Is the ski resort model dead?

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Re: Is the ski resort model dead?

Postby Marc_C » Fri Oct 15, 2010 5:39 pm

soulskier wrote:I think the problem is people running the ski resorts are not skiers. I feel a large disconnect between the ski area decision makers and us skiers and riders.

Again, I will site the heated seated chairlift at Canyons. I am curious to know what the % of general public really cares, and if Canyons will see an increase in skier visits as a result.

A quick, informal poll this afternoon of about 20 self identified skiers in my office generated a 75% favorable response. Six even said *every* chair-lift should be heated.
(Reminder: this is Utah - a lot of locals don't ski if it's below 15F 'cause it's too cold.)

The Canyons is about a 30 minute drive from my office front door.
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Re: Is the ski resort model dead?

Postby Patrick » Fri Oct 15, 2010 6:23 pm

Geoff wrote:Yeah, a few hundred skier visits on a ski train back in the 1930's. BFD. Tell me somthing that matters.

I don't have the exact number, but it was enough to make these ski areas work. This goes back to the initial debate, you don't need to cater to the masses, but these Americans regardless of the number helped keep the areas afloat. How many people skied back then? That tradition continued into the 40s and 50s...maybe into the 60s and 70s in some places. The Kennedys and a few other vip would ski at places like Gray Rocks.

The Villa Bellevue and other lodging places with their own ski school would buy ads in the New York Times and other US major publications.
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Re: Is the ski resort model dead?

Postby soulskier » Fri Oct 15, 2010 6:31 pm

Marc_C wrote:
soulskier wrote:I think the problem is people running the ski resorts are not skiers. I feel a large disconnect between the ski area decision makers and us skiers and riders.

Again, I will site the heated seated chairlift at Canyons. I am curious to know what the % of general public really cares, and if Canyons will see an increase in skier visits as a result.

A quick, informal poll this afternoon of about 20 self identified skiers in my office generated a 75% favorable response. Six even said *every* chair-lift should be heated.
(Reminder: this is Utah - a lot of locals don't ski if it's below 15F 'cause it's too cold.)

The Canyons is about a 30 minute drive from my office front door.


Thanks for the quick straw poll.
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Re: Is the ski resort model dead?

Postby rfarren » Fri Oct 15, 2010 7:47 pm

Patrick wrote:
rfarren wrote:Your assumption presupposes that skier visits will decrease, which isn't guaranteed (I know your pop. argument as far as canada is concerned, but tremblant isn't just frequented by the quebecoise).


Basic demography. Unless the ski industry in the US (but I believe that they expect a decline in the next 15-20 years). I've read this somewhere, don't recall where.



I would imagine that the ski industry will need to expand the percentage of the population that skis to stay viable. The number of people that ski now in terms of percentage of population must be greater than ever before (although, admittedly I don't know that). What's to say that the sport's popularity won't continue to grow in the future?
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Re: Is the ski resort model dead?

Postby rfarren » Fri Oct 15, 2010 7:52 pm

Patrick wrote:
Geoff wrote:Yeah, a few hundred skier visits on a ski train back in the 1930's. BFD. Tell me somthing that matters.

I don't have the exact number, but it was enough to make these ski areas work. This goes back to the initial debate, you don't need to cater to the masses, but these Americans regardless of the number helped keep the areas afloat. How many people skied back then? That tradition continued into the 40s and 50s...maybe into the 60s and 70s in some places. The Kennedys and a few other vip would ski at places like Gray Rocks.

The Villa Bellevue and other lodging places with their own ski school would buy ads in the New York Times and other US major publications.


Would you prefer that skiing was only for those who live in the mountains or the super wealthy? By not catering to the masses you will marginalize the sport, and that I can promise you would be bad for business.


I would also argue that those ski trains to quebec were more analogous to destination skiing trips to europe or out west nowadays.
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Re: Is the ski resort model dead?

Postby Patrick » Fri Oct 15, 2010 8:44 pm

rfarren wrote:Would you prefer that skiing was only for those who live in the mountains or the super wealthy? By not catering to the masses you will marginalize the sport, and that I can promise you would be bad for business.


