOUND FROM THAT ADVERSE WEATHER EVENT ON CHRISTMAS EVE, YOU ARE COMPLETELY SUNK. SO THAT'S WORTH EVERY PENNY. BUT IT DOESN'T COME INEXPENSIVELY. THE LONG-TERM PAYOFF FOR THOSE EXPENSIVE INVESTMENTS IN THE LOW ENERGY, HIGH-EFFICIENCY SNOW GUNS I WAS TALKING ABOUT EARLIER, THEY HAVE BEEN MAKING THOSE FOR YEARS. EVEN THOUGH THE UP FRONT COST IS STAGGERING, THE LONG-TERM PAYOFF, ECONOMICALLY AND ENVIRONMENTALLY, FOR THAT MATTER, IS ALMOST IMMEASURABLE. SO THE ADD BACK, AS WELL AS INSURANCE, WORKERS' COMP, LIABILITY INSURANCE, EXTREMELY EXPENSIVE.

>> HEALTHCARE.

>> HEALTHCARE, ABSOLUTELY. MARKETING. I MEAN, ALL THE THINGS THEY ARE DOING OPERATIONALLY, IN FACT, COLLECTIVELY THE SKI AREAS SPEND ALMOST $300 MILLION A YEAR ON ABOUT 3,000 VERMONT BUSINESSES FOR ALL MANNER OF GOODS AND SERVICES TO RUN THEIR SKI AREAS. SO THAT'S THE COST SIDE. SO THEN THE BUDGET, OKAY, HOW MANY SKI VISITS WILL WE REASONABLY EXPECT. WE WOULD LOVE TO HAVE A MILLION. THAT WON'T HAPPEN. MAYBE 300,000 SKIER VISITS ON AVERAGE, THEY DIVIDE THAT INTO THE COST AND HAVE TO COME UP WITH THE TICKET WINDOW FRIDAYS. THAT'S WHY SOMETIMES YOU SEE A NUMBER THAT LOOKS HIGH -- TICKET WINDOW PRICE. THE CAVEAT TO THAT IS, AGAIN, GRANTED THAT'S SORT OF A TICKER PRICE, BUT THERE ARE DEALS BEHIND THAT NUMBER. I HAVE TELL PEOPLE ABOUT THAT ALL THE TIME. WE ARE ALWAYS MARKETING THIS TO FOLKS AND THE SKIERS ARE, TOO. YOU HAVE MULTI-DAY DISCOUNTS, IF YOU GO ONLINE, YOU AUTOMATICALLY ALMOST GET A DISCOUNT JUST GOING ONLINE TO BUY A TICKET IN ADVANCE. A TWO-DAY TICKET OR ONE THAT GOES WITH LODGING, SOME KIND OF LODGING PACKAGE, THAT PRICE, IF YOU WIN OWED OUT THE LIFT --

>> LODGING MEANING STAY THERE.

>> YES. A SKI/STAY PACKAGE, A CLASSIC WAY PEOPLE BOOK VACATIONS. WHEN YOU DO THAT, IF YOU PARSE OUT THE LIFT TICKET, IT WOULD BE A FRACTION OR HALF OF THE LIFT TICKET PRICE, IF YOU WERE TO WALK TO THE WINDOW.

>> IF I WALK TO THE WINDOW AND PAY FULL PRICE, I AM DOING IT WRONG?

