James Coleman: The Freedom to Ski

James Coleman: The Freedom to Ski

Tom Kelly

By Tom Kelly \ December 7 2023

It’s not unusual to see marketing slogans adorning ski resort websites. But go to the Mountain Capital Partners site at MCP.ski and you’ll learn about freedom. To visionary James Coleman, it’s more than a tagline. It’s an ethos – a way of life. It’s rooted in his personal love affair with skiing. But more than anything. It’s what he wants to give back to others.

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James Coleman gets out on the hill for a few powder turns (Asa Silver)

“We Give People the Freedom to Ski” are words to live by. When Coleman is clearing a new trail at Utah’s Nordic Valley Resort or ripping a powder line at Brian Head Resort in southern Utah, it’s at the forefront of his mind.

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From humble beginnings as the owner of Sipapu Ski & Summer Resort in New Mexico, Coleman’s MCP has holdings in Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, Utah and now the giant Valle Nevado outside Santiago, Chile – a dozen ski resorts! And you can be sure he’s not done with the collection.


Coleman grew up between the wide open spaces of Texas and big waves of surf in Southern California. As a teen, his father took him skiing, driving over 500 miles to a tiny New Mexico resort. And he never looked back. He even set a personal goal for himself to own a ski resort by the time he was 35 – which he achieved. Today, he’s a hands-on resort owner who can often be found with his Stihl chainsaw helping cut trails.

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Mountain Capital Partners Managing Partner James Coleman (Scott DW Smith)

The skiing visionary is becoming quite a player in the resort business with a successful enterprise and a continually growing lineup of resorts. But as he speaks from his small office with memorabilia adorning the wall, he remains philosophical and rooted in his original beliefs.


“Getting into the ski business was the selfish desire of a teenager,” he says. “It was just something I was very excited about. But very quickly, as I got into the business, I realized just how much bigger it is than me. And not even just the people skiing at your resort, but the communities that surround them, how important it is, providing jobs and other ways that you support the community. I really do love helping other people. Realizing that pretty early on and seeing how that works has been part of our interest in continuing to expand this to other places. We've made the resorts what they hoped it would be. And that's just super rewarding.”


In this episode of Last Chair, Coleman dives into his background in skiing, the challenges as a new resort owner in New Mexico, the opportunity he saw expanding into Utah with Brian Head and Nordic Valley and how he plans to change the face of South America as a global ski destination. Here’s a little teaser to a fascinating episode of Last Chair.



To start, how much time did you spend in your first summer at Valle Nevado in Chile?

Yeah, three trips down to Chile, and the last one was from mid-August to mid-September, skiing just about every day. It was pretty fun and it was hard to leave.


What were your first impressions of the sport that so captivated you?

You know, it's kind of hard to describe. One way I describe it is flying without wings. It’s a big sensation for me. It's just magical. The undulations in the terrain. It's just so unique. It's so special. It's almost like there are six or seven different sports in skiing – you're skiing groomers, it's very different than skiing bumps. It's very different from skiing powder through the woods. Yeah. It's just the coolest thing.

Ski Utah Blog - Nordic Valley  Samuel Pluim-1jpg
Nordic Valley on a Powder Day

As a teen with an interest in building ski resorts, did you sketch out mountain plans?

Certainly, we would do that. We also would take a sand hill or dirt mound or something, and we'd literally build – my brothers and I –  a functioning chairlift out of Legos. And you put the little Lego people on it, and they could ride it to the top. We had the rope on it and all that. It worked.


How did you make the move into Utah with Brian Head and Nordic Valley?

I wanted to move into Utah and I probably knocked on the door of just about every ski resort there. I wanted to make an entrance. Buying a larger resort was my plan and pretty much nobody would sell. I kind of was just going down the list and the first thing that I could get that made sense was Nordic (Valley). And I said, ‘okay, well, we'll take a little resort and turn it into a big one,’ and that's what we'll do. And then Brian Head. Yeah, we have big plans for it. Some of that stuff has been announced. We're working on really making it a substantial resort and fully taking advantage of the Las Vegas market there and also the cities around there are growing pretty rapidly – Cedar City and Saint George. And then also I think the southern end of the Salt Lake Metro, Provo. I think there's a real opportunity because you can drive down there, you know, really not that far, and have a nice weekend and a different experience and not be crowded. 

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Fresh pillowy snow set against glowing red rock at Brian Head Resort (Jesse Lynch)


How does your philosophy of freedom to ski impact your business?

We are definitely a skiing-first company – not real estate-first. It's not that real estate is not important, but without a doubt, it’s skiing first. We're always looking at how we can improve the skiing, make things better, make the ski resort be as many things to as many people as possible. I myself ski very difficult, challenging terrain. That's part of what I love about it. But I also remember what it was like to be a kid from Texas who didn't really know how to ski and I keep that in my mind. When we're developing ski resorts, I really try to think about all the different customers that are going to be coming to our mountain, and how we provide a great experience for all of them. It's very, very important to us. So yeah, skiing first.