You live in NYC. Isn't their a variety of choices of restaurants for everyone? It's might be a caricature, but the last time I've been to NYC there were more than simply McDonald's, Burger Kings and Wendys. Skiing don't have the same taste. A way to find the masses is to cater to the greatest denominator, not always a good thing if it's the only option there is. Do you like listening to Céline Dion?

Marc_C wrote:A quick, informal poll this afternoon of about 20 self identified skiers in my office generated a 75% favorable response. Six even said *every* chair-lift should be heated.


Good grief. #-o

rfarren wrote:I would imagine that the ski industry will need to expand the percentage of the population that skis to stay viable. The number of people that ski now in terms of percentage of population must be greater than ever before (although, admittedly I don't know that). What's to say that the sport's popularity won't continue to grow in the future?


Again, I don't know the US Demographic situation, but I know here in Canada, the ratio of retired population will be much greater and the active population will be lower in ratio and in term of numbers that it is today. So the industry will need to not only maintain the same proportion of skiers, but make serious inroads to attracts new skiers to make up for the numbers that will be leaving the sport. Remember, I'm talking in 25 years, Tony will be 82 and I'll be 70 then. :-(
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Re: Is the ski resort model dead?

Postby rfarren » Fri Oct 15, 2010 9:18 pm

Patrick wrote:
Again, I don't know the US Demographic situation, but I know here in Canada, the ratio of retired population will be much greater and the active population will be lower in ratio and in term of numbers that it is today. So the industry will need to not only maintain the same proportion of skiers, but make serious inroads to attracts new skiers to make up for the numbers that will be leaving the sport. Remember, I'm talking in 25 years, Tony will be 82 and I'll be 70 then. :-(


I think that's where the mega resort, with nice base villages and plenty of apres/shopping options, have their usefulness. Those places are often frequented by families, and are the types of places where a family might choose to go on a vacation even if they've never skied before.
Patrick wrote:You live in NYC. Isn't their a variety of choices of restaurants for everyone? It's might be a caricature, but the last time I've been to NYC there were more than simply McDonald's, Burger Kings and Wendys. Skiing don't have the same taste. A way to find the masses is to cater to the greatest denominator, not always a good thing if it's the only option there is. Do you like listening to Céline Dion?


I see what you're saying, and I'm right there with you. I too like a variety of ski areas, I just happen to think those who are saying the ski resort model has been bad for skiing are not realizing that it has done a lot to open up skiing to the masses. My major concerns when it comes to skiing is terrain and snow, everything afterwards is an afterthought. However, when I plan a trip with my wife it's better to go to a place like Whistler or Vail... or better yet, Chamonix, or St. Anton.
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Re: Is the ski resort model dead?

Postby Patrick » Fri Oct 15, 2010 9:51 pm

rfarren wrote:I see what you're saying, and I'm right there with you. I too like a variety of ski areas, I just happen to think those who are saying the ski resort model has been bad for skiing are not realizing that it has done a lot to open up skiing to the masses. My major concerns when it comes to skiing is terrain and snow, everything afterwards is an afterthought. However, when I plan a trip with my wife it's better to go to a place like Whistler or Vail... or better yet, Chamonix, or St. Anton.


Chamonix and St.Anton (although I've been to Austria) are real towns, Whistler and Vail are artificial and were created.

I've never said that the Ski resort model is bad, but it came to a point of saturation in my books or a few others. I believe I've said somewhere in FTO that Intrawest did some good things overall at Tremblant, the problem I have is when everyone gets on the bandwagon and wants to copy it. The problem is when it become the model of choice. I've seen some many classic narrow Eastern trail massacred in my years of skiing, all in order to add snowmaking and/or control the skier traffic flow. Mountains had their own personality, now how many of them have similar trails and same feel to them.
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Re: Is the ski resort model dead?

Postby Geoff » Fri Oct 15, 2010 9:54 pm

rfarren wrote:
Patrick wrote:
rfarren wrote:Your assumption presupposes that skier visits will decrease, which isn't guaranteed (I know your pop. argument as far as canada is concerned, but tremblant isn't just frequented by the quebecoise).


Basic demography. Unless the ski industry in the US (but I believe that they expect a decline in the next 15-20 years). I've read this somewhere, don't recall where.



I would imagine that the ski industry will need to expand the percentage of the population that skis to stay viable. The number of people that ski now in terms of percentage of population must be greater than ever before (although, admittedly I don't know that). What's to say that the sport's popularity won't continue to grow in the future?


