Is the ski resort model dead?

Topics of a general nature regarding snowsports, which don't easily fit into one of our other Liftlines categories. This is also the place to post Letters to the Editor.

Re: Is the ski resort model dead?

Postby Geoff » Mon Oct 18, 2010 8:40 pm

soulskier wrote:Since this thread is talking about the ski resort model, check out what's going on over at Berkshire East.
http://espn.go.com/action/blog?sport=fr ... st=5663794

They will be the second US Ski area to install a wind turbine, estimated ROI 7-9 years. They will be connected to the grid and buy back the power they consume. The Asst GM says they either get a check or a bill each month.

I predict we will see more ski resorts/areas investing into clean energy to reduce operating costs and/or create another revenue stream.


That works in Massholia because the state has all kinds of subsidies for wind power. Berkshire East is doing to cut their power costs, not out of some compelling desire to be green. If the state subsidies weren't there, there ain't no way Berkshire East is spending money on windmills. This is 100% a business decision that isn't available to most business that don't happen to own mountain tops.

Here are the programs going on in the People's Republic of Massachusetts. Given the massive budget problems in the state and the threats of mass layoffs, it sort of begs the question that all this money is flowing out.
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Re: Is the ski resort model dead?

Postby Tony Crocker » Tue Oct 19, 2010 1:19 am

No coincidence Berkshire East is just down the road from Jiminy. It's replacing expensive power with government subsidized renewable, exactly like my solar panels. These economics will not fly in a Mountain State or Province where the local power is cheap and soulskier won't need that much of it anyway without snowmaking.

The MRA model is a niche, preferable to a small minority of skiers. A given region is barely able to support one of these. That would be MRG in New England, so no surprise Magic struggles to survive. Similar situation with Baldy vs. Waterman here in SoCal. Most regions that have the terrain/snow soulskier wants already have this type of area (like Monarch which Geoff mentioned). I had hoped that soulskier learned something from his Shames experience, but I'm not sure that's the case based upon this thread.
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Re: Is the ski resort model dead?

Postby Admin » Tue Oct 19, 2010 7:00 am

soulskier wrote:They will be the second US Ski area to install a wind turbine


Not the second in the U.S. That will make three just in New England after Jiminy and Bolton.
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Re: Is the ski resort model dead?

Postby jamesdeluxe » Tue Oct 19, 2010 8:53 am

With 120+ posts, many taking direct aim at soulskier:
Geoff wrote: pinko commie fag territory. :troll:


... I'm curious to see Admin's opinion piece. Being an outspoken fan of hills that have MRA leanings (Pajarito, Mont Grand Fonds, Monarch, Plattekill, Eldora, Hickory, etc.), I'd love to see soulskier make a go of something. I'm wondering if the Communist Manifesto-esque overtones (doesn't bother me, but apparently hit a nerve with many) will ultimately work against it?
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Re: Is the ski resort model dead?

Postby soulskier » Tue Oct 19, 2010 9:38 am

Tony Crocker wrote: soulskier won't need that much of it anyway without snowmaking.

Exactly. So imagine all the excessive power that can be created (and sold) since the ski area will have very few lifts and no snowmaking. That, I believe, is going to be the key to sustainability.

I had hoped that soulskier learned something from his Shames experience, but I'm not sure that's the case based upon this thread.


Oh Tony, there's a lot more to the MRA and some of the key individuals than on this thread.

Besides, you haven't seen me bashing on other ski areas and their lack luster terrain this time around
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Re: Is the ski resort model dead?

Postby soulskier » Tue Oct 19, 2010 9:51 am

Geoff wrote:
soulskier wrote:Since this thread is talking about the ski resort model, check out what's going on over at Berkshire East.
http://espn.go.com/action/blog?sport=fr ... st=5663794

They will be the second US Ski area to install a wind turbine, estimated ROI 7-9 years. They will be connected to the grid and buy back the power they consume. The Asst GM says they either get a check or a bill each month.