I like to ask guests about their favorite runs to ski. But you actually BUILT yours?

I love building trails. So I get my chainsaw out and help cut trees and move wood. Yah, it's one that I built called O Shoot at Nordic Valley. It's really technical – trees and a ravine. And not everybody likes it like I do because it's hard, you know, it's very challenging. You don't often get to decide where you're going to turn. You're going to turn when you have to turn. So I actually find that really fun. And then I have a sentimental one. I built this big beginner trail there called Lolly, Lolly, Lolly, which is my mom's nickname from her grandchildren. So that's kind of a sentimental favorite.


Our sport is known for its innovative and passionate pioneers. James Coleman embodies the freedom that makes skiing the sport we all love. This is a really fun episode of Last Chair.

 

“In my senior year in high school, my dad said, ‘hey, what are you going to do with your life?’ And I said, ‘well, I really want to build ski resorts.’”


Brian Head Ski Resort

Brian Head - Primary Logopng


Brian Head Resort
is the premier ski resort in southern Utah with close proximity to national parks such as Cedar Breaks National Monument, Bryce Canyon National Park, and Zion National Park. It’s tucked high in the mountains surrounded by quaint mountain towns, yet sits close in proximity to major metropolitan areas including Las Vegas, Saint George, and Southern California. With the highest base elevation in Utah at 9,600 feet, Brian Head offers an unforgettable experience that has a down-to-earth and family-friendly atmosphere while skiing on stunning vistas looking down at red rock giving a “top of the world feeling.”



Nordic Valley

Nordic Valley - Primary Logo1png



In the early 1960s, the idyllic Silver Bell Ranch, a 900-acre mountainside retreat, became a recreational oasis over the mountain from Ogden with sledding and tobogganing in the snowy winters. Soon chairlifts began whisking skiers up the mountain. By 1968, a small ski area in the heart of Utah’s powder country was born. Nordic Valley is nestled deep in the Wasatch Mountains, but just a few short miles from the restaurants, entertainment and comforts of the booming town of Ogden. Nordic Valley is famous for its ski school, intermediate and advanced slopes, and family-friendly atmosphere.

Ski Utah Blog - Nordic Valley  Samuel Pluim-5jpg
Smiling faces on kids at Nordic Valley (Samuel Pluim)



Power Pass

2023 Power Pass Logos_Horizontal - Primaryjpg

Among the myriad multi-resort pass products available today, the Power Pass is becoming quite a player, linking Utah resorts like Nordic Valley and Brian Head with neighboring state resorts – 11 USA destinations in all. And, get this, kids 12 and under are free! No blackouts. Same with 75+ seniors. It’s all about the freedom to ski. And buy your next year's Power Pass early enough and you’ll get summer days at Valle Nevado.

 

Transcript

Tom Kelly: |00:00:00| James Coleman, thank you for joining us on Last Chair. Great to have you. Where are you coming from today?


James Coleman: |00:00:06| Well, thanks, Tom, for having me on your show. I'm excited to do it. I'm actually in Durango today. That's where my home base is. I'm here more than anywhere else, but travel all over the country and all over the world pretty frequently.


Tom Kelly: |00:00:20| So we were talking before we got on the podcast. I know you've just acquired Mountain Capital Partners just acquired Valle Nevado earlier this year. Actually, I |00:00:30| would imagine you spent a lot of time down in Chile this year.


James Coleman: |00:00:33| Yeah, three trips down to Chile and the last one was mid-August to mid-September, skiing just about every day. It was pretty fun and it was hard to leave.


Tom Kelly: |00:00:46| It really helps your day count each year, doesn't it, when you get down to South America. Well, James, we appreciate having you. I just have found your story to be fascinating, and I want to share it with our listeners here on Last Chair of the Ski Utah podcast. |00:01:00| Can you give us a little bit about your background growing up? And first of all, how did you initially find the sport of skiing?


James Coleman: |00:01:07| Yeah, kind of crazy compared to a lot of people are typically in the business. My parents weren't in it. Grew up in Southern California, in Austin, Texas, more than anywhere and didn't start skiing until I was 15. My dad said, hey, it's time to go learn to ski. And I was like, okay, that'll be cool. Like learning to ride a bike or whatever. And he found the closest place to Austin, Texas, a |00:01:30| little hill called Cloudcroft, New Mexico, 550 miles away. And we drove out there this February, and it was snowing the whole time. And it was magical. And the first hour or so that I was learning how felt pretty awkward. And after an hour or two, I started to get the hang of it. And by the end of the trip, I was just absolutely smitten. And instead of planning on moving back to Southern California and being a surf bum after high school, I was like, I'm going to the mountains. It |00:02:00| just literally changed my life trajectory.