>> IT IS PROBABLY NOT THE MOST ECONOMICAL WAY FOR YOU TO BUY YOUR TICKET. I WANT TO SAY GOING UP TO THE LIFT TICKET WINDOW AND BUYING A TICKET IS WRONG, THAT WOULDN'T BE CORRECT, BUT THERE'S SO MANY OTHER WAYS TO GET AROUND THAT PRICE THAT, AGAIN, REALLY A FUNCTION OF THEIR INTERNAL BUDGETING. SO THERE'S ALSO, I MEAN, A MYRIAD OF DEALS. THERE'S, FOR EXAMPLE, AT SUGARBUSH, AND OTHER RESORTS, THE REAL INCENTIVE TO GET FOLKS INTO THE SPORT WHICH IS REALLY IMPORTANT, WE SHOULD TALK ABOUT THAT, FOR THE FUTURE HEALTH. SPORT. THEY HAVE A FIRST-TIMER LIFETIMER PROGRAM. IF YOU SIGN UP FOR FIVE-LESSON PROGRAM AND COMPLETE THAT, UPON COMPLETION, YOU GET A SEASON PASS FOR THE DURATION OF THE SEASON. THAT'S A HECK OF A DEAL. KILLINGTON, YOU GET A FREE PAIR OF SKIS WHEN YOU COMPLETE THEIR LESSON PROGRAM.

>> AND HOW MUCH ARE THE LESSON PROGRAMS?

>> IT WOULD BE NOWHERE, FIVE LESSON PROGRAM, NOT SURE OF THE PRICE AT SUGARBUSH, BUT IT WOULDN'T MATCH THE PRICE OF A SEASON'S PASS. IT MIGHT BE A COUPLE HUNDRED DOLLARS FOR THAT PROGRAM, BUT THE REAL INCENTIVE IS THAT SEASON'S PASS, WHICH IS MUCH MORE EXPENSIVE THAN THAT.

>> YOU TALK ABOUT SOME OF THESE DEALS, YOU MENTION THE LODGE PACKAGE. MOST ARE GEARED FOR OUT-OF-STATERS, YOU KNOW, I AM SURE HEAR FROM VERMONTERS WHO SAY IT IS NOT AS AFFORDABLE AS IT USED TO BE. DO YOU THINK THAT'S A FAIR CRITICISM?

>> I DON'T THINK IT IS, BECAUSE THE PRODUCT IS SO MUCH BETTER. WE ARE GOING TO MOVIES NOW WHERE THE PRICE --

>> THE PRODUCT OF THE SNOW, THE CONDITIONS?

>> YES, ABSOLUTELY.

>> PEOPLE PAY MORE, IT DOESN'T FEEL AFFORDABLE, BUT THE SPORT YOU LOVED GROWING UP, YOU SHOULD PAY MORE BECAUSE YOU ARE GETTING MORE?

>> WELL, THAT SORT OF WORKS THAT WAY, GIVEN THE INVESTMENT THEY'VE MADE TO MAKE A BETTER PRODUCT. WE'RE PAYING ALMOST $10 TO GET INTO THE MOVIES. YOU AND I REMEMBER PROBABLY -- I REMEMBER GOING TO MOVIES WHERE IT WAS $2.50.

>> EASY! [ LAUGHTER ]

>> JUST ME, ANYWAY. FOR YOU IT WAS $8. BUT THE PRODUCT IS SO MUCH BETTER, THE SOUND, THE SEATING, SO MUCH MORE IMPROVED. AND ACTUALLY, THERE WAS A STUDY, ECONOMIC STUDY DONE, IT WAS KIND OF INTERESTING, THEY TOOK SOME -- THEY DID AN INFLATION AIRY INDEX ON TICKETS THAT WERE AVAILABLE IN SOME AREAS IN 1966, FOR EXAMPLE. AND IF YOU INFLATE THAT OUT TO MODERN, YOU KNOW, MODERN LEVELS, THE DAY TICKET PRICE ARRIVES AT JUST ABOUT WHAT PEOPLE ARE PAYING NOW. SO THERE IS A STICKER SHOCK, I THINK, BECAUSE PEOPLE WAX PHILOSOPHICALLY, SENTIMENTALLY ABOUT THE OLD DAYS WHEN IT SEEMED LIKE IT WAS A LOT CHEAPER, BUT THERE WAS NEVER A SNOW GUARANTEE, THE KIND OF CONDITIONS, THE KIND OF COVERAGE, THE KIND OF EQUIPMENT THAT THEY ARE SKIING ON, PEOPLE ARE SKIING ON TODAY, THAT MAKES THE EXPERIENCE SO MUCH BETTER.

