Fortune Friday

Posted on May 12, 2023

Happy Fortune Friday! And WOW... that was a hell of a season! In my 45 years in the ski industry, there are some seasons that are more memorable than others, and this will definitely be one of them! Bear with me while we revisit and reflect on the season, because it really was remarkable. I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Stuart Winchester of Storm Skiing about our season – and more – and I also talk about some of the ideas we have for the future at Heavenly. Check it out here!

Our 2022-2023 ski season was 176 days long. That is nearly six months of skiing and riding that we got to experience. That’s a lot of days, and it’s awesome. On Wednesday night, I had the opportunity to talk to several people who skied or snowboarded all 176 days at Heavenly! It all started back in November when conditions were just right, allowing us to open a week earlier than planned. While it was exciting at the time, we had no idea what we were getting into for the months ahead!

December is when the snow really started falling, and we surpassed 100”. We got some incredible powder days (we had a storm the first week of the month that dropped a whopping 49” on us), including over the holidays. By the end of December, there was easily enough coverage and we had the entire mountain open, which certainly isn’t something we get to say every winter. The best part of December for me was opening the newly upgraded North Bowl Express chairlift. We knew this was going to have a significant impact on the Nevada side, but I didn’t anticipate just how popular it would become. It was a go-to lift on powder days and a work horse when upper mountain lifts on the Nevada side (like Dipper or Comet) would go on wind hold during storms. Ridership increased more than 700% on North Bowl this year. It has become such an asset for our resort and has become many locals’ favorite lift and terrain to ski!  And yes, we heard you about upgrading the Boulder chair and it’s a priority for us.

January was the wildest month of the year, bringing several atmospheric rivers our way. Not only did it drop the most snow, but it also presented the most challenges. It felt like the snow, wind, rime ice, and challenging road conditions never stopped, and candidly it was hard for our team members. I just want to thank all of you for being patient as we navigated our snowiest January on record, and for being so supportive of our team as they worked through it. Despite power outages, digging out lifts (over and over), rime ice, and wind holds, there were also some of the best powder days I have ever experienced, and I hope you got to take advantage of them, too. We also passed our average season snowfall by January, which is hard to believe!

February started off on a lighter note and gave us some blue bird days, which we desperately needed... but also more snow and a lot of wind, which made for dynamic conditions through March. While we really didn’t need a ‘Miracle March’, we got one! It kept us marchingtowards a new snowfall record, and we had a lot of fun. From our first-ever Sam Adams Air and Après event, to the infamous Gunbarrel 25 and the new Kyle Smaine Iron Man Award, our Pride celebration, and beyond – it was jam packed with good vibes. We also made the call to extend the season, adding an extra three weeks before closing.

April felt like a normal March, and brought a few spring-like days, with temperatures warming a little, causing some snow to melt and the typical goggle tan faces that we are used to in Tahoe. We also celebrated the season with our annual pond skim, which I always look forward to. Then, a storybook ending: we officially passed our snowfall record of 564” set in the 2016/2017 season with a new record of 566”. Oh – and then it snowed 26 more inches in May as the icing on the cake before we wrapped up operations on May 7 with a snowfall total of 592’’. Our Dispatch and Comms team were busy all season updating snow totals and this video made at the end of the season recaps it well.

More than anything, I am so incredibly thankful for the Heavenly team – working through this winter was indescribably difficult at times, both here at the mountain and at home. Their tenacity, passion, focus, and energy kept everything going, even when it was really tough. This team has grit and determination which we call our “Fearless Mountain Spirit”, and they also know how to have a little fun too which makes coming to work every day so great. Our team is the heartbeat of our mountain, and it was clear how dedicated they are and their love for the outdoors, our mountain, and our community.

I want to thank our community and guests who showed up for us this season – we hope you enjoyed what the winter brought, too. I also acknowledge there were challenges, and we are committed to improvement and operational execution. We are grateful for your support, feedback, and encouragement – and we can’t wait to see you again soon. Stay tuned for an open house this summer that we will be hosting to discuss some of the changes and improvements for next season.

I also want to thank you for taking time to read my updates this season. It was important to me – and the Heavenly team – to be transparent and provide information and insight into our operations. It is always our goal to be up front with you, so you know what to expect, even when things aren’t perfect. We all appreciate your patience and feedback along the way. I am so lucky to do what I do, and to share it all with you. 

Moving into the shoulder season and summertime, Fortune Friday will move to a monthly cadence. However, I am committed to providing you with as much information as possible (and more team member spotlights). Our summer season kicks off on June 16 (conditions permitting) and I can’t wait to share the sunshine with you!

I usually close these by saying I will “see you on the slopes”, but now you’ll have to catch me on a trail, on my paddle board or having a beer in town. Please come and say hi if you do. I will also be at the top of the Gondola taking in the views, hiking around, and taking in all the summer activities... All while planning for another great winter season in 2023-24!

Be well,