Tom Kelly: |00:02:03| So to go back, to go back to those very first impressions you had, though, what were the feelings and what were the sensations that initially got you really motivated to be a skier?


James Coleman: |00:02:16| You know, it's kind of hard to describe at some level. You know, one way I describe it is flying Without wings, I think is a big sensation for me. It's just magical. |00:02:30| The undulations in the terrain and water skied a lot too back in the day. I still do some and you know, and it's just the variety of what you have versus just going back and forth across the lake. Not that that's not a lot of fun, especially if you're going fast. It's just so it's so unique. It's so special. Just the, you know, it's almost like there's 6 or 7 different sports and skiing and you're skiing groomers. It's very different than skiing bumps. It's very different from |00:03:00| skiing powder through the woods. Um. Yeah. It's just it's just the coolest thing.


Tom Kelly: |00:03:08| So you really and you weren't exactly in the hotbeds of skiing, particularly when you lived in Texas, but you somehow found your way to keep getting to the slopes over the years.


James Coleman: |00:03:18| Yeah, it was challenging, especially as a kid who wanted to go snow skiing every day. And, you know, we'd get in three trips a year, probably two bigger ones, Christmas |00:03:30| and spring break and maybe a few day trips in February or January in between. So, you know, it was … there's definitely some frustration there. A lot of time going through my powder and ski and skiing magazines and dreaming and, and all that about it. But yeah, so I understand I relate to those folks that are, you know, stuck in Texas, can't go skiing here as much as they want.


Tom Kelly: |00:03:56| No, that's for sure. Was there a point in time, as you think back? |00:04:00| Was there that point in time where you said to yourself, this is where I want to spend my career?


James Coleman: |00:04:06| You know, I think there were little thoughts of that pretty quickly. But then my senior year in high school was when I really locked down on that. You know, my dad said, hey, what are you going to do with your life? And, and I had a number of different ideas. And I said, well, I really want to build ski resorts. And I said, I'm going to do some easier stuff first, I think. And, you know, he said, well, |00:04:30| you can do whatever you want. And within a couple months, three months or so after that conversation, I actually started working on it really started taking the plan seriously. And, and, you know, organizing my schooling and my thoughts about my career around it.


Tom Kelly: |00:04:48| Did you make sketches of mountains with runs and chairlifts? Kind of like I used to do that with, like, golf courses when I was young. But did you do the same thing? Did you kind of sketch out mountains and lifts?


James Coleman: |00:04:59| Certainly |00:05:00| would do that. We also would take like a sand hill or dirt mound or something, and we'd literally build me and my brothers a functioning chairlift out of Legos. And you put the little, you put the little Lego people on it, and they could ride it to the top. And, and we, you know, had the rope on it and all that. It worked. You know, you put them on there until the top they would go and, and just, you know, goofy stuff, put your skis on and go flying down the stairs, you know, |00:05:30| in the house, I mean just yeah. Loved it.


Tom Kelly: |00:05:35| That's really fun stuff. At some point, though, things started to come together. I know that your first opportunity came maybe even earlier than you had thought, but how did that first opportunity come to get you into the business?


James Coleman: |00:05:50| You know, I had a goal of having my first resort by 35, and about two thirds of the way through my undergrad, I literally changed my plan |00:06:00| on how I was going to get there. You know, I thought I'd finish my degree, and then I'd move to the mountains and start working my way up in the business and then, you know, become a CEO of a top resort and then attract capital to go do my own resort. And I thought, boy, that's harder than being a rock star. To follow that, that path. Um, you know, there's not that many top resorts and that many people have those positions and and |00:06:30| so I thought, you know, a way to accomplish my goal faster would be to buy my way in. And so I restructured how I was doing things and learned how to make money, and had that more of my focus and got my first resort at 33. So beat it by about two years and I definitely wasn't ready for it. I'd been studying and reading and preparing as best I could, but it kicked my butt quite a bit. |00:07:00|


Tom Kelly: |00:07:00| Starting on what was that first resort?


James Coleman: |00:07:04| A little hill called Sipapu, New Mexico. Um, I'd skied there as a kid and we used to ride our motorcycles around there a lot. Great, great trails around there, and it's the closest place to slopeside lodging to most of Texas. And I was introduced to me when I was 31, and I was just going to be a minor partner |00:07:30| in it, just kind of get my feet wet and helped me get prepared … more prepared for when I was, you know, 35. And a little while into it, the guy who was taking lead on it, I was like, he can't do this. He can't make this happen. And so I eventually took lead on it myself and closed on it about a year later. And the rest is history.