>> ALL RIGHT. WE ARE GOING TO TAKE A QUICK BREAK AND CONTINUE TALKING ABOUT THE SEASON AHEAD WITH PARKER NATHAN: And I'm Nathan. NATALIE: We're here to answer questions about... Vermont Health Connect. NATHAN: Here's one from Chris in Bennington. NATALIE: He asks: "I heard I can get health insurance through... Vermont Health Connect. So, where do I start?" NATHAN: Chris - your first step is to go to the... Vermont Health Connect website. NATHAN: Create an account, compare plans, and... choose the one that's right for you. NATALIE: We did it - and so can you! NATHAN: Vermont Health Connect. It's health coverage for Vermonters. NATALIE: By Vermonters!

>>> WELCOME BACK, EVERYONE, WE ARE TALKING SKIING AND RIDING AND THE CONDITIONS ON THE MOUNTAIN. AND CHANGES THAT YOU ARE GOING TO SEE WHEN YOU HIT THE SLOPES. WE ARE HERE WITH PARKER RIEHLE, HEAD OF THE VERMONT AREA SKI ASSOCIATION.

>> PARKER, WE HAVE BEEN TALKING ABOUT THESE CHANGES AND THE COSTS, AND WHAT TO EXPECT IN THE NEXT FIVE YEARS. ONE OF THE CONCERNS I KNOW FOR THE SKI INDUSTRY IS THE NEXT GENERATION OF SKIERS, WE ARE TALKING STATISTICS FROM SNOW SPORTS INDUSTRY AMERICA, ONE OF THE NATIONAL GROUPS SAYS THAT 62% OF PEOPLE IN SNOW SPORTS ARE MALE, 54% INCOME GREATER THAN 75 K, AND 74% OWN THEIR OWN HOME. ALSO TALKING IN TERMS OF AGE, THE AVERAGE AGE IN THE LATE 50s OR MID-50S FOR A SKIER. NOW, ARE YOU CONCERNED THAT THE NEXT GENERATION IS NOT GOING TO PICK UP THE SPORT? WE'RE SEEING NUMBERS BOTH IN TERMS OF SKIING AND SNOWBOARDING, NUMBERS ARE DROPPING. SKIING DROPPED 19% LAST YEAR.