The US is still experiencing population growth. I imagine that with US demographics, less Americans ski now as a fraction of the population than 25 years ago. We have had a mass migration to warmer, non-skiing parts of the country. If you live in Florida or Georgia, chances are pretty slim that you ski. We've also had a ton of wealth stratification over the last decade. The middle class is getting priced out of the sport and has lots of alternatives for spending their disposable income.

If you want to make skiing accessible to the middle class, you have to tackle transportation first. If you ski enough days where a season pass makes sense and live in a city a couple of hours from a ski area, transportation costs dwarf everything else. Of course, it ain't gonna happen. Affluent people don't want to sit on a bus with the masses. Ski areas want affluent people as customers since they drink in the bar and buy base lodge food. Ski mountains are a scarse resource and the eco-nazis and land costs near urban areas have pretty much ensured that we won't have any new ones. That makes skiing an activity for the affluent. A Mountain Riders Alliance ain't gonna change none o' that.
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Re: Is the ski resort model dead?

Postby Geoff » Fri Oct 15, 2010 10:00 pm

Patrick wrote:
rfarren wrote:I see what you're saying, and I'm right there with you. I too like a variety of ski areas, I just happen to think those who are saying the ski resort model has been bad for skiing are not realizing that it has done a lot to open up skiing to the masses. My major concerns when it comes to skiing is terrain and snow, everything afterwards is an afterthought. However, when I plan a trip with my wife it's better to go to a place like Whistler or Vail... or better yet, Chamonix, or St. Anton.


Chamonix and St.Anton (although I've been to Austria) are real towns, Whistler and Vail are artificial and were created.



All towns are artificial and were created. You're just setting an arbitrary creation date to declare the town "real" or not. I've been to Chamonix and St Anton. Neither looks anything like they did 50 years ago. They're all tourist towns kept alive by outside money. Without the tourists, they would crumble to dust since they have no other local economy.
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Re: Is the ski resort model dead?

Postby rfarren » Fri Oct 15, 2010 10:10 pm

Geoff wrote:
Patrick wrote:
Chamonix and St.Anton (although I've been to Austria) are real towns, Whistler and Vail are artificial and were created.



All towns are artificial and were created. You're just setting an arbitrary creation date to declare the town "real" or not. I've been to Chamonix and St Anton. Neither looks anything like they did 50 years ago. They're all tourist towns kept alive by outside money. Without the tourists, they would crumble to dust since they have no other local economy.


Again, I agree with Geoff on this point. Having visited a bunch of those towns in Europe only 3 weeks back, I have to say that many of those towns are now just tourist towns by and large. Does it really matter for what purpose a town was created? I think the only thing that matters is how a town functions, so what's so different between St. Anton and Whistler?
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Re: Is the ski resort model dead?

Postby Patrick » Fri Oct 15, 2010 11:33 pm

Geoff wrote:The US is still experiencing population growth. I imagine that with US demographics, less Americans ski now as a fraction of the population than 25 years ago. We have had a mass migration to warmer, non-skiing parts of the country. If you live in Florida or Georgia, chances are pretty slim that you ski. We've also had a ton of wealth stratification over the last decade. The middle class is getting priced out of the sport and has lots of alternatives for spending their disposable income.

If you want to make skiing accessible to the middle class, you have to tackle transportation first. If you ski enough days where a season pass makes sense and live in a city a couple of hours from a ski area, transportation costs dwarf everything else. Of course, it ain't gonna happen. Affluent people don't want to sit on a bus with the masses. Ski areas want affluent people as customers since they drink in the bar and buy base lodge food. Ski mountains are a scarse resource and the eco-nazis and land costs near urban areas have pretty much ensured that we won't have any new ones. That makes skiing an activity for the affluent. A Mountain Riders Alliance ain't gonna change none o' that.


I agree with the most of this, this is where the US demographic is different from the rest of the industrial countries in Canada and Western Europe and Japan. I explained a few demographics point like immigration and births a few pages prior. As for immigration growth, today's immigration comes from non-skiing countries went you compare to the immigration from the 20th century.

MRA isn't suppose to make skiing cheaper for the masses, but bring back an element and variety in the ski world.