Tom Kelly: |00:07:55| Now, when you say you got your butt kicked at first, sometimes that |00:08:00| can be pretty valuable if you know how to take advantage of the opportunity.


James Coleman: |00:08:04| It really was. You know, it's challenging to run a really small resort and try to get it to grow versus coming into a larger one with a full staff and, you know, professionals in each department and all those kinds of things. Not saying a large resort is easy. I'm just saying comparatively, and in a lot of ways it was harder kind of having to do everything yourself and with just a few other people, |00:08:30| you know, really having to figure everything out. It definitely was challenging. And then we had some droughts early on, and, you know, that made it extra challenging. And it was pretty daunting. We started building lifts right away, and I'm very aggressive with those kinds of things. As I mentioned to you earlier, and during the first Covid year, everybody was canceling the lift projects. And not only did we not cancel our main project, but we added another one and we're the largest |00:09:00| lift builder in the world, I believe that year. And so we can be pretty aggressive. And I was right away and combining that with drought and some other challenges. Yeah, it was a rough couple of years and it wasn't … I didn't really feel like I totally got my arms around it until about year six.


Tom Kelly: |00:09:19| And when was the second resort that you picked up?


James Coleman: |00:09:23| Well, so it's kind of funny. So after six years, we felt like we had it. And the interesting part is year |00:09:30| six was like the worst drought ever. And that's part of how I knew we had figured it out, as we had a successful season, even with the worst drought there ever. So we started looking at buying or buying more resorts, and we just kind of looking at one at a time. We didn't want to go too fast. And this went on for years without getting a new resort. And then finally in 2014. Things started to come together and. Boy, there's a lot I could tell |00:10:00| on that story. But simplistically, we were having a company retreat down in Arizona. This was in May of 14, and there's some really fun stuff kind of leading up to it. And we're working on the snowball contract. We get it in our contract on a Tuesday the next day. And so in my mind, we got a contract. That's our next resort on the next day, on Wednesday, we go to Los Alamos. The club that was running Pajarito Votes was voting |00:10:30| that night on whether to turn Pajarito over to us. They voted 93 to 7% for us to take it over. So we now have three, and then we go back to Durango. And the next day, Gary Dirk calls me and says they're putting purgatory on the market. And he had told me when that happened, I'd be the first one. He called and he calls me and I'm like, you've got to be kidding me. We went from 1 to 3 and two days, and now our home town, mountain. |00:11:00| I was already living in Durango, and it's the second place I ever skied, so quite a fondness for purgatory comes available. I'm like, wow. And then we had our contract later that year. And so we went from 1 to 4 basically in one year.


Tom Kelly: |00:11:15| You know, that was an interesting time for the ski industry. Vail Resorts and Altara as well, just kind of starting up their kind of the big boys getting these different resorts. But all of a sudden you're starting to become a little bit of a player here.


James Coleman: |00:11:29| Yeah, |00:11:30| I mean we're still pretty small to them. I think in terms of skier visits, we're like the fifth largest group in the country. And in terms of total ski resort count, or maybe the third, I think is where we are. So, you know, we're just having fun putting cool things together and bringing joy and happiness to others. And as long as we can keep doing that and we have a good time doing that, then, then we'll keep adding.


Tom Kelly: |00:11:59| Well, a lot |00:12:00| of us were really happy to see you move into our state of Utah. You now own two resorts in the state, which is actually unusual in and of itself. Nordic Valley and also Brian Head. How did the move into Utah come about?


James Coleman: |00:12:15| You know, it's kind of interesting. I wanted to move into Utah, and I probably knocked on the door of just about every ski resort there. And, you know, I wanted to make an entrance. Buying a larger resort |00:12:30| was my plan, and pretty much nobody would sell. There were some deals going on where they might say they weren't going to sell, but they were already working back door with Vail or Alterra, those kinds of things. And just so they kind of blew me off. And, so I kind of just going down the list and the first thing that I could get that made sense was Nordic. And I said, okay, well, we'll take a little resort and turn it into a big one, and that's what we'll do. |00:13:00| None of the larger ones want to sell to us. Then we'll take that approach, and that is something we do quite a bit, save smaller ski resorts. But that had been my original plan on Utah was to go that route. It had been to make a good, you know, kind of a bigger splash and then and then maybe start buying some smaller ones. So.


Tom Kelly: |00:13:20| And then Brian Head.


James Coleman: |00:13:21| Yeah, and then Brian Head. Then we started looking for another one that we were kind of on a National Hunt that year for certain resorts we |00:13:30| were targeting, and that was the one that came up that year that made the most sense. You know, we try to just. By about one resort a year. Which is funny because the last 12 months I think we've done about four. So we have four in about 12 months. And so yeah, we were out looking and that was 2020 also that we closed on that, which not a lot of people are closing on ski resorts in 20 to 20 with everything going on. But we went ahead and completed that transaction |00:14:00| and that was a huge success. That made a ton of sense, and we did very well right off the bat with it.