>> THERE'S DEFINITELY CONCERN FOR THE FUTURE IN TERMS OF MAKING SURE WE HAVE THE NUMBERS TO KEEP PACE WITH WHERE WE WANT TO BE GOING OUT SEVERAL YEARS. THE AVERAGE AGE OF SKIERS IS CLOSER TO 40, PRETTY SURE IT'S LIKE 38. BUT THE BABY BOOMER BUBBLE, SO THE BABY BOOMERS ONE AND TWO, SO YOU'RE TALKING BASICALLY AGES 48 TO ABOUT 68, THAT IS A BIG PART OF THE MARKET. THAT'S STILL ABOUT 25% OF THE MARKET. THE CONCERN THERE IS THAT'S A BABY BOOMER BUBBLE, THAT'S SLOWLY DEFLATING AS IT KEEPS MARCHING OUT AGE-WISE. WE HAVE BEEN KEEPING PACE WITH THE MILE MARKERS THAT WE SET AS AN INDUSTRY FOR OURSELVES IN LARGE PART, THOUGH, HOWEVER, ALMOST ON BORROWED TIME, THOSE BABY BOOMERS HAVE BEEN SKIING, ESPECIALLY THE MUCH OLDER ONES, THEY HAVE BEEN SKIING MUCH LATER INTO LIFE THAN WE PREVIOUSLY ANTICIPATED BECAUSE YOU'VE GOT NEWER HIPS AND NEW KNEES, BETTER EQUIPMENT. SIDE CUT SKIS ARE SO MUCH EASIER ON THE BODY THAN THE OLD STRAIGHT SKIS, BETTER CONDITIONS, YOU KNOW, BETTER LIFTS, QUICKER LIFTS THAT DON'T, YOU KNOW, SLOW YOUR DAY DOWN TOO MUCH. THEY GET THEIR DAYS IN. THOSE OLDER SKIERS ARE SKIING EVEN MORE DAYS THAN THE YOUNGER SKIERS. OBVIOUSLY A RETIREMENT FACTOR THERE AS WELL. BUT THAT IS STILL SOMETHING THAT WE NEED TO CONTINUE TO ADDRESS, THE INDUSTRY HAS BEEN ADDRESSING THAT TO GET THE YOUNGER SKIERS INTO THE SPORT. WE AT SKI VERMONT HAVE THE PASSPORT PROGRAM, DEFINITELY OUR MOST POPULAR PROGRAM, FIFTH GRADERS ALL OVER THE COUNTRY CAN SKI OR RIDE FOR FREE THREE TIMES A SEASON AT EVERY ALPINE AND NORDIC AREA. AND OTHER SKI AREAS ARE DOING THE SAME THING TO GET YOUNG FOLKS INTO THE SPORT. THE FIFTH GRADE AGE HAS BEEN IDENTIFIED AS A GREAT AGE FOR PICKING UP THE SPORT, IF YOU HAVEN'T ALREADY. OR AS IS OFTEN THE CASE, THEY HAVE ALREADY BEEN SKIING FOR A FEW YEARS, AND IT ENCOURAGES THEM AND THEIR FAMILIES TO EXPLORE OTHER MOUNTAINS. THAT'S GREAT FOR THE RESORTS ALL THROUGHOUT THE STATE. WE GET THE ADDED BUSINESS FROM SOMEONE WHO A WANTS TO EXPLORE ELSEWHERE, KNOWING THE FIFTH GRADER WILL BE ABLE TO SKI FOR FREE THAT DAY.

>> WHY AREN'T KIDS SKIING WHEN PARENTS ARE?