I predict we will see more ski resorts/areas investing into clean energy to reduce operating costs and/or create another revenue stream.


That works in Massholia because the state has all kinds of subsidies for wind power. Berkshire East is doing to cut their power costs, not out of some compelling desire to be green. If the state subsidies weren't there, there ain't no way Berkshire East is spending money on windmills. This is 100% a business decision that isn't available to most business that don't happen to own mountain tops.



Massachutes isn't the only state with subsidies.

Being socially responsible can be both a business and environmental decision. Irregardless of why Berkshire East made the decision, they are doing their part to combat climate change, reduce their footprint, and lower their overhead.

Many, if not all ski areas, either own or lease the mountain top and/or other places to install wind turbine(s), so I am unclear about the comment "that it is not available to most businesses."
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Re: Is the ski resort model dead?

Postby longshanks » Tue Oct 19, 2010 11:47 am

Marc_C wrote:
Geoff wrote:soulskier is treading awfully close to pinko commie fag territory. :troll:

Nah. Just starry-eyed idealism with a steadfast refusal to accept the harsh realities of the business and a seeming willingness to impose his values as the "proper" values for a ski area.


No...you are both right on the money - soulskier's grass roots plan for a skiers utopia has always sounded like "pie in the sky" to me...the root word of utopia is from the greek "utopos" meaning... no where.
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Re: Is the ski resort model dead?

Postby soulskier » Tue Oct 19, 2010 12:09 pm

I would like to share with you esteemed forum readers and posters a little clip and write up entitled "Resorting to Madness, Taking Back our Mountain Communities".

http://mrablog.com/2010/10/19/resorting ... es-part-1/

Both RTM and Hal Clifford's "Downhill Slide" are great examples of some of the cons of the current ski resort model.
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Re: Is the ski resort model dead?

Postby Geoff » Tue Oct 19, 2010 4:18 pm

soulskier wrote:I would like to share with you esteemed forum readers and posters a little clip and write up entitled "Resorting to Madness, Taking Back our Mountain Communities".

http://mrablog.com/2010/10/19/resorting ... es-part-1/

Both RTM and Hal Clifford's "Downhill Slide" are great examples of some of the cons of the current ski resort model.


I love Skip King's review of Clifford's book. It, of course, applies equally to the MRA nonsense....

Downhill Slide will almost certainly play well among class warriors, ski town kvetches and the Chicken Little faction of the environmental movement. But if you're looking for objective analysis and honest debate over real issues, look elsewhere.
Hal Clifford questions almost every statement made by senior industry managers (backing many with snide comments), but treats pronouncements made by industry opponents - including some based on patently false assumptions - as gospel. In Clifford's world, ski resort managers are highly biased, but environmentalists, EPA staffers and disgruntled former ski resort and Forest Service employees are objective beyond question. This simply isn't the case. An honest assessment of the issues related to ski development would examine the motives and views of those opposed to mountain development as diligently as it does those who favor it.

Clifford assails, correctly, the piecemeal approach by which some ski areas obscured their growth plans during the permitting process. But he places all of the blame on resort operators and totally ignores the no-growth movement's direct responsibility for the creation of that tactic: subversion and abuse of regulatory and public comment processes. These abuses, which result in a staggeringly expensive and indeterminate permitting process, are well documented; it's no wonder that resorts attempted to keep their public and financial exposure small. He also ignores the fact that a growing number of progressive resorts now conduct their planning and permitting processes openly and invite environmental groups to participate. An objective book would at least acknowledge these efforts and give fair assessment of the questionable tactics used by some industry opponents.

