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 soulskier » Tue Oct 12, 2010 5:23 pm

Mike Bernstein wrote:
I don't know of any small areas in CO or UT that would fit the bill. Too bad the lifts got taken down at Berthoud Pass - that would have been a natural.


A Co-op was being formed to purchase Berthoud about 10 years ago when the Forest Service dismantled the lifts.
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Re: Is the ski resort model dead?

Postby longshanks » Tue Oct 12, 2010 8:47 pm

Mike Bernstein wrote:I would think that Fortress has to be on the list to consider. High-elevation. Good snow. Close access to burgeoning Calgary off the Trans-Canada Hwy.


The Word last month was that Fortress already has a new owner....http://www.firsttracksonline.com/News/2010/9/11/New-Owner-of-Albertas-Fortress-Mountain-Hopes-to-Revive-Dormant-Ski-Resort/
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Re: Is the ski resort model dead?

Postby Admin » Tue Oct 12, 2010 8:52 pm

longshanks wrote:
Mike Bernstein wrote:I would think that Fortress has to be on the list to consider. High-elevation. Good snow. Close access to burgeoning Calgary off the Trans-Canada Hwy.

The Word last month was that Fortress already has a new owner....http://www.firsttracksonline.com/News/2010/9/11/New-Owner-of-Albertas-Fortress-Mountain-Hopes-to-Revive-Dormant-Ski-Resort/


That's a fact. After publishing that article last month based on info from other sources I was contacted by Joey O'Brien, the new owner.
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Re: Is the ski resort model dead?

Postby soulskier » Wed Oct 13, 2010 8:39 pm

A little more on the Mammoth fantasy area.

Seems like solar, wind, hydro and likely thermal could all be utilized at Mammoth Mountain. It would be interesting to put the 4 options side by side and evaluate the pros and cons of each and which one has the best return on investment.
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Re: Is the ski resort model dead?

Postby Geoff » Thu Oct 14, 2010 7:44 am

Sorry, but this thread is total nonsense. 50 years of evidence shows that the non-resort ski model is dead. You don't have to go farther than here: http://www.nelsap.org/

For eastern skiing, the market demands snowmaking, fast lifts with no lift lines, and safe, groomed trails. You can no longer string up a lift on the back 40 and expect to make a go of it. Insurance chews you alive. Property taxes chew you alive. Employment costs chew you alive. You need to do the volume and charge appropriately to fund the snowmaking budget and all the fixed costs. Ignoring Mad River which only exists because Betsy Pratt gave it to the co-op for far less than market value, non-resort ski areas have either vanished or do the Magic Mountain teeter in and out of bankruptcy.

In the west, there are still places that are non-resort and they teeter on the brink. I really like Monarch. Center pole double chairs with one quad chair for the Texans. Nice friendly little retro base lodge. No lodging at the base of the hill. Great skiing surface since there is so little traffic. The vast majority of Colorado skier visits don't go to places like that. They drive up I-70 and ski the Vail empire.
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Re: Is the ski resort model dead?

Postby rfarren » Thu Oct 14, 2010 7:48 am

Geoff wrote:Sorry, but this thread is total nonsense. 50 years of evidence shows that the non-resort ski model is dead. You don't have to go farther than here: http://www.nelsap.org/

For eastern skiing, the market demands snowmaking, fast lifts with no lift lines, and safe, groomed trails. You can no longer string up a lift on the back 40 and expect to make a go of it. Insurance chews you alive. Property taxes chew you alive. Employment costs chew you alive. You need to do the volume and charge appropriately to fund the snowmaking budget and all the fixed costs. Ignoring Mad River which only exists because Betsy Pratt gave it to the co-op for far less than market value, non-resort ski areas have either vanished or do the Magic Mountain teeter in and out of bankruptcy.

In the west, there are still places that are non-resort and they teeter on the brink. I really like Monarch. Center pole double chairs with one quad chair for the Texans. Nice friendly little retro base lodge. No lodging at the base of the hill. Great skiing surface since there is so little traffic. The vast majority of Colorado skier visits don't go to places like that. They drive up I-70 and ski the Vail empire.