>> WELL, THERE'S SO MANY CHALLENGES TO THAT. WE SAY THE CHALLENGE IS NINTENDO, DISNEYLAND, BUT IT IS NOT JUST NINTENDO AND, YOU KNOW, THE CHILD, YOU KNOW, THE INACTIVITY SITUATION WE OFTEN SEE, SOMETIMES JUST THE OPPOSITE. SPORTS HAVE BECOME SO SPECIALIZED. HOCKEY PLAYERS, THEY ARE PLAYING YEAR-ROUND, IT SEEMS. LA CROSSE. SOCCER. MY OWN DAUGHTER, YEAR-ROUND NOW, INDOOR, OUTDOOR, YOU NAME IT. I HAVEN'T GOTTEN ON THE SLOPES IN A LONG TIME BECAUSE HER WEEKENDS ARE TOTALLY BOOKED EVERY WINTER. SO EVEN MY SON, LA CROSSE, YEAR ROUND. AND AGAIN, HOCKEY FAMILIES, YOU KNOW, WE DON'T SEE THEM UNTIL THEY COME STUMBLING OUT OF THE ICE RINK IN THE SUN AROUND MARCH, AND MAYBE THAT'S WHEN THEY START SKIING. ALL WINTER LONG THEY HAVE NO TIME, OR, YOU KNOW, OR MONEY AVAILABLE TO MAKE THE TRIP TO THE MOUNTAIN, BECAUSE THEY SPEND ALL THEIR TIME TRAVELING TO HOCKEY GAMES AND DOING THE PRACTICES WITH THE KIDS. SO IT'S' AN INTERESTING DYNAMIC HOW THOSE SPORTS HAVE BECOME SO PARTICULARIZED AND FOCUSED LIKE THAT. SO THAT'S A CHALLENGE. THAT'S ONE OF THE CHALLENGES WE HAVE. AND, YOU KNOW, THE CHALLENGE IS OBVIOUSLY, THERE IS AN EQUIPMENT BARRIER, YOU KNOW, OBVIOUSLY AN EQUIPMENT INVESTMENT. OBVIOUSLY THE LIFT TICKET SITUATION. THERE'S THE CONCEPT OF BEING OUTSIDE IN THE WINTERTIME. I MEAN, WE'RE SELLING A LOT OF THINGS HERE THAT A LOT OF PEOPLE, YOU KNOW, IT'S NOT SOMETHING THAT THEY ARE DEFINITELY GOING TO EMBRACE RIGHT OFF THE BAT. THERE'S ALSO THE LEARNING CURVE OF PICKING UP SKIING OR SNOWBOARDING. I WISH WE COULD SAY THE MAJORITY OF THE TIME WHEN THEY TRY IT, THEY LOVE IT, BUT STATISTICALLY, UNFORTUNATELY, WE HAVE A CONVERSION RATE, IN OTHER WORDS, CONVERTING NEW, YOU KNOW, NEW FOLKS WHO TRIED THE SPORT INTO LIFE-LONG SKIERS, CONVERSION RATE IS STILL NOT WHERE IT NEEDS TO BE. IT'S STILL AROUND 16 TO 17%. SO BASICALLY YOU'RE SAYING MORE THAN 80% OF THE FOLKS WHO TRY IT DON'T REALLY EVER WANT TO DO IT AGAIN FOR WHATEVER REASON OR THEY DON'T COME BACK TO IT FOR WHATEVER REASON. THEY GET CAUGHT UP WITH ANOTHER ACTIVITY. THAT'S SOMETHING THAT WE'RE CONSTANTLY REDOUBLING OUR EFFORTS WITH THE PROGRAMS THAT THE RESORTS DO. THE LEARN TO SKI AND RIDE PROGRAM, NATIONALLY A PROGRAM THAT SKI VERMONT TAPS INTO. THE FREE LEARN TO SKI MONTH OF JANUARY, THAT WE'VE HAD IN PLACE NOW FOR AT LEAST SIX OR SEVEN YEARS. A NATIONAL PROGRAM THAT WE DO. IT IS A PROGRAM WITH JUST $29 LIFT TICKETS FOR EQUIPMENT, LESSONS, AND A DAY PASS. THAT'S A GREAT WAY TO GET PEOPLE TO PICK UP THE SPORT, IF THEY ARE WORRIED, AGAIN, ABOUT THAT STICKER SHOCK AT THE TICKET WINDOW. TAKE THAT OUT OF THE EQUATION AS A BARRIER, AS WELL AS THE EQUIPMENT FOR THE DAY, FOR THAT MATTER. SO THOSE ARE KEY, AND WE'RE SEEING RETURNS ON THAT. IT'S A SLOW -- DEFINITELY A SLOW NEEDLE TO MOVE, BUT NO AREA IN THE COUNTRY, NO STATE SKI ASSOCIATION DENIES THE FACT THAT IT'S PROBABLY THE MOST CRITICAL THING WE NEED TO KEEP DOING FOR THE FUTURE SUSTAINABILITY OF THE SPORT TO MAKE SURE THAT WE REALLY KEEP THOSE NUMBERS GOING STRONG.

>> LET'S TALK ABOUT THE NAME OF THE GROUP. VERMONT SKI AREA ASSOCIATION. YOU REPRESENT BOARDING AS WELL.

>> OF COURSE, YES.

>> I MEAN, IN THE BEGINNING DAYS THERE WAS A ATTENTION BETWEEN RIDERS AND SKIERS. THAT HAS -- A TENSION OVER THE YEARS. THAT TENSION HAS CHANGED SOME. A LOT OF YOUNG KIDS SEEM MORE INTERESTED IN RIDING, IT SEEMS, THAN SKIING. WHY HOLD ONTO THE NAME SKI VERMONT OR VER SER MONTH -- VERMONT SKI AREA ASSOCIATION. DOES IT ENCOMPASS EVERYTHING?

>> YES. YOU GO TO THE SKI AREA TO SKI, SNOWBOARD, SNOW TUBE, BIKE, SWIM NOW.

>> EXACTLY.