Geoff wrote:
Patrick wrote:Chamonix and St.Anton (although I've been to Austria) are real towns, Whistler and Vail are artificial and were created.


All towns are artificial and were created. You're just setting an arbitrary creation date to declare the town "real" or not. I've been to Chamonix and St Anton. Neither looks anything like they did 50 years ago. They're all tourist towns kept alive by outside money. Without the tourists, they would crumble to dust since they have no other local economy.


What I mean is that Chamonix and St Anton predates skiing and ski tourism. Of course, these towns are different than 50 years ago, every few town aren't. The economy wasn't initial based on tourism at these places and has shifted heavily to tourism. Not uncommon to many regional one industry town across North America. Aspen started off as a mining town, didn't it? Whistler and Vail didn't exist until someone decided to start a resort and built a village and lodging, many of it for non and temporary residences.
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Re: Is the ski resort model dead?

Postby Marc_C » Sat Oct 16, 2010 12:18 am

Patrick wrote:Chamonix and St.Anton (although I've been to Austria) are real towns, Whistler and Vail are artificial and were created.

Um, so what? They're real towns with a population base, government, services, et al. How they came to be is irrelevant.
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Re: Is the ski resort model dead?

Postby Tony Crocker » Sat Oct 16, 2010 1:21 am

Patrick wrote:Basic demography. Unless the ski industry in the US (but I believe that they expect a decline in the next 15-20 years). I've read this somewhere, don't recall where.

Then "they" need to explain why U.S. skier visits are trending up now after 2 flat decades, especially the 2nd highest ever in 2009-10 under adverse snow and economic conditions. I also think it's somewhat likely that the Alps will hold their own despite Western European demographics by attracting vacationers from newly affluent countries. Western Canada might get some help here too.

Patrick wrote:Whistler and Vail are artificial and were created.

But why were they created where they were? Because they have great terrain and snow, which is what most of us on this thread assert are top priorities! You can put Mammoth, Snowbird and many of the purpose built resorts in France in the same category.

rfarren wrote:Would you prefer that skiing was only for those who live in the mountains or the super wealthy? By not catering to the masses you will marginalize the sport, and that I can promise you would be bad for business.

I would also argue that those ski trains to quebec were more analogous to destination skiing trips to europe or out west nowadays.

Yes, skiing was far more of an elitist sport in the early days than it is now. I'd guess the most "populist" era was in the 1970's when I was getting started.

rfarren wrote:I would imagine that the ski industry will need to expand the percentage of the population that skis to stay viable. The number of people that ski now in terms of percentage of population must be greater than ever before (although, admittedly I don't know that). What's to say that the sport's popularity won't continue to grow in the future?

I'm sure that percentage grew rapidly through the 1970's, but I suspect more in line with population since. I suspect the current bump comes from the "boomer echo" generation hitting the prime "learn to ski" years.

Geoff wrote: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.

Silverton has plenty of terrain at the "up to 30 degrees" that you like. The key caveat is the hiking: if you live at sea level you probably need 3-4 nights sleeping in Colorado first if you want to keep up at Silverton, and a week would be even better.

Geoff wrote: For now, Chile is my cheap alternative to get lots of untracked with little competition.

I don't know what you and Patrick are smoking when you're down there, but in terms of cost, quality and quantity of powder you're far better off at the second tier areas in Utah or interior B.C than anywhere in the Southern Hemisphere.
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Re: Is the ski resort model dead?

Postby Geoff » Sat Oct 16, 2010 8:43 am

Patrick wrote:What I mean is that Chamonix and St Anton predates skiing and ski tourism. Of course, these towns are different than 50 years ago, every few town aren't. The economy wasn't initial based on tourism at these places and has shifted heavily to tourism. Not uncommon to many regional one industry town across North America. Aspen started off as a mining town, didn't it? Whistler and Vail didn't exist until someone decided to start a resort and built a village and lodging, many of it for non and temporary residences.


A few farms that butt up against Mont Blanc isn't a "town". Chamonix didn't have a non-agricultural population base until tourism started. Of course, Chamonix has a 200+ year history of tourism. "Somebody" decided to build a guest house in 1770. "Somebody" decided to build a hotel in 1816. "Somebody" decided to create a mountain guide service in 1821.
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