Tom Kelly: |00:14:07| But Brian Head and Nordic Valley resorts in Utah actually go all the way back to the 60s. They each have some great history. Can you tell us a little bit more about each resort, what it represents in the market today, and maybe some of the thoughts you have on where these resorts could go over the next decade?


James Coleman: |00:14:25| Well, Nordic, we have some pretty big plans for, which has |00:14:30| been challenging. When we first started working on it, we thought those plans might proceed quickly and then some extenuating circumstances brought those larger plans to a temporary close, I might say. But we haven't given up on those, and we'll work on those in the future. But right now, we've been focused on working on the land that we currently own, and we put that high speed six pack in there and started to build, |00:15:00| build a number of trails. And it was kind of like that over in that pod was pretty much starting a ski resort from scratch, really. There was no infrastructure over there whatsoever, no electricity, no trails. And just one summer there of 2020. We built all that and put the lift in, and it's really a fun, fun pod over there. And we've kind of built it almost like an East Coast style, you |00:15:30| know, little narrower trails and, and just kind of a different experience and trying to do exactly what everybody else has done. They're just trying to do something a little different. And almost like Sipapu in New Mexico is kind of like an East Coast version of skiing in the west. So get that East coast experience with Western powder.


James Coleman: |00:15:48| It's pretty fun. I actually really enjoy it. I find that mountaineer very entertaining. Um, and then Brian Head. Yeah, we got big plans for it. There's been some of that stuff has been |00:16:00| announced, and we're working on really making it a substantial resort and fully taken advantage of the Las Vegas market there and then and also the cities around there are growing pretty rapidly. Cedar City and Saint George. And then also I think the southern end of the Salt Lake Metro, Provo and those areas and all that. I think there's a real opportunity because you can drive down there, you know, really not |00:16:30| that far from those places and have a nice weekend and a different experience and not be so crowded. Um, you know, what you're dealing with there and the main part of the Wasatch and if you like, if you live in that area and buy our season passes, you can run up to the Nordic. It's not too crowded most of the time. Get a day skiing in and then come down to Brian Head. So I think the combination of the two is pretty powerful. It's going to continue to grow, so we're very excited about it.


Tom Kelly: |00:16:58| It has been interesting to |00:17:00| you to look at that market and see what's happening down there. Saint George, of course, is bursting at the seams right now, so that market is growing for you. But you know, the point that you made about people from particularly the southern end of the Salt Lake Valley, it's only a few hours down there, so it's not bad at all, and you're a little bit higher elevation. You've got great snow down there. Actually, Brian had I believe Brian Head was one of the was the first to open last year. Yeah.


James Coleman: |00:17:29| Yeah. |00:17:30| This year we're going to open on Friday and two days … the 17th of November. And I think we'll probably be tied with a couple other resorts for that opening day.


Tom Kelly: |00:17:45| That's awesome. You had mentioned that in the last year or so. You've also had, I think you said four more acquisitions. Do you want to run through those? And I want to. One of them is just spectacular. But why don't you give us a little rundown on those four?


James Coleman: |00:18:00| I'm |00:18:00| really excited about them all for various reasons. But Willamette Pass in Oregon between Eugene and Bend, we're very, very excited about that. That was about a year ago. And then the next one was via Novato in March of this year, and then Lee Canyon in June of this year. And then we just and Lee Canyon by Nevado in Chile and Lee Canyon outside of Las Vegas, Nevada, and then |00:18:30| Sandia Peak outside of Albuquerque, New Mexico, was what we just announced a couple weeks ago.


Tom Kelly: |00:18:37| Sweet I. When we talked earlier this spring on a different story, you spoke about some of your vision points for Valle Nevado in Chile. And I was just down there not for skiing, sadly, but for the Pan American Games. But it's pretty easy to get down there and a flight, those flights north south there are a lot better than |00:19:00| those flights east west. But you've got big plans for what you could do for the sport in South America there.


James Coleman: |00:19:05| Yeah, I call it going down there. I call it going to Europe without the jet lag. You know, the cities there feel more European. The above tree line, you know, feels more European. And and so it's an awesome experience. Great wine, great food climates. Awesome. And so yeah, |00:19:30| it is pretty easy to fly overnight. And you get to ski all day when you get there and you get to see all day your last day because you fly home at night again. So you kind of get an extra day without the lodging. So it's pretty convenient that way. And I find it pretty, pretty easy to do easier than traveling east west. Like.


Tom Kelly: |00:19:50| We're going to talk about.