>> SKI VERMONT CAME FROM THE OLD DAYS, BECAUSE IT IS SORT OF A DBA, AND ALSO IT IS A SHOUT OUT, CALL TO ACTION, WHENEVER WE ARE TALKING TO OUT-OF-STATE PRESS, WE ARE SAYING SKI VERMONT SAYS THIS, BECAUSE THEY PRINT SKI VERMONT AND YOU HAVE A TAG LINE READY TO GO. WE ALSO HAVE RIDE VERMONT TAG LINE, A RIDE VERMONT WEBSITE. WE SPEAK TO THOSE FOLKS, THE RIDERS, IT IS A DIFFERENT AUDIENCE. YOU APPROACH THEM A DIFFERENT WAY. WE HAVE THE RIDE VERMONT STICKERS AND SWAG AND EVERYTHING. WE PARTNER WITH BURTON SNOWBOARDS. THEY DO ALL THE UNDERWRITING FOR THE RIDE VERMONT SITE. WE COLLABORATE WITH THEM ON MARKETING AND GETTING SOME MEDIA OUTREACH, SO WE CAN TAP INTO THAT MARKET. BUT IT'S CHALLENGING FOR THE SNOWBOARDING INDUSTRY. THERE WAS A TIME WHEN THEY REALLY HELPED TURN THE CORNER FOR THE INDUSTRY WHEN WE WERE SAGGING IN THE '90s, THEY REALLY PICKED BUSINESS UP FOR US. NOW WHAT'S HAPPENING TO SNOWBOARDING POPULATION, THEY ARE KIND OF GOING THROUGH THE SAME GROWING PAINS THAT THE SKI POPULATION WENT THROUGH IN THE '90s. THEY ARE GETTING MORE HEAVILY INVOLVED IN THE CAREERS. THEY ARE A LITTLE BIT MORE IN THE WEEDS WITH THE KIDS WHO AREN'T QUITE READY TO GET BACK TO THE SLOPES. SO THEY ARE KIND OF GOING THROUGH THE SAME THING THAT THE SKI POPULATION WENT THROUGH SEVERAL YEARS AGO BACK IN THE '90s, AND THE HOPE IS THAT THEY WILL EVENTUALLY GROW OUT OF THAT THE WAY THE SKI POPULATION HAS, BECAUSE HERE'S ANOTHER KEY POPULATION TO TAP INTO, THE LAPSED SKIERS. THE FOLKS TO SKIED AS KIDS, MAYBE EVEN IN COG AND DON'T SKI -- COLLEGE AND DON'T SKI ANYMORE. THAT'S 9 TO 10 MILLION NATIONALLY. A HUGE POPULATION TO TAP INTO. YOU DON'T NEED TO CONVERT THEM. YOU DON'T NEED TO CONVINCE THEM THEY SHOULD TAKE UP SKIING AND RIDING. THEY USED TO DO AND LOVED IT. THEY WILL ALWAYS BE SUR PRICE PD AND AMAZED AT THE -- SURPRISED AND AMAZED AT THE QUALITY OF THE SLOPES THEY HAVEN'T BEEN TO IN 10 OR 15 YEARS. THAT'S A KEY COMPONENT.

>> HOW DO YOU BRING THEM BACK TO THE MOUNTAINS?

>> TEASE THE SAME THING. -- THAT'S THE SAME THING WITH THE BRING A FRIEND PROGRAM. NOT THE LEARN TO, OBVIOUSLY, BUT STILL, THAT'S REALLY HAMMERING AWAY AT THE MARKETING, THE SNOW-MAKING, THE GROOMING, ALL THE AMENITIES THAT COME WITH A SKI VACATION NOW, ALL THE EXTRA THINGS, BELLS AND WHISTLES THAT GO WITH IT. THAT'S A GOOD WAY TO LURE THEM BACK INTO THE SPORT.

