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 rfarren » Sat Oct 16, 2010 9:09 am

Marc_C wrote:
Patrick wrote:
rfarren 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.


Marc, I didn't say that, Patrick did. I said:
rfarren wrote: 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?


For all intents and purposes Chamonix and Whistler do exactly the same thing nowadays. Does it matter that a few building are older in Chamonix? One could even argue that Whistler is responsible urban planning (pedestrian areas with shopping, centralized village, etc...).
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Re: Is the ski resort model dead?

Postby Marc_C » Sat Oct 16, 2010 11:15 am

rfarren wrote:Marc, I didn't say that, Patrick did.

I knew that! I just cheese-titted the quotes. Fixed that post now.
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Re: Is the ski resort model dead?

Postby Geoff » Sat Oct 16, 2010 12:41 pm

Marc_C wrote:
rfarren wrote:Marc, I didn't say that, Patrick did.

I knew that! I just cheese-titted the quotes. Fixed that post now.


I prefer Tater Tits.
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Re: Is the ski resort model dead?

Postby longshanks » Sat Oct 16, 2010 7:02 pm

Geoff wrote:
Marc_C wrote:
rfarren wrote:Marc, I didn't say that, Patrick did.

I knew that! I just cheese-titted the quotes. Fixed that post now.


I prefer Tater Tits.


Sesame Tits for me please...tater tits - kinda sounds like a snack
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Re: Is the ski resort model dead?

Postby soulskier » Sat Oct 16, 2010 7:10 pm

One other component of the ski resort model that I see changing is ownership structure. Look at places like Mad River Glen, Bridger Bowl and Magic Mountain. They are different types of rider owned ski areas that are proving to be successful.

It will be interesting to watch Whistler try to raise $300 million to repay debt, while other entities, such as MRA, try to sell reasonably priced investment shares in a grass roots project.
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Re: Is the ski resort model dead?

Postby Geoff » Sat Oct 16, 2010 9:04 pm

soulskier wrote:One other component of the ski resort model that I see changing is ownership structure. Look at places like Mad River Glen, Bridger Bowl and Magic Mountain. They are different types of rider owned ski areas that are proving to be successful.

It will be interesting to watch Whistler try to raise $300 million to repay debt, while other entities, such as MRA, try to sell reasonably priced investment shares in a grass roots project.


I suggest you read the fine print at Magic. It looks nothing like the Mad River Glen co-op. Jim Sullivan is selling non-voting shares in a corporation that leases Magic. The shares are mostly being sold to local vacation home owners who would be screwed if Magic shut the doors forever. Not one penny of the first million dollars they're raising is going to actually purchase the resort. It's for infrastructure like snowmaking the ski area needs to stay open. You can't do a Mad River Glen when you have to make snow to stay alive.

Whistler does two million skier visits. As a world class destination resort, their dollar per day yield per customer is quite high. Ignoring any real estate development, they have to do at least $200 million. That's not a bad business to buy in to.
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Re: Is the ski resort model dead?

Postby riverc0il » Sun Oct 17, 2010 7:32 am

soulskier wrote:One other component of the ski resort model that I see changing is ownership structure. Look at places like Mad River Glen, Bridger Bowl and Magic Mountain. They are different types of rider owned ski areas that are proving to be successful.

The MRG Coop is 15 years old now and hardly an indication of current trends. This is not a trend any ways. There is a saturation point on people willing to invest in unique niche ski operations. Magic is still trying to hit their minimum number of shares needed. How many ski areas are unique enough that skiers feel the need to protect them? I would never buy shares in resort coops because they are not unique areas like MRG. One problem with resorts is that they can not go backwards. The infrastructure is there. The trails have already been widened, the trees cut back, the lifts installed, etc. There is nothing left to protect at resorts, at least nothing that would warrant a coop.

Geoff wrote:I suggest you read the fine print at Magic. It looks nothing like the Mad River Glen co-op. Jim Sullivan is selling non-voting shares in a corporation that leases Magic. The shares are mostly being sold to local vacation home owners who would be screwed if Magic shut the doors forever. Not one penny of the first million dollars they're raising is going to actually purchase the resort. It's for infrastructure like snowmaking the ski area needs to stay open. You can't do a Mad River Glen when you have to make snow to stay alive.

It is important to understand why Magic is taking the route it is taking regarding how their shares are structured. If they had to sell 100% of the ownership as shares, they wouldn't be able to get enough share holders to buy in. They are still below their initial target (what is it, 300 or so?).

Geoff, you'll need to back up with some facts that the shares are only going to local vacation home owners. I know a few folks who have bought shares and they are either not vacation home owners at Magic, or if they are local vacation home owners, it is because they have truly made Magic Mountain their primary ski mountain, love the place, and are not buying shares for real estate purposes but rather because of their love for the mountain.

-----

Interesting that MRA is starting with Mount Abrams. This is a good starting place for them and the MRA model. Small, local hill with plenty of family involvement, after school programs, tubing, race leagues, etc. minimal lift infrastructure covering a wide variety of terrain including many natural snow trails, one base lodge, minimal snow making investment, etc. The MRA model works for small mom and pop areas that already have a small foot print, not a lot of skier visits, etc. So I propose a chicken vs egg question for MRA starting with an area like Mount Abrams, their model looks like it will work great at this type of area because this type of area already is within most of MRA's mission excepting carbon neutrality but they already have a relatively small footprint. I don't see this carrying over to bigger mountains. Would have been interested if MRA was in on Wildcat instead of Peaks. That would have been a true test of the model......
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Re: Is the ski resort model dead?

Postby Admin » Sun Oct 17, 2010 10:16 am

riverc0il wrote:Interesting that MRA is starting with Mount Abrams.


Whoa, Nelly! Let's quash any rumors before they start. No one ever said MRA is starting with Mt. Abrams. Soulskier merely cited their proposed solar project as an example of sustainable energy.
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Re: Is the ski resort model dead?

Postby Patrick » Sun Oct 17, 2010 11:04 am

A lot of reading to catch and some major cleaning around the house...but I'll respond to this...

Tony Crocker wrote:
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.


Tony, this is the second time you got that line up in this thread and I've already given my 2 cents on it. ](*,)

From page 2...

Patrick wrote:
Tony Crocker wrote:I'm questioning the demographic doom and gloom after last year's Kottke report of 2nd highest U.S. skier visit numbers. With a bad economy AND a below average snow year how can this be? In general the skier visit trend is slightly increasing after two flat decades.


The demographic situation of the US versus the rest of the Western World is different. I believe that the US is the only country in that group where births are numerous enough for population replacement. Canada and Europe's births aren't enough to maintain the population at the current level and needs immigration to prevent a decline.

There are a studies out there that say that the average skier will ski more at the age of 40-45 that any other time in his life. My biggest season have been since I reached 40. Sure there are a few retirees that hit the 70-80 days mark, but many of them ski less than before or have stopped all together.
My mom was an active people and continued to cross-country skied until she died last March, but her last day alpine skiing was when we brought Morgane to Tremblant at aged 3 (not sure on the age), so my mom would have been 66. I know that John Fripp continued skiing until 2 years ago when his wife thought that it wasn't such a good idea anymore, I believe that he was 87 at that time. The problem with John (from what I heard) is that he doesn't want to hold back and ski full out. I guess when you won the Alta Cup ahead of Alf Engen in the 40s, it's hard to slowdown. Now he joins his wife and spends his winters in Florida.

But the most important fact in my bloom and doom talk, is that I'm looking at 25 years down the road. I'm the first year (1965) of the non-boomers, in 25 years I'll be 70 ([censored] that is depressing) and wondering if Tony will ski as much then too? Many of the infrastructure being built now and in the last 10-15 years will be need of replacement.


So to get back to the point exactly as to why. The youngest baby boomer generation are in the mid to late 40s and the oldest are retiring and still skiing. As explained above, people in their 40s tend to ski more than in their 20s on average. Not an assumption, but a fact (don't have the source right now).

Population after the boomers are less numerous.

Boomers are still very active now, but once they start leaving the sport, skiers pop is going to dive. (again, I'm not a specialist on the exact US demographic situation and I know that it's different from Canada's, but I suspect that it's not that different to not see the decline.


Tony Crocker wrote:
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.


I'm talking about these specific places in the Alps and not France resorts in general. Chamonix, Val d'Isère pre-date the arrival of tourists in their valleys as Les Arcs and Val Thorens are not. Places like Chamonix and St.Anton have a greater proportion of local residents versus transient tourists or unoccupied (fulltime) condos and chalets. Locals can live in Chamonix, however locals in Whistler rarely have the money to stay in Whistler or without sharing a place, most locals are forced to stay in Pemberton.

Tony Crocker wrote:
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.


At $150US/day traveling solo everything included (flights to beer and wine in restaurants virtually every nights) for my last trip, I'm sure I wouldn't able to compete with that out West unless I crash at someone for free and stay&eat at their place. A weekend drive to Stowe for skiing would be more expensive per day than my last trip to SA. :dead horse: And the skiing wasn't far from second rate.
Last edited by Patrick on Sun Oct 17, 2010 1:59 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Is the ski resort model dead?

Postby riverc0il » Sun Oct 17, 2010 11:47 am

Admin wrote:
riverc0il wrote:Interesting that MRA is starting with Mount Abrams.


Whoa, Nelly! Let's quash any rumors before they start. No one ever said MRA is starting with Mt. Abrams. Soulskier merely cited their proposed solar project as an example of sustainable energy.

Ah, thanks for the quick correction! I saw that name kicked around a few times in the thread and made an erroneous conclusion, my bad!
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Re: Is the ski resort model dead?

Postby Geoff » Sun Oct 17, 2010 1:20 pm

Patrick wrote:I'm talking about these specific places in the Alps and not France resorts in general. Chamonix, Val d'Isère pre-date the arrival of tourists in their valleys as Les Arcs and Val Thorens are not. Places like Chamonix and St.Anton have a greater proportion of local residents versus transient tourists or unoccupied (fulltime) condos and chalets. Locals can live in Chamonix, however locals in Whistler rarely have the money to stay in Whistler or without sharing a place, most locals are forced to stay in Pemberton.



Again, Val d'Isere has a few structures that pre-date the ski resort. I had a really nice raclette dinner in one of 'em some number of years ago.

Your assertion about Chamonix just doesn't hold water. A trivial Google turns up all kinds of information to the contrary. Here is an example:
http://www.natives.co.uk/do/ecco.py/vie ... temid=1209

All real estate is priced according to supply and demand. Most ski resorts have a scarsity of land since they're rimmed by mountains. Chamonix is no different from Whistler.
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Re: Is the ski resort model dead?

Postby Geoff » Sun Oct 17, 2010 1:28 pm

riverc0il wrote:Geoff, you'll need to back up with some facts that the shares are only going to local vacation home owners. I know a few folks who have bought shares and they are either not vacation home owners at Magic, or if they are local vacation home owners, it is because they have truly made Magic Mountain their primary ski mountain, love the place, and are not buying shares for real estate purposes but rather because of their love for the mountain.


I fail to see the difference. If you have bought real estate in Londonderry to ski Magic as your home mountain, you're going to shell out the $3K to try to protect your lifestyle investment. You're probably not looking forward to the 30 minute drive to groomers at Stratton or Okemo. It's not like Magic is getting MRA people from west of the Mississippi to buy shares.

I read through all the Magic share stuff. It's not structured anything like the Mad River Glen co-op. It's non-voting shares with minority ownership.
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Re: Is the ski resort model dead?

Postby soulskier » Sun Oct 17, 2010 1:59 pm

Geoff wrote:
Whistler does two million skier visits. As a world class destination resort, their dollar per day yield per customer is quite high. Ignoring any real estate development, they have to do at least $200 million. That's not a bad business to buy in to.


I would disagree and point out that if they were a good business, they wouldn't be in debt $300 million.

And as a private investor, I would never invest in an offering designed to pay back debt. IMO, that's just to get back to even.
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Re: Is the ski resort model dead?

Postby soulskier » Sun Oct 17, 2010 2:11 pm

EMSC wrote:

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?).


Intended with no disrespect, the East is not currently on MRA's radar. Reliable and copious snowfall and big mountain terrain are prerequisites that the East does not offer.
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Re: Is the ski resort model dead?

Postby soulskier » Sun Oct 17, 2010 2:17 pm

rfarren wrote:
IMHO, Soulskier's idea of how a ski area should work is a question of scale. It is feasible at small/smaller mountains, and maybe a few medium sized mountains close to large urban areas, but it won't work for most large areas.


The answer is easy. Small on infrastructure, big on mountain
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