James Coleman: |00:19:51| Your way to like, New York or Hawaii, even east-west, even in our own country. In a lot of ways it's easier. And you get to the airport and you can be up the mountain in an hour and |00:20:00| a half to on the road. Or if you want, you can take a hilly up there and be there quick. Um, but yeah, big plans for sure.


Tom Kelly: |00:20:09| Well, that's really pretty cool. We're going to talk about your past products and how people can get down there. But just a couple quick things before we take a quick show break. But are you able to get over to Utah quite a bit to ski, or are we going to see you on the slopes at Brian Head in Nordic Valley this year?


James Coleman: |00:20:24| You know, it depends on the year, how much I get over there. So, you know, often when you've got a lot of new acquisitions, |00:20:30| you've got to spend some time, you know, additional time at those properties, you know, incorporating them into our systems and into the broader collective and also just learning, learning how those resorts, resorts operate. So you can be as helpful as possible. So, you know, this last year didn't get near as much as I had hoped to. I did spend a bit of time last year at the beginning of the season at Brian Head. It was so good there in |00:21:00| early November, skiing powder and early November. Um, but yeah, it just depends on the year. I'm certainly hoping to get up there more this winter.


Tom Kelly: |00:21:08| Good. We'd love to have you. We're going to take a short break. When we come back, we're going to talk a little bit more about the philosophy behind this amazing company with James Coleman. We'll be right back on Last Chair. 


Tom Kelly: And we're back on last year with James Coleman. James, we talked a little bit before the break about Valle Nevado, |00:21:30| and it's just such a spectacular addition to your portfolio. And I know there's a lot of Utah skiers who are going to be going to Brian Head, and they're going to be going to Nordic Valley this year, and they're going to have an opportunity now to go down to Valle Nevado. You have an amazing amount of land that you can potentially access there. Give us a sense of your vision and what that ski resort could be in a few years.


James Coleman: |00:21:55| Yeah, the acreage is incredible. We have 23,000 acres |00:22:00| to work there, and only about 10% of it's currently developed. And our heliskiing there. We have over 200,000 acres of heliskiing right next door. So it's a pretty amazing combination. And then what? And what also is really cool is the vertical that we potentially can have there. We can have in the neighborhood of 10,000ft, the top of the mountain is almost 18,000ft. It's really wild, has hanging glaciers on it and just an incredible mountain. And the plan is |00:22:30| to really make it a bucket list resort, you know, place you just have to go to at least once in your lifetime. And then hopefully once you go, you want to keep going back. But, you know, everybody has their, you know, okay, I got to go heliskiing or British Columbia and go to Japan and January and those kinds of things. And we want to make … going to one of those like, I have to do this kind of places. And so that's our plan. So we've got an ambitious plan there and plan to be aggressive |00:23:00| about it and start building lifts here soon and really expand it.


Tom Kelly: |00:23:05| How far are you there from the airport in Santiago?


James Coleman: |00:23:09| Yeah, you can get there in an hour and a half to two hours if the weather's decent.


Tom Kelly: |00:23:17| Yeah, that's what amazed me. Just sitting in Santiago, looking out there. I mean, you can see the mountains right from downtown Santiago. It's really right there. So, folks, if you're if you've ever entertained or even if you haven't entertained |00:23:30| going to South America now, you're going to have a great opportunity at Valle Nevado. James, one of the things that's really attracted me to your organization is the company philosophy that you have, and I know that it's born out of the feelings that you had for the sport when you got involved as a young man. But talk about the philosophy that you have the freedom to ski and how you push that message throughout all of your resorts.


James Coleman: |00:23:56| Yeah, we are definitely skiing first company, you |00:24:00| know, not real estate first. It's not that real estate is not important, but we are, you know, without a doubt, skiing first. We're always looking at how we can improve the skiing, make things better, make the ski resort. As many things to as many people as possible. You know, skiing is different than a lot. Lots of other activities where you can have beginners to experts all going together in a group of friends or a family, |00:24:30| and really trying to make that a great experience for all those folks. I myself ski, you know, very difficult, challenging terrain. That's part of what I love about it. But I also remember what it was like to be a kid from Texas who didn't really know how to ski, and I keep that in my mind. When we're developing ski resorts, I really try to think about all the different customers that are going to be coming to our mountain, and how do we provide a great experience for all of them? It's very, very |00:25:00| important to to us. So yeah. Skiing first.


Tom Kelly: |00:25:07| How do you promote the message, the freedom to ski. How do you push that message down to your resorts and to your employees so they can all speak that same message of the freedom of the sport?


