Downhill Delivery

By Louise Hudson

With delivery dominating the food, restaurant, and retail industries at the moment, the time-saving trend is gradually infiltrating to ski areas. Pizza delivery has always proliferated, especially in resorts peppered with self-catering accommodation. But ski businesses are branching out to deliver more creative meals, groceries, wines, ski/ride rental equipment, and all the bulky things that are difficult for families to bring such as cribs, cots, strollers, highchairs, and toys.

“Never Stand in Line Again” was the mantra of Bryn Carey, who founded Ski Butlers in 2004 at Park City. Leaders in seamless service, Ski Butlers have spread the rental-to-room delivery trend across 47 ski resorts in the US, Canada and Europe. Delivering Rossignol skis, snowboards, boots, poles, helmets, goggles, clothing and accessories direct to customers’ accommodations makes for a cushy rental experience. And the support service enables swapping gear or even switching from skiing to snowboarding during the same trip. Riley Tippet is the owner of Ski Butlers Aspen, Telluride and Sun Valley. “The popularity of delivery has grown exponentially in the past decade,” says Tippet. “People have realized there is a better way to rent.”

Casual users, in particular beginners, are more likely to rent – so, too, ‘adventure grazers’ who are accumulating bucket-list experiences rather than lots of gear. And the rental market for more regular and experienced skiers is growing, too, as a result of spiralling costs of airline baggage and continual innovation in ski and board manufacturing. “If after traveling all day, getting checked in to your room, and settling in, I gave you an option to either put your stuff back on, go in to town, wait in line, carry your gear back to your room – or just sit back and relax because Ski Butlers will be showing up with everything to fit you – which would you choose?” asks Tippet. “We take the hassle out of ski rentals and put the vacation time back in the guests’ hands.” For those who can’t travel without their own treasured gear, there are companies like Ship Skis which transports skis, snowboards and luggage anywhere in the world.

Other rental delivery companies are springing up – there’s Black Tie Rentals, rentskis.com (BC, Colorado, California, Utah), and several sports shops are boarding the bandwagon – for example, Telluride Sports and Ultimate, Banff. Many resorts are providing in-house ski rentals, including Telluride’s Peaks Resort & Spa and Whistler’s Pan Pacific Mountainside, which houses The Salomon Store and two other ski shops. Hotels are increasingly adding ski valet stations, often right onto the snow, so that skiers and snowboarders can ski straight from breakfast and, later, back from piste to patio without feeling like a sherpa. A real luxury for families with younger kids and for exhausted skiers of any age.

In Colorado, Mountain Threads delivers ski and snowboard clothing ordered online for men, women and kids. Kit Lender and Slope Threads are similarly reducing packing problems by delivering full ski kits to US destinations with handy pre-addressed packaging to drop it all off at the front desk at the end of the stay. This facilitates travelling with just hand luggage, saving a lot of time and effort. Canada is lagging behind a bit in ski clothing delivery, but Whistler’s leading the way with Whistler Winter Wear, Ski Butlers, and Black Tie Skis.

The delivery demand is spreading across the board. Businesses like Target and McDonald’s are competing with Amazon for same-day service, often with free delivery. And at ski resorts, smaller stores and restaurants are also dabbling in downhill delivery. There are grocery deliveries at resorts such as Big White, which has liaised with IGA in Kelowna to deliver direct to condos. There’s a $100 minimum and $50 delivery charge but it could be well worthwhile if a group or family is flying in late and staying in a fully-kitted condo for longer than just a weekend. Big White Beer and Wine has in-resort online ordering and delivery; the Market at Big White delivers groceries; and Vacation Food Service delivers Okanagan specialities, Aussie meat pies, homemade soups, fresh meats, and gluten-free products.