Geoff, IMHO is correct.
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Re: Is the ski resort model dead?

Postby EMSC » Thu Oct 14, 2010 11:08 am

Geoff wrote:Sorry, but this thread is total nonsense. 50 years of evidence shows that the non-resort ski model is dead.


Geoff wrote:In the west, there are still places that are non-resort and they teeter on the brink.


A surprising amount of them actually considering your first statement. Given the first statement how would you explain Silverton which didn't exist until the past decade or so? Not a hugely profitable place, but they follow much of the proposed MRA model. Recall that Soulskier is not looking to ever have
Geoff wrote:The vast majority of Colorado skier visits
.

I do agree with you that it'd be very, very hard to do the proposed MRA model anywhere in the east (except maybe the chic chocs or something where snowmaking would be needed less?).
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Re: Is the ski resort model dead?

Postby Patrick » Thu Oct 14, 2010 11:41 am

Geoff wrote:Sorry, but this thread is total nonsense. 50 years of evidence shows that the non-resort ski model is dead. You don't have to go farther than here: http://www.nelsap.org/.


Maybe from your vantage point in McSkiing central. Every towns had their ropetows in the 50s (at least in the Laurentians), so there was a considation of the skiing business with the newer model stuff in the 70s. The ski resort model became the thing, but after 20-30 years of it, what have they learned? Sure they were able to take skiers away from the smaller places or the less 'improved' areas? But they did at a cost and some of them lost their shirts going it. The resort model goes carry a enormous costs which is eventually transfered to the customer. Bringing skiing back to the essentials is coming back. Not saying everyone is going to go that way, but I see the ski areas industry going the way the ski sport has done. From the mecanised liftserved skiing on artificial snow groomed trails to a more back to nature skiing where snowmaking, facilities and lifts aren't necessarily as essential. Telemark was dead for how many years before coming back? Prior to that, Cross-country skiing got a rebirth after being virtually being dead once the lifts started showing up.

Geoff wrote:Ignoring Mad River which only exists because Betsy Pratt gave it to the co-op for far less than market value, non-resort ski areas have either vanished or do the Magic Mountain teeter in and out of bankruptcy.


What was the market value for the place? Not saying that the industry is going the MRG way, no one implied it, but the Ski Resort Model à la Intrawest, ASC, etc which everyone said was the only way to run a ski area was discovered not to be so perfect after all. There is more room for places that are looking at getting back to basics like what soulskier is talking about and what MRG is trying to do.

Geoff wrote:The vast majority of Colorado skier visits don't go to places like that. They drive up I-70 and ski the Vail empire.


The vast majority doesn't like to ski powder and only ski the equivalent one week a year. Again, no one implied that the MRA way was the way to go, but I believe there is a demand for it for a certain minority in which aren't served by the ski resort model.
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Re: Is the ski resort model dead?

Postby Tony Crocker » Thu Oct 14, 2010 1:27 pm

Geoff's opinion makes sense in the East as snowmaking has become a near requirement for viability. Snowmaking requires more capital cost for installation plus up front expenditures each season before more of the revenue comes in. So you need volume or high margin business to bring in enough revenue. There's a reason all these little eastern areas Patrick and Geoff mention have folded. Most of the skiing public demands December skiing, and they aren't going to get that much of it in the East without snowmaking.

So I'll give soulskier credit for one aspect of his search. He has to find an area that can get by for a viable 3+ month season with no snowmaking.
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Re: Is the ski resort model dead?

Postby Geoff » Thu Oct 14, 2010 6:37 pm

EMSC wrote:
Geoff wrote:Sorry, but this thread is total nonsense. 50 years of evidence shows that the non-resort ski model is dead.


Geoff wrote:In the west, there are still places that are non-resort and they teeter on the brink.


A surprising amount of them actually considering your first statement. Given the first statement how would you explain Silverton which didn't exist until the past decade or so? Not a hugely profitable place, but they follow much of the proposed MRA model. Recall that Soulskier is not looking to ever have
Geoff wrote:The vast majority of Colorado skier visits
.