James Coleman: |00:25:21| Yeah, it really is a broad frame of mind that we have with that |00:25:30| for making it easy for people to enjoy the sport and start out. So we have 12 and under that ski free and try to make those barriers for children to start to learn. Very low free lessons at most of our resorts have variable pricing with very affordable lift tickets much of the time. And |00:26:00| then and then how we run the mountains, trying to open them early each year, try to stay open late so they have a long season. So people are getting really good value for their, you know, when they buy a season pass and have lots of opportunities to ski as much of the year as possible. You know, not everybody can afford to go down to South America and ski around. And so making it to where that season is extended a couple of weeks on the |00:26:30| front end, a couple of weeks on the back end, sometimes longer really can be important to people giving them those opportunities. There's not always a lot of money you make by being open late, for example. But it's not just about that. It's about bringing the joy and happiness that we experience to as many people as possible. It's very rewarding. I mean, I actually would ski more if I wasn't a ski business. I could just go ski and have fun. But it's super rewarding to be able to bring this experience to as many people as possible. |00:27:00|


Tom Kelly: |00:27:01| I want to go back to the Power Kids pass program. We've seen many third, fourth, fifth grade passport programs and all sorts of different incentives that allow kids to get out there and ski free. But just to double, you've really doubled down on this. You know, you're offering all kids under 12 the opportunity to get a pass and ski free. This has to be just a life changing experience for families with kids to get them on snow.


James Coleman: |00:27:29| Yeah, there's |00:27:30| no strings attached. You don't. Parent doesn't have to buy a season pass. Parent doesn't have to rent a condo. Nothing. Just here you go. 12 and under free and. Yeah, it it really is. I mean, it's, you know, most of those folks, most of the folks listening, listen to this program, know how incredible it is. And so to introduce as many kids to that sport and create a lifetime positive activity for them to do that's both fun and healthy, you know, how |00:28:00| can you beat that?


Tom Kelly: |00:28:01| And how long have you had that Pass program in place?


James Coleman: |00:28:05| Oh, boy. We started. At the 12 and under. I want to say it was about five years ago. You know, we had this a lot a lot of resorts have for an under five and under 607 and under, we basically got kind of all of ours to make sure they released the seven under. And then we kind of started working it up to eight, nine, ten, and then we jumped |00:28:30| from 10 to 12. And so it kind of worked our way into that. And and so I think we've been at 12 for at least four years, maybe five.


Tom Kelly: |00:28:39| So you've been able to watch kids come through this program and stay in the sport and continue to come back as they get into their teens, probably.


James Coleman: |00:28:47| Yeah. And we also really try to keep it affordable for teens and for young adults also. You know, not just college kids, but a lot of resorts have a college pass or whatever. We |00:29:00| try to keep it affordable for any young adult. You know, because. You know, people starting out. It's a challenge in life. So yeah, just try to make it easy for them to be able to stay in the sport.


Tom Kelly: |00:29:14| For those of us who are kids at heart but adults now, what are the past opportunities to explore multiple resorts in your portfolio?


James Coleman: |00:29:23| Yeah, so our premier pass is called the Power Pass. And then we have different levels below that. The |00:29:30| power pass select and power pass base and some different products. And so. And so yeah, if you have that power pass, you're unlimited at all our resorts, plus a few others that have joined our pass. They have some days that those resorts to, you know, all over the southwest and then and then as we expand into other parts of the country and, and down South America, you have those opportunities also. |00:30:00| So it's a pretty solid product, especially, you know, if you live in the southwest.


Tom Kelly: |00:30:07| Yeah, it's been interesting to watch past programs over the last years. Obviously, Epic and Ikon are kind of the anchors of the thing, but some of the smaller independent resorts have really developed some amazing past programs. Do you have other partnerships outside of your resorts? Do you have some other partnerships included in Power Pass, or is it just your Mountain Capital Partners Resorts?


James Coleman: |00:30:29| Yeah, there are |00:30:30| a few other resorts. You know, there was a time where we had a lot of resorts where we really have narrowed that down. So Sundance, there is a partner with us. You get three days there as part of our pass, but we really have narrowed it down. But there are some additional ones.


Tom Kelly: |00:30:47| So when you get out to your resorts, I know you like to go out and ski, but what are other things that you do when you're out and about at the resort? Are there certain areas of the operation you like to gravitate towards?


James Coleman: |00:30:58| I love building trails. |00:31:00| I really think that's super cool. So I get my chainsaw out and help cut trees and move wood and, you know, drive dozers and other equipment at certain times. I'm going to do that as much as I used to. But yeah, I really do enjoy doing that. I also love making snow. I think that's a really neat thing. And improving the snow, making and building more of that infrastructure |00:31:30| and building lifts is obviously always excited, exciting to be involved in those projects. Yeah, those are kind of the fundamentals of ski resorts and what makes them different than other other activities. And so yeah, getting involved in that is where my heart is.


