For Many Coral Gables Residents, an Annual Trip to Snow Covered Mountains is a Must
For Gables resident Joan Fleischman, taking a flight out west to go skiing is a holiday tradition. “I go annually,” says the former Miami Herald columnist. “I really haven’t missed a year since 1991. I grew up in New York, upstate, and have skied since childhood. Then I went to the University of Miami…”
Rather than give up her passion to ski, Fleischman made it a point to return to the slopes every year. And she is far from alone. Thousands of South Floridians ski with such regularity that there are several direct flights weekly from Miami to Vail, Colorado. So many fly from Miami that the Miami Ski Club, which usually meets in Coral Gables, was for years one of the largest ski clubs in the U.S. “At one point it [the Miami Ski Club] was the largest in the nation,” says Olga Ramudo, who runs Coral Gables-based Express Travel. “It comes down to a change of atmosphere. We live in Florida where we don’t have the change of seasons.”
Ski fever was so intense in the 1980s and ’90s, says Ramudo, that her travel agency would regularly book charter flights to ski destinations out west. “She is the founding mother of these trips,” says local dentist Joaquin Novoa, a skiing enthusiast. “She would get a group of people from Miami, usually during Christmas, and everyone would go with their family, to wherever.”
Since then the market has gotten more fragmented, and regular flights out west so routine, that only the Miami Ski Club still puts together group charters.
What’s clear, however, is that the interest is still strong. Reflecting that demand is the thriving Peter Glenn Ski & Sports shop on South Dixie Highway, just outside the Gables in Pinecrest. Here they sell an astonishing array of apparel for those who don’t want to freeze on the slopes.
“Ski underwear, ski pants, ski socks, sweaters, fleece jackets – you have no idea of all the things you need,” says Fleischman, a regular customer. “They have stuff like glove leashes, which is kind of like the things that keep a glove attached to a little kid’s jacket… and the technology keeps getting lighter and thinner.”
David Mahoney, marketing director for the Peter Glenn shops in Pinecrest and Fort Lauderdale, says that skiing remains a hot ticket for South Floridians. “I think we have more people skiing more often. It grows… especially now that people from the Northeast are coming down here to get away from taxes,” says Mahoney.
“They are coming from the cold weather, and they miss it. And then there are the South Americans coming up here, with disposable income they can use to go skiing.” That translates into things like waterproof, insulated pants, which can sell for anywhere from $60 to $600 a pair, depending on brand and quality. Then there are base layers, fleece jackets, helmets and goggles.
“It can get extremely expensive,” says Ramudo, especially when it comes to skiing at top resorts in the U.S. “There are places in Canada that are a lot more cost effective. And the Europe buy is great,” with Austria, for example, less costly than Colorado.
That may be so, but nothing can beat the convenience of flying to a U.S. snow destination, says Mahoney. “The top destination is still going to be Colorado,” he says. “You can’t go to Aspen and not run into someone from Miami.” And by that, he really means Coral Gables.