I do agree with you that it'd be very, very hard to do the proposed MRA model anywhere in the east (except maybe the chic chocs or something where snowmaking would be needed less?).


I explain Silverton the same way I explain cat skiing and heli-skiing operations. It's a boutique business catering mostly to the very affluent. Most people aren't going to shell out $139.00/day for a guided day at Silverton where it's limited to 80 people per day. That doesn't exactly fit into the granola and soup-stained beard "affordable skiing" profile of the Mountain Rider's Alliance. Silverton during the peak ski season is an elitist business.

I'm a big fan of non-resort skiing. The skiing surface is better. When I'm picking places for my ski vacations, they're typically pretty off the beaten track. Recent examples: Monarch. Wolf Creek. Ski Santa Fe. No glitzy base village. Good skiing. Mellow vibe.
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Re: Is the ski resort model dead?

Postby rfarren » Thu Oct 14, 2010 8:30 pm

Patrick wrote:
Geoff wrote:The vast majority of Colorado skier visits don't go to places like that. They drive up I-70 and ski the Vail empire.


The vast majority doesn't like to ski powder and only ski the equivalent one week a year. Again, no one implied that the MRA way was the way to go, but I believe there is a demand for it for a certain minority in which aren't served by the ski resort model.


In colorado more people ski vail because it gets considerably more snow, and has considerably more terrain. All my friends that live in denver go up every week, and get somewhere in the 40 to 50 days a year. I think your statement isn't grounded in reality as to why the vast majority of Colorado skier visits go to Vail. It also helps that a season pass there is around $699 for all those resorts. There's a ton of value in that.

Patrick wrote:[ Every towns had their ropetows in the 50s (at least in the Laurentians), so there was a considation of the skiing business with the newer model stuff in the 70s. The ski resort model became the thing, but after 20-30 years of it, what have they learned?


If it didn't make economic sense it wouldn't have become "the thing." Again, I don't think you're grounded in reality. It's one thing to have mom and pops ropetows, but when people want to ski a mountain and not a hill, that just won't suffice. If I had a cheap molehill and a big mountain to choose from and a season pass were at stake, which one would I choose?... And that's from the local perspective. Now, put yourself in a vacationers shoes... nuf said.

Patrick wrote: Bringing skiing back to the essentials is coming back. Not saying everyone is going to go that way, but I see the ski areas industry going the way the ski sport has done. From the mecanised liftserved skiing on artificial snow groomed trails to a more back to nature skiing where snowmaking, facilities and lifts aren't necessarily as essential. Telemark was dead for how many years before coming back? Prior to that, Cross-country skiing got a rebirth after being virtually being dead once the lifts started showing up.


Snowmaking in the east coast is essential for 99.9% of the paying public. If you like ski seasons where the good terrain can open in january and can be closed by the first week of april... well, let's put it this way, you'll be traveling far and long to keep your streak going.
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Re: Is the ski resort model dead?

Postby longshanks » Thu Oct 14, 2010 9:07 pm

Admin wrote:...Tonight I stumbled across an excellent article in Canadian Business about the rise and fall of the ski resort model based on real estate development, and in particular its execution at Whistler Blackcomb:

http://www.canadianbusiness.com/managin ... 020&page=1

I really think that the author, Michael McCullough, nailed it.


And speaking of Whistler...widely reported accross the Dominion of Canada today: Whistler Blackcomb to raise $300 million in IPO
Read more: http://www.montrealgazette.com/business ... story.html
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Re: Is the ski resort model dead?

Postby Admin » Thu Oct 14, 2010 9:43 pm

longshanks wrote:And speaking of Whistler...widely reported accross the Dominion of Canada today: Whistler Blackcomb to raise $300 million in IPO
Read more: http://www.montrealgazette.com/business ... story.html


Which we accurately predicted here over a week ago:
http://www.firsttracksonline.com/News/2 ... rt-Public/
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Re: Is the ski resort model dead?