>> I WANT TO MAKE SURE WE GET TO THIS. VERMONT IS NOW ENROLLING PEOPLE THROUGH VERMONT HEALTH CONNECT, THERE'S BEEN A LOT OF GLITCHES AND PROBLEMS WITH THE WEBSITE. DO YOU HAVE ANY OF YOUR MEMBERS WITH 50 OR FEWER EMPLOYEES WHO ARE GOING THROUGH THE PROCESS, AND IF SO, WHAT HAVE YOU HEARD?

>> WE DO. THERE ARE A FEW OF THE SMALLER SKI AREAS THAT FALL INTO THAT POP LAKES, AND -- POPULATION, AND I HAVE BEEN TALKING TO THEM ALONG THE WAY, AND I KNOW THAT THEY -- ACTUALLY, OUR ORGANIZATION HAD DIFFICULTY GETTING THROUGH THAT PROCESS, AND HAVE BEEN ABLE TO PURSUE THE PLAN-B OPTIONS THAT THE GOVERNOR ROLLED OUT.

>> CAN THEY KEEP THEIR INSURANCE --

>> EXACTLY. RIGHT.

>> SO THERE WAS THAT WAS AN IMPORTANT DYNAMIC. IT WASN'T QUITE READY TO GET PEOPLE IN FULLY BY THE END OF THE YEAR. THAT WAS A GREAT MOVE BY THE STATE TO ROLL OUT THAT PLAN-B FOR FOLKS TO HAVE A DEFAULT.

>> WELL, IT IS A DEFAULT, IT IS NOT A PERMANENT SOLUTION, SO WHAT ARE YOU HEARING, BECAUSE EVENTUALLY THE SMALLER SKI AREAS ARE GOING TO HAVE TO PICK A PLAN, DECIDE, OFFER, NOT OFFER. WHAT ARE YOU HEARING?

>> I AM NOT HEARING ANYTHING RIGHT NOW, BECAUSE THEY ARE SATISFIED WITH THAT SOLUTION. I MEAN, OUR ORGANIZATION, WE'VE GOT ALL NEXT YEAR, WE'RE ENROLLED FOR THE ENTIRE YEAR, AS OPPOSED TO THE THREE-MOST THROUGH MARCH STOPGAP. WHETHER SOME ARE DOING THE THREE-MONTH STOPGAP OR ENTIRE NEXT YEAR, I HAVEN'T HEARD ONE WAY OR ANOTHER. GOOD TO HEAR THEY ARE COVERED. AND THAT THEY DON'T HAVE TO, YOU KNOW, BE HANGING BY A THREAD RIGHT UP UNTIL DECEMBERST.

>>> A SLOW AND -- DECEMBER 31ST.

>> A SLOW AND STEADY GOAL OF THE GOVERNOR TO ENROLL EVERYBODY EVENTUALLY. STARTING NEXT YEAR, IT WILL KEEP MOVING FORWARD UNTIL THE GOVERNOR GETS WHAT HE WOULD LIKE TO SEE IN 2017. YOU MENTIONED HEALTHCARE COST IS A A BIG CONCERN TO MEMBERS.

>> ABSOLUTELY.

>> CAN YOU SELL THIS TO THEM?

>> WE WILL TO WAIT AND SEE IF COST SAVINGS TRULY BEAR OUT.

>> YOU THINK THEY WILL?

