Appalachian Ski Mountain in North Carolina has lifted its no-snowboarding policy for the '99/00 season. And North Perfect Slopes in Indiana is considering a partial lifting of its ban, perhaps allowing riding on certain runs, certain hours, or certain days. The area is carefully reviewing the issue as we go to print.
That leaves five other areas in the U.S. with a no-riding policy: Alta and Deer Valley in Utah; Aspen Mountain in Colorado; Mad River Glen in Vermont; and Taos Ski Valley in New Mexico. Each of these areas plans to maintain its policies for at least the next season.
Appalachian Ski Mountain is 100 miles from Charlotte and draws visitors from North and South Carolina, Florida, and Georgia. Although it may lack the name recognition of some of the larger resorts, it still sees on average 100,000 visits a year, offers day and night skiing, and has two quads servicing its 400 vertical feet. The area is also family-owned and on private land.
“We feel good about our decision,” says Brad Moretz, assistant general manager at Appalachian Ski Mountain and a member of the family that runs the area. “We have seen more people asking for snowboarding. It's become something more mainstream. We're not seeing the dyed-hair, nipple-ring, bad attitude, radical surfer-type element anymore. That's becoming a faded stereotype.”
The resort made the decision despite receiving numerous comments from guests who appreciated that snowboarding was not allowed at the area, but Moretz feels lifting the ban will result in more positive feedback than negative.
“We think it will be a positive addition. I wouldn't have said that a few years ago,” he says. “We have shaped skis, ski boards, Big Feet, snow skates, and an ice-skating rink, so this will just be another offering. I think the trend is toward a diversity of options and a variety of ways to enjoy the experience.”
The decision was made by the Moretz family after the consensus among family members changed. One factor in the decision was that the area was seeing more and more groups or family members with one or more snowboarders who were being excluded from being able to ride at their hill.
Keystone, the last of the major ski areas to lift its riding ban, noticed the same thing and it was also a factor in the decision to open to riders for the '96/97 season.
“Maybe we lost some diehard skiers but we've made it up with the 'combo platters,'” said Jim Felton of Vail Resorts. “The industry has seen fewer and fewer ski-only families, and families have been Keystone's bread and butter since the area opened 30 year ago.”
The payoff for Keystone was a fifteen-percent increase in skier/rider visits after lifting the ban and two solid years of over a million visits since then.
To prepare for riders coming to Appalachian Ski Mountain, the area has made a commitment to go with the new Rossignol step-in binding system in its rental shop, which the resort says it will be able to set-up customers with even faster than its rental ski system. That's no small consideration given that the majority of Appalachian Ski Mountain's customers' rent equipment.
No word yet whether the area will take the word “ski” out of its name. –Brent Gardner-Smith