Postby EMSC » Thu Oct 14, 2010 9:59 pm

Admin wrote:
longshanks wrote:And speaking of Whistler...widely reported accross the Dominion of Canada today: Whistler Blackcomb to raise $300 million in IPO
Read more: http://www.montrealgazette.com/business ... story.html


Which we accurately predicted here over a week ago:
http://www.firsttracksonline.com/News/2 ... rt-Public/


Which interestingly will require them to open their books for the last several years. That should be interesting! (well OK, for me anyway :lol: ). I'm sure Vail Inc will be looking intently at them as well.

rfarren wrote:
Patrick wrote:
Geoff wrote:The vast majority of Colorado skier visits don't go to places like that. They drive up I-70 and ski the Vail empire.


The vast majority doesn't like to ski powder and only ski the equivalent one week a year. Again, no one implied that the MRA way was the way to go, but I believe there is a demand for it for a certain minority in which aren't served by the ski resort model.


In colorado more people ski vail because it gets considerably more snow, and has considerably more terrain. All my friends that live in denver go up every week, and get somewhere in the 40 to 50 days a year. I think your statement isn't grounded in reality as to why the vast majority of Colorado skier visits go to Vail. It also helps that a season pass there is around $699 for all those resorts. There's a ton of value in that.


Be careful. Breck has had more skier visits than Vail for many of the most recent years (including 09-10 - barely). Either way both are behemoth resort business model places.

Geoff wrote:I explain Silverton the same way I explain cat skiing and heli-skiing operations. It's a boutique business catering mostly to the very affluent. Most people aren't going to shell out $139.00/day for a guided day at Silverton where it's limited to 80 people per day. That doesn't exactly fit into the granola and soup-stained beard "affordable skiing" profile of the Mountain Rider's Alliance. Silverton during the peak ski season is an elitist business.


I generally agree (and still might go this year). Which is one reason why everyone is so interested in how MRA can claim to do roughly the same thing, but for cheap... and also add in expensive renewable energy.
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Re: Is the ski resort model dead?

Postby Geoff » Fri Oct 15, 2010 6:38 am

EMSC wrote:
rfarren wrote:
In colorado more people ski vail because it gets considerably more snow, and has considerably more terrain. All my friends that live in denver go up every week, and get somewhere in the 40 to 50 days a year. I think your statement isn't grounded in reality as to why the vast majority of Colorado skier visits go to Vail. It also helps that a season pass there is around $699 for all those resorts. There's a ton of value in that.


Be careful. Breck has had more skier visits than Vail for many of the most recent years (including 09-10 - barely). Either way both are behemoth resort business model places.

Vail owns Breck and you can ski there on the same season pass. (and of course ESMC knows that) I used "I-70 Vail Empire". rfarren may have just shortened it to Vail. Either way, it doesn't matter. It's I-70 resort skiing.

Geoff wrote:I explain Silverton the same way I explain cat skiing and heli-skiing operations. It's a boutique business catering mostly to the very affluent. Most people aren't going to shell out $139.00/day for a guided day at Silverton where it's limited to 80 people per day. That doesn't exactly fit into the granola and soup-stained beard "affordable skiing" profile of the Mountain Rider's Alliance. Silverton during the peak ski season is an elitist business.


I generally agree (and still might go this year). Which is one reason why everyone is so interested in how MRA can claim to do roughly the same thing, but for cheap... and also add in expensive renewable energy.


I explain it by the relaxation of marajuana laws in the US. There's feel-good "Renewable Energy Credits" that ski resorts purchase to pretend they are green while burning upwards of a million gallons of diesel fuel running snowmaking compressors and the grooming fleet (at least, that is what Killington's permit for diesel reads). All those granola eaters drive their ratty pickup trucks to the ski hill. Skiing is just about the least environmentally friendly sport in the world. A windmill isn't economically viable if it's out in the middle of nowhere at a remote ski hill and can't sell power back into the grid.

Relative to cat skiing and heli-skiing, Silverton is a bargain. I don't think I have the skill level to use the place but I'd love to have something like that with a little less pitch where I could be one of the elite 80 shelling out $139.00 per day for a couple of weeks of skiing endless untracked. I guess I'll have to become rich and buy into Yellowstone Club instead. For now, Chile is my cheap alternative to get lots of untracked with little competition.
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