>> I HAVE IN IDEA. I AM NO EXPERT ON THAT. I WOULD DEFER TO THOSE WHO HAVE A BETTER, YOU KNOW, HANDLE ON THAT ISSUE. IT IS A CONCERN, I THINK IT'S A CONCERN THAT NIP REASONABLE PERSON -- ANY REASONABLE PERSON HAS BEEN EXPRESSING. BUT, YOU KNOW, IF IT CAN BE CHEAPER, THEN IT'S KIND OF HARD TO ARGUE WITH THAT PROGRAM. THE CONCERN IS ARE THERE OTHER THINGS THAT EAT UP THOSE SAVINGS THAT WEREN'T ANTICIPATED FOR. AND WE JUST DON'T KNOW. I DON'T THINK WE'LL KNOW UNTIL IT ROLLS OUT. FINGERS CROSSED FOR SURE, BECAUSE, AGAIN, THAT JUST ONE OF THOSE COST COMPONENTS THAT CONTINUE TO GO UP FOR THE SKI INDUSTRY, WHETHER IT'S INSURANCE, COST OF ELECTRICITY, PAYROLL. SO THAT'S IMPORTANT. AND SOME PARTS OF VERMONT FOR THE SKI INDUSTRY TO BE HEALTHY, WE ARE GIVEN OUR SMALL SIZE, VERMONT IS STILL THE NUMBER ONE SKI STATE IN THE EAST, AND STILL JUST NUMBER THREE IN THE COUNTRY BEHIND COLORADO AND CALIFORNIA. THAT'S AN ENORMOUS SOURCE OF PRIDE FOR THE 4 1/2 MILLION SKIER VISITS. WHEN VISITORS COME TO THE STATE, ANY NORMAL SEASON, THEY'LL SPEND UPWARDS OF $750 MILLION IN THE STATE DURING THE SEASON, WHAT'S REALLY IMPORTANT THAT FIGURE IS TWO-THIRDS OF THOSE EXPENDITURES OCCUR OFF MOUNTAIN IN THE SURROUNDING VILLAGES AND TOWNS. SO THE SKI ECONOMY RUNS DEEP THROUGHOUT THE VERMONT COMMUNITY.

>> PARKER, WHAT ARE WE TALKING ABOUT IN TERMS OF CLIMATE CHANGE. WHAT YOU HEARING FROM RESORTS ABOUT THE BIG PICTURE ISSUES WITH REGARDS TO SKIING?

>> THAT'S SOMETHING OUR INDUSTRY HAS BEEN CONCERNED, AND KEPT AN EYE ON FOR YEARS AND YEARS. ONE OF THE MAIN REASONS WE'VE REALLY HAD TO REDOUBLE EFFORTS AT THE MORE EFFICIENT SNOW-MAKING APPARATUS, ALLOWS YOU TO MAKE SNOW AT TEMPERATURES YOU COULDN'T ORDINARILY MAKE SNOW AT, WITH THE OLDER TECHNOLOGY. THERE ARE ALL KIND OF REPORTS OUT THERE. A REPORT FROM CANADA THAT SAYS WE'RE GOING TO BE FINE IN 100 YEARS. THAT'S LIKE I AM -- I AM NOT GOING TO CELEBRATE THAT, THAT'S A DE FACTO SITUATION GOING ON HERE, REGARDLESS OF WHAT'S GOING ON BEHIND THE SCENES OR BEHIND THE CAUSE, YOU DO HAVE AN INCREMENTAL TEMPERATURE CHANGE, OVER THE YEARS THAT'S PREDICTED OUT, WE HAD, I GUESS, CRAZIER WINTERS, PEOPLE CALL IT. MORE LIKE, YOU KNOW -- WELL, IT'S CLIMATE CHANGE BECAUSE IT CAN GO BOTH WAYS. HE -- I MEAN, THERE'S PREDICTIONS WE'LL HAVE WETTER, SNOWIER WINTERS AS A RESULT OF THAT. WE WELCOME THAT, BUT LONG TERM IT IS STILL SOMETHING THAT WE AS AN INDUSTRY HAVE BEEN BEHIND IN TERMS OF ON THE GROUND, WITH THE EFFICIENCY MEASURES AND THE INDUSTRY NATION AL -- NATIONALLY WITH WASHINGTON HAS BEEN VOCAL ABOUT SUPPORTING CLIMATE CHANGE ACTION PLANS DOWN, YOU KNOW, THROUGH THE CHANNELS IN DC.

>> WE HAVE TO LEAVE IT THERE. PARKER RIEHLE, THANK YOU VERY MUCH FOR YOUR TIME.

>> THANK YOU.

>> THANKS TO YOU AT HOME FOR WATCHING. HAVE A GREAT SUNDAY. SO LONG. Captioning provided by Caption Associates, LLC captionassociates.com

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