April 1 – RICHMOND, VT: In a move that shocked both skiers and Wall Street, the non-profit Cochran’s Ski Area of Richmond, Vt., announced it has been gifted 4,974,112 shares of the publicly-traded behemoth Vail Resorts. The donation came as part of its annual Rope-A-Thon fundraiser in March. The shares will be transferred through the Vermont Community Foundation. “This is friggin’ awesome,” said Dan Smith, VCF’s president and CEO and a die-hard skier.
“Jeezum crow! I nearly fell off my picnic bench when I opened this one donor envelope,” says Barbara Ann Cochran, the Olympic gold medalist who is the ski school director at the tiny Richmond ski area. Her son Ryan Cochran-Siegle brought home a silver medal in the 2022 Olympic Super G in China. “I called down to my nephew Jimmy who was boiling sap over at the sugar house and said, ‘get over here quick, I think we now own Vail Resorts.” Jimmy’s grandparents, Mickey and Ginny Cochran, started the ski area in 1961 when they put a rope tow behind their farmhouse. The Cochrans easily represent ski racing’s winningest family.
Yeeeeehaw!” was how Robby Kelley, another of Barbara Ann Cochran’s nephews, reacted. He and his brother Tim, both former members of the Redneck Racing Team that competed independently on the World Cup, were bottling Cochran’s Slopeside Syrup just off the ski slopes when they heard the news.
Those shares give the non-profit and the legendary ski racing family behind it the majority stake in Vail Resorts, allowing them to influence its future direction.
The letter, sent by the accounting firm T. Growe Price on behalf of the anonymous donor said: “We have been inspired by the ski racing success shown by generations of the Cochran family, their work ethic, their commitment to the sport and to keeping it accessible to all. In granting Cochran’s these shares, we hope they will help fix skiing.” It also noted that the donor was sick and tired of sitting in traffic on Stowe’s access road.
Senator Bernie Sanders called the anonymous donor “the Robinhood of Skiing,” adding, “They are fulfilling my vision for how American wealth should be redistributed.”
When asked what they plan to do with the shares, Jimmy Cochran, the former Olympian who manages the ski hill said, “Well, first we’re going to fix those big’ol potholes in our muddy parking lot. Then, we’re going to get everyone who works here a new pair of Carhartts.”
However, he noted that the legendary ski racing family plans to hold onto their shares. “Like the letter said, maybe we can fix things at Vail Resorts — and turn out some better ski racers at the same time,” Jimmy noted.
Some immediate changes under consideration for Vail’s 40 North American resorts:
- All new lifts will be rope tows.
- Pancakes and Vermont maple syrup will be served all day at all resorts.
- Base lodges will replace cafeteria meals with homemade potluck dishes.
- Local school kids will ski for free – provided they take the yellow school buses to the mountains, mind their manners and don’t litter.
- Mandatory race and gate training for all kids under age of 12. Anyone who falls or misses a gate must hike back up.
- Large farmhouses will be built at the base of every ski area to offer subsidized employee housing.
- Ski instructor uniforms will be red flannel and lift operations, camo.
- Volunteers will take turns filling in roles where there have been staffing shortages.
“We are also working on a fair way to reduce the crowding, which has been a real problem at those big ski areas,” noted Barbara Ann. “We teach kids that they have to wait their turns. So should adults.”
The Cochran family is considering reconfiguring the Epic Pass so that skiers must earn days at larger mountains by skiing at what are commonly called “feeder hills.” “For every day you ski at local a feeder hill like Cochran’s or Brattleboro Ski Hill, here in Vermont, you would get to ski one day at a bigger mountain such as Stowe or Mount Snow,” Jimmy noted. “That way, beginners will have a chance to figure out how to snowplow before they find themselves cartwheeling down Goat or Starr,” he said, referring to the expert runs at Stowe.
“Oh, and one more thing,” added Robby Kelley. “We’re proposing to rename the whole shebang ‘Redneck Resorts.'”
Redneck Passes will replace Epic Passes for 2023.
P.S. If you enjoyed this April Fools article, consider making a donation to Cochran’s. No foolin, they do a lot of good things for skiing. And mud season has been brutal on the parking lot.
Opening photo: The Redneck Racing Team of Robby Kelley (straddling tractor) and his brother Tim at the wheel. Both are Cochran cousins, the sons of Lindy Cochran Kelley and Steve Kelley. Photo by S. Theis