Instead, Downhill Slide assumes that resorts and related real estate developments are uniformly creeping environmental disasters overrunning the mountains (in fact, skiing's footprint on the land is tiny; a fraction of one percent of the public lands in the mountain states are impacted by ski development). Clifford especially despises the concept of the modern ski resort village, which can be viewed as a response to the environmentally irresponsible sprawl that occurred around the base of ski areas decades ago. The new villages concentrate visitors on a small footprint, leaving more open land. So why isn't this a good thing? In Clifford's view, it's because they're built for transient guests, rather than providing a year-round haven for ski bums and colorful oddballs, and because developers can make money building them.

Clifford is correct in noting that some resort communities have essentially become second-home vacation retreats so expensive that resort workers can't afford to live there. Clearly, the industry could be more diligent in providing housing for staff. But resorts already do better job housing low-income workers than do most non-ski communities. Nor is anyone is forced to work (or live) in one.

The book's biggest stretch is the suggestion that social ills such as racism, alcoholism and domestic abuse in some areas of the Rockies are the fault of (and, by extension, the responsibility of) the ski industry. The argument is fallacious - both post hoc ergo propter hoc and as a splendid example of affirming the consequent. Clifford even implies that ski resorts are responsible for the presence of illegal aliens (apparently, that responsibilty falls to Vail, not the INS)- but cites not one case in which a ski resort ever recruited or hired an illegal alien, even by oversight.

Finally, Downhill Slide advances the premise that three companies, which between them represent about 30 percent of the US market - have driven the sport into a death spiral making the sport accessible only to the super-rich. This is utter nonsense. 30 percent of market share, split three ways, can't possibly conrol an entire industry. Besides, skiing has always been an expensive sport, and relative to disposable income - especially considering the ticket deals out there currently - skiing is actually more affordable to more people today than it was 50 years ago. That the sport hasn't grown (Clifford repeatedly hammers on that point) has far less to do with price than it does with with demographics, weather conditions over the past decade, competing recreation options and inept marketing.

Stripped to its essence, Downhill Slide is a plea - backed by fallacies of logic, appeals to pity, false dilemmas and half-baked environmental and social concerns - for things to be the way they used to be. Clifford openly states that he misses ski town life of old. Fair enough. But humans cannot freeze themselves in one moment in time. Such a freeze is what Clifford desires - and advocates - in holding up a handful of niche resorts in unique market situations as the model for how ski resorts should be run. That many ski areas which once operated in similar ways have gone out of business isn't mentioned. Nor is the fact that skiers and snowboarders vote with their wallets. Most clearly prefer the experience provided by larger resorts.

Clifford's prescription would kill skiing, not save it. He's welcome to patronize the niche resorts - indeed, they'd no doubt love his business. But to suggest their model is the only acceptable approach to skiing is arrogant beyond belief. So is Downhill Slide.

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Re: Is the ski resort model dead?

Postby Marc_C » Tue Oct 19, 2010 5:35 pm

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Re: Is the ski resort model dead?

Postby EMSC » Tue Oct 19, 2010 6:35 pm

I think Skip Kings discussion essentially in defense of the large resorts is pretty well stated.

However, way back in soulskiers initial MRA post I stated my general sense that he can survive as a small guy built mostly (not entirely) on the supposed wish list of items. It doesn't have to be only one way and one model for every ski sliding experience IMO. But there are a lot of complications going the way MRA is and soulskier will have to make very diligent choices to survive and will even have to be willing to compromise on some of the wish list (which pieces are somewhat specific to the location, etc... while others not so much).

That said, I think the hard reaction on these boards are related mostly to the MRA 'dictum' that the entire ski industry has it all wrong and none of the big resorts can or will ever survive, etc... Sorry not buying it. There is a place for several versions of business model in the industry, predicated on different sub markets, geographies and other particulars. Vail and Whistler aren't going away. I'm not quite sure why several posters seem to be only for the big resort model and poo-poo the entirety of soulskiers ideas; and also not sure why soulskier thinks that the big resort model is 100% dead and will never survive in any similar form. I suspect to some degree that both models will survive for some time to come. But with the vast majority of skiers going to the big resorts with many amenities and the small MRA types scratching out an OK living; I highly doubt the MRA model will suddenly proliferate into dozens of new ski areas nor in de-constructing the big resorts back to the 'olden days' either.

