Keystone Resort Investigated for Snow Padding
Impending padding-gate scandal shocks communityBy Mark Detsky
In an unforeseen move that will surely taint the new season for a popular Summit County resort, Keystone Resort has come under investigation by the National Ski Area Association (NSAA).
An independent counsel will be gathering testimony this month concerning inflated public numbers of daily snowfall used in advertising and statewide ski reports.
The NSAA is charging the resort with snow padding, a class 3 felony in Colorado.
Disgruntled former executives currently in the NSAA witness protection program, who had in the past promised undying profits and free powder to Wall Street power broker and major Keystone stockholder Leon Black, have now come forward under the new NSAA "whistle-blower" reward program, which offers up to $100,000 and a lifetime season pass to A-Basin for information leading to arrest and conviction of crooked ski area executives.
The resort has been charged with sticking measuring poles into Port-O-Let's in order to increase snow totals, issuing snow "quotas" to public relations personnel, and rewarding employees in the Keystone PR department with expensive golf dates with CEO Adam Aron for producing exaggerated reports of snowfalls in order to impress Front Range skiers.
Internal Keystone documents obtained by NSAA detail dozens of separate occasions in the last three seasons where zero precipitation had been measured by the National Weather Service and the Colorado Avalanche Control Center, but Keystone Resort reported anywhere from five to 10 inches.
One snow report generated by Keystone's public relations department, obtained by the Summit Vaily Snooze, reported snowfall of 11 inches on February 15, 2000 at Keystone Resort, 4 inches at Copper Mountain, 4 inches at Arapahoe Basin, and 2 inches at Breckenridge. All four mountains lay within 10 miles of each other.
"Impossible," says climatologist L.L. Bean of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association. "The amount of registered snowfall is a measure of total precipitation. Keystone mountain could not have received an extra eight inches of snow, as the storm traveled five miles across the valley from Breckenridge," said Bean.
Keystone Public Relations manager Pamela Fleece-Oversweater denied Mr. Bean's assertion. "It's the lake effect," Fleece-Oversweater explained.
Apparently, the Dillon Reservoir transfers moisture up the Snake River valley similar to the effects seen at the Great Salt Lake. "That's how Keystone registered 500 inches of snow last winter alone!" she told select invited reporters.
"That's bullshit!" argued Lance Doober, who snowboarded at Keystone on February 15. Doober says he and his "bros" drove an extra 20 minutes to ride at Keystone instead of Copper or Breckenridge. "When we got there, man, it was like, kggghggggggghggggggh all the way down. We were like, where's the stash?"
Snow padding. It's an ugly word, with uglier connotations. Akin to odds stacking in professional gambling, it is the lowest level of impropriety a ski resort can engage in, short of an expansion of beginner terrain.
Resorts like Keystone increasingly face competition from ski areas with real snow and actual varied terrain, creating a dangerous incentive for snow padding.
Does snow padding have dire consequences? Does Capilene stink like a donkey? "I'll never forget the look on my son's face when we got up early to ski Keystone's 13 inches, because A-Basin had only reported three. Well, not only was there not 13 inches, they (resort executives) told my child he must be 'stupid, stupid, stupid' for not 'finding where we hid all the snow.' He is still in a coma," said Dillon local "Ronda" about her experience at Keystone on March 25th, 1999.
Judge Harry Rut-digger on Tuesday issued a gag order and sealed the case "in a lock-box," citing a "potential negative effect on all Colorado ski areas that may or may not knowingly snow pad inadvertently."