Tom Kelly: |00:31:48| Just to kind of close it up before we get to our final Fresh Tracks section, where I have a few little Q and A's for you. But as you look back now at your career in the ski business, you've brought a |00:32:00| enlightening philosophy to it. You've been able to acquire a number of resorts. What's the most gratifying thing to you, though? And you look at your role and you look back at what you've done. What do you feel in your heart that really says, hey, I'm really proud that I've done this?


James Coleman: |00:32:14| Well, you know, it's kind of funny because. Getting into the ski business was the selfish desires of a teenager. Was just something I was very excited about. But very quickly as I got into |00:32:30| the business, I realized just how much bigger it is than me. And not even just the people skiing at your resort, but the whole communities that surround them and how important it is and providing jobs and, and just other ways that you support the community and being a community center and all those kinds of things. And so, you know, I really do love helping other people. And I think that that. You know, realizing |00:33:00| that pretty early on and seeing how that works has been part of our interest in continuing to expand this to other places. You know, we you know, you have your ski resort outside of your town and you have your dreams about how it could be better and what you would do differently. And, and we really try to give that to people. Like, like I said earlier, like thinking about what they would want, what would they like this resort to be like. And so we really do try to think about those things |00:33:30| and make those things happen. And I've literally had times where people come up to me crying because we've done that. We've made the resort what they hoped it would be. And so that's just super rewarding. You know, it's yeah, you go ski and you get a brain full of thrills and it's super fun and cool, and you spend time with your friends and having a good time and all that. But, you know, some of these moments like that are just way longer lasting. You know, in |00:34:00| your mind when you have that positive effect on other people and, and in this case, we now get to be hundreds of thousands of other people. So it's pretty rewarding.


Tom Kelly: |00:34:11| Well, you're making a big impact, James, and we thank you for that. We're going to close it out with a section we call Fresh Tracks. I've got, I don't know, about a half dozen short Q&A questions for you. First one, and I know that some of these are going to put you on the spot. But what was your favorite experience this past summer in Valle Nevado?


James Coleman: |00:34:29| Heli |00:34:30| skiing on my birthday.


Tom Kelly: |00:34:32| Nice. When's your birthday?


James Coleman: |00:34:37| It's in September, so, you know, you don't usually get to do that in September, so that's beautiful. It was pretty, pretty magical. And I had a bunch of other friends down there and we just had a great time. I mean, it was super cool.


Tom Kelly: |00:34:51| Beautiful. How about your favorite ski run in Utah?


James Coleman: |00:34:56| It's one that that I built called O Shoot. They're |00:35:00| they're at Nordic Valley. It's a real technical trees and ravine. And not everybody likes it like I do because it's. You take people in there. It's hard, you know, it's very challenging. You don't often get to decide where you're going to turn. You're going to turn when you have to turn. So I actually find that really fun. And then I have a sentimental one. I built this big beginner trail there called Lolly, Lolly lolly, which is my mom's nickname |00:35:30| from her grandchildren. And, and so that's kind of a sentimental favorite.


Tom Kelly: |00:35:37| Cool. How about your favorite personal fun activity outside of skiing?


James Coleman: |00:35:42| So does the chain sawing. Is that outside of skiing or that?


Tom Kelly: |00:35:47| No, but that will come up later.


James Coleman: |00:35:49| You know, I do. I do love spending time with friends and family, but in terms of fun activities, I love riding four wheelers on sand dunes. I think that's just a |00:36:00| super fun activity. I've got this old banshee. They don't build them anymore in the States, but this old banshee that's just super hot rod and it's really fun to go in the sand dunes. It kind of mimics skiing in some ways, the feel of it. So it.


Tom Kelly: |00:36:16| Really does. I'm a Jeep guy, so I don't I don't do the dune buggies or the side-by-sides, but I love going down sandy trails with a jeep, and you can just kind of float those front wheels left and right, and they just kind of keep going straight. Love it. Did |00:36:30| you have a favorite role model or who was your biggest role model when you were growing up? As a young boy.


James Coleman: |00:36:36| My parents, my mom, my mom and dad were just super influential and in my life and, and super motivating and, and really just was lucky to have both of them. And, and you know, they, they had, you know, different gifts and I got a great blend of their gifts and, |00:37:00| and it's just really been super helpful in my life.


Tom Kelly: |00:37:04| Last one. And I know this is always tough for people, but if you had to describe what skiing means to you in just one word, and I'm going to guess you're going to get this quick one word, what does skiing mean to you?


James Coleman: |00:37:15| I wouldn't be surprised if our talk. You could guess it, but I'd say freedom.


Tom Kelly: |00:37:20| Love it. James Coleman, it is a delight to talk to you. We appreciate all you've brought to skiing, and so glad that you're the owner of two resorts in Utah. We'll |00:37:30| see you this winter.


James Coleman: |00:37:31| All right. Thanks, Tom. Hope to see you, too.

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