Why exactly does it have to be only one or the other model?
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Re: Is the ski resort model dead?

Postby Patrick » Tue Oct 19, 2010 7:00 pm

EMSC wrote:the entire ski industry has it all wrong and none of the big resorts can or will ever survive, etc... Sorry not buying it.


Admin started the discussion and it was about "Is the ski resort model dead". The way I understood it, yes it is. Not saying that they won't survive, just saying that there might be an alternative way of thinking out there. A place were you don't have to imitate a model that dominated the ski industry as how to make skiing successful and was 'the' model to follow if you wanted to be successful.

EMSC wrote:why soulskier thinks that the big resort model is 100% dead and will never survive in any similar form.


I might be a pinko commie, but I don't think that soulskier is saying the other will never survive, but more that it isn't sustainable in the long run. Not exactly the same thing.

PS. I think I'm more on the side of Hal Clifford than Skip King's of the World. Again, I'm an econazi pinko commie...
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Re: Is the ski resort model dead?

Postby soulskier » Wed Oct 20, 2010 10:30 am

EMSC wrote:
That said, I think the hard reaction on these boards are related mostly to the MRA 'dictum' that the entire ski industry has it all wrong and none of the big resorts can or will ever survive, etc... Sorry not buying it.


I do not think the entire ski industry has it wrong and that big resorts can't survive. What I do believe is that skiing has become mostly a rich man's sport and in many cases, has lost touch with it's clients. Furthermore, many locals have been driven out of their ski areas due to prices, leaving behind a sterile village that lacks soul. And most importantly, ski areas haven't exactly been treating the environment with the respect it deserves.

IMO, if a ski area creates enough energy to consume, they are just breaking even. That's like picking up your own trash. I think all ski areas owe it to mother nature to create more energy than they use. Then that would be making a real positive difference. I believe many of us can agree climate change is for real, and if we as an industry don't make some drastic changes, our children's children won't be enjoying our beloved sport and lifestyle.

Going back to the Mammoth case study, I started skiing there in the early 80's. 30 years later, with the exception of chair 22 (without it would be a 5 minute hike), there has been no terrain expansion, only many more lifts to bring the people to the same slopes. IMO, the overall ski experience has actually diminished due to skier traffic on the slopes. Again, I am not interested in fancy mid mountain lodges and $12 cheeseburgers, perfectly manicured groomers and 5 star lodging experiences. I (and many others) main focus is the skiing, specifically untracked snow and uncrowded slopes. I understand Mammoth had to expand to keep up with the client demand. As a result, that's one less cool ski area available for my generation and type of skiing style.
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Re: Is the ski resort model dead?

Postby jamesdeluxe » Wed Oct 20, 2010 11:49 am

soulskier wrote: I believe many of us can agree climate change is for real

:popcorn:
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Re: Is the ski resort model dead?

Postby longshanks » Wed Oct 20, 2010 3:11 pm

soulskier wrote:I (and many others) main focus is the skiing, specifically untracked snow and uncrowded slopes....


and that Sir puts you firmly into a very small minority, kinda the lunatic fringe of Snow Sports. Sure very cool and the envy of many mortals but any "Ski business model" will have trouble surviving on those slim pickings - the numbers just don't support it. Oh, and you forgot to add Cheap Lift Tickets in the mix, it gives you a nice trifecta. Servicing a small elitist group vs. looking after the needs of the generic masses...that sounds like a private club and you will need a bunch of rich folk for that. And that crowd has no problem with $12 Burgers and $8 Lattes anyway...

soulskier wrote:As a result, that's one less cool ski area available for my generation and type of skiing style
Somebody better call Mammoth and let them know...come on, do you think they really care much about such a small fragment of the market?
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