Fed up with cooking on day three of a ski vacation but too tired to go out? Fondue at Home has you covered if you’re in the Vail Valley or Crested Butte area. Cheese, steak, and chocolate fondues are all on the mobile menu, along with shrimp, lobster, gluten-free bread, and salad add-ons. The owner, Derek George, grew up in a family that favoured fondue. “When I moved to the mountains I began hosting fondue parties at my house,” he says. “Around the 2013-14 holidays, it struck me: ‘why not create a business around providing people with fondue parties in their own home?’ Everyone comes here, rents a beautiful home or condo; why not stay in and enjoy that with a fondue party?” He launched Fondue at Home in February 2014. “It makes a lot of sense because typically people visiting our mountain towns don’t have their own equipment, and prepping all the dipping items can be quite tedious, plus who wants to scrub pots?” The company takes care of everything, including clear-up, leaving everyone to enjoy all the communal and social aspects of their own private fondue party.

At Whistler, one restauranteur is buying a pizza delivery business in order to enter the delivery market: “We’re moving into the delivery trend,” says Joey Gibbons, owner of Gibbons Life: a bar, beer, nightlife, and events company. “I couldn’t think how to start that except for buying an existing delivery business. So we’re buying a pizza business – as well as a nearby bar and liquor store – to try that market.” Whistler Dine In already offers delivery of liquor, groceries, gifts, and meals from 20 restaurants.

This trend is thriving in Europe – Chalet Kitchen, for example, delivers from its kitchens in Les Gets resort across Europe’s largest ski area, the Portes Du Soleil. Founded in 2013, the local family business brings fresh, restaurant-quality food. “Current favourites include traditional Tartiflette with Savoyard Reblochon cheese; lamb shoulder braised low and slow; Burgundy beef simmered for six-hours; and fillet of French pork, roasted in chorizo and thyme juice,” says founder and head chef, Raphael Cabuis. And these gourmet menus can be adapted to suit vegetarians, vegans, and those with allergies or intolerances. “Of course, Chalet Kitchen is part of a broader trend where skiers opt to ‘build their own’ ski holiday instead of booking an off-the-shelf package,” Cabuis explains. “More and more commonly, today’s skiers choose their accommodation as a stand-alone booking and have everything else delivered there. Ski hire, lift passes, childcare, massage/wellness, cleaning and concierge services, and more — all can be booked separately and delivered to the chalet. Chalet Kitchen food deliveries are just a very tasty extension of that same trend.”

Specializing in fancy fare, the Fine Dining Restaurant Group at Jackson Hole pairs its private wine-buying program with food from Bistro Catering for intimate in-home dining in rental houses and condos. “To begin, our on-staff sommeliers chat with the host to gauge which wines they like and then handpick a selection of unique wines to be showcased,” says Director of Communications, Kendra Alessandro. “After that, our sommelier consults with our catering team to prepare a perfectly paired menu. On the evening of the event, our chefs and expert vintner team prepare, serve and present each delectable course – all on site in the host’s desired location. We bring everything from start to finish, clean up and go home at the end of the evening. No mess or fuss for the guests and a truly five-star experience all around.”

Skiers at Heavenly and Kirkwood have the choice of dozens of delivery restaurants around South Lake Tahoe via Eat24 – including Thai, sushi, Indian, and Chinese. Of course, most hotels have offered room service dining for many years, ranging from a basic burger to increasingly more innovative options such as the Four Seasons Whistler’s family crockpot. But elsewhere, food service is getting even more creative. The ‘Prinoth Snowlicious’ is bringing mobile food options to Panorama’s pistes. The food truck snowcat roams around the ski slopes and is also available for private events. Cute and colourful camper vans are cropping up at many ski resorts, repurposed as S’mores carts at Snowmass Village, Four Seasons Whistler, and Ritz Carlton Tahoe and as an ice-skate rental facility at the Limelight Snowmass.

In France, Holiday Baby Hire is making it easier to bring infants skiing, delivering cots and other necessities to ski chalets in Courchevel, Meribel, Champagny and surrounding areas. BabyQuip offers the same service for Aspen, Breckenridge, Vail, among other resorts. And Snuggle Bug Baby Gear serves the SkiBig3 area, based from Canmore.

So, it seems that door-to-door delivery is diversifying and opening up to everyone. Perhaps we’ll be seeing driverless autos arriving at ski condos with fully cooked meals soon. Drones dropping dinner at chalets and cabins. Or restaurant robots skiing our food to our door.

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