Q&A with Jacques Thomas, ski industry insider
Jacques Thomas is a famous figure in the ski world and a local fixture here in Grand County with decades of experience in the ski industry. Thomas has served as a coach for the Rossignol professional ski team and as a technical advisor for the US and French National Ski teams. Here is our 10 question Q&A with Thomas about his life and his views on past, present and future of skiing.
Sky-Hi News: What is your role within the broader ski industry?
Thomas: I have been working in all fields of the ski industry all of my life. I started as a ski instructor, got into ski racing and did coaching for several ski manufacturers like Look Ski Bindings, Rossignol and Nordica Ski Boots. I was a racing manager with the US Ski Team and I worked for the French Ski Team as the racing department’s technical adviser. I was the manager of the Rossignol Pro Team for the World Pro Tour.
If you need my resume I can forward it to you as there is too much to say about my ski industry experience.
SHN: How long have you been involved in the sky industry?
T: From the age of seven until now.
SHN: How and why did you decide to get into the ski industry for a profession?
T: I studied to be an aeronautical, mechanical engineer hoping that I could become a pilot. When I got into the army they found I was colorblind. At that time the army was recruiting ski instructors to teach air force pilots and I end up being working at a resort teaching skiing to pilots. After that season I decided that this was what I really love. I have been a “ski bum” since.
SHN: What do you see as the major changes in the ski industry over the past two decades?
T: The big change in the industry of the last two decades has been the explosion of the snowboard industry and the bringing of new blood and new energy into a sleeping ski industry. The ski manufacturers woke up and started bringing new ski shape designs in to help skiers learn how to carve the prefect turn in few days, when before it took them several years to learn this skill.
SHN: What do you see as the greatest challenge(s) facing the skiing industry overall?
T: The greatest challenge that the industry is facing is global warming. Many resorts that are located at lower altitudes are very aware of the problem and are redefining their future as they experience difficulties with snow in the winter months. The seasons are getting shorter and the temperature doesn’t always get cold enough for snow making systems. The ski industry has to compete with other aggressive tourism industries, like the ocean cruises, that offer competitive prices for a week long vacation with everything include.
SHN: What do you see as Grand County’s strengths and weaknesses as it relates to marketing the county to outside skiers?
T: The greatest thing that Grand County has to offer, in order to compete with other resorts, is elevation. Winter Park is located at an altitude of 9000 feet, which is an advantage. It makes for a better chance to get snow, a better chance for cold temperature, great slope exposure, and better quality snow. It also has closer and easier access from Denver, the Front Range and DIA. It is easier to access by road, and by the “ski train’’, than other resorts. Grand county real estate is still affordable and open for new development and new private funding project are bringing up standards in the valley with great ideas from those developers.
SHN: What is your overall outlook for the future of skiing?
T: Skiing need to be made more affordable. We need more convenient access to resorts, better services should be offered, winter activities should be diversified to include activities like cross-country “hut trips”, snow mobiling, Winter survival clinics, Heli ski tours, kite skiing. Different ski resorts should be connected with ski huts or shuttle buses.
SHN: What sort of changes do you expect to see in Grand County in coming years?
T: The changes I expect for Grand County include: improving the lodging and accommodation conditions, opening of more RV parks, improving all summer and winter mountain activities as we have a great natural outdoor landscape.
SHN: What is your favorite ski run in Grand County?
T: My two favorite runs in Winter Park and Mary Jane are the cruising runs Sleeper and Norwegian.
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