Getting Back to your Inner Ski Bum

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: Getting Back to your Inner Ski Bum

Postby jamesdeluxe » Mon Jul 25, 2011 2:31 pm

Geoff wrote: I think it's total BS that you cite MRG as a "successful example" when you are measuring success as skier visits.

Isn't a successful ski area one that stays open?
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Re: Getting Back to your Inner Ski Bum

Postby Geoff » Mon Jul 25, 2011 9:57 pm

jamesdeluxe wrote:
Geoff wrote: I think it's total BS that you cite MRG as a "successful example" when you are measuring success as skier visits.

Isn't a successful ski area one that stays open?


A co-op has a completely different set of rules. If Mad River falls on hard times from a bad snow year, they still have the coop shareholders on the hook for a minimum annual purchase requirement. Mad River has no debt. Their replacement single chair was 2/3 funded through donations. They sold the 140 original single chairs for $240,000. The co-op only had to come up with about $250K out of their capital budget.
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Re: Getting Back to your Inner Ski Bum

Postby EMSC » Mon Jul 25, 2011 10:35 pm

Geoff wrote:
jamesdeluxe wrote:
Geoff wrote: I think it's total BS that you cite MRG as a "successful example" when you are measuring success as skier visits.

Isn't a successful ski area one that stays open?


A co-op has a completely different set of rules. If Mad River falls on hard times from a bad snow year, they still have the coop shareholders on the hook for a minimum annual purchase requirement. Mad River has no debt. Their replacement single chair was 2/3 funded through donations. They sold the 140 original single chairs for $240,000. The co-op only had to come up with about $250K out of their capital budget.


Geoff, I think thats the whole point here. That there are different business models in the ski biz and can be "successful". Nearly every ski racing team in the US is a non-profit (including USST) Does that disqualify all of them from potentially being considered successful?
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Re: Getting Back to your Inner Ski Bum

Postby Geoff » Tue Jul 26, 2011 1:21 am

EMSC wrote:
Geoff wrote:A co-op has a completely different set of rules. If Mad River falls on hard times from a bad snow year, they still have the coop shareholders on the hook for a minimum annual purchase requirement. Mad River has no debt. Their replacement single chair was 2/3 funded through donations. They sold the 140 original single chairs for $240,000. The co-op only had to come up with about $250K out of their capital budget.


Geoff, I think thats the whole point here. That there are different business models in the ski biz and can be "successful". Nearly every ski racing team in the US is a non-profit (including USST) Does that disqualify all of them from potentially being considered successful?


I wasn't aware that ski racing teams built and operated ski lifts for the general public.

Tony tried to claim:
"Demographic trends are moving in MRA's direction. I would cite Bogus Basin, Bridger Bowl and MRG as successful examples."

The point I'm making is that MRG handles a miniscule number of skier visits. If you get 1500 people on a Saturday, it's a disaster. Vermont does 4.3 million skier visits. You can't have 600 seats per hour single chairs at living ski museums. Tourism and the winter ski business is such a large fraction of the state economy that you'd cause serious economic hardship if Tony's claim aligned with any kind of reality. The market is high speed lifts, grooming, and snowmaking for intermediates. The little guys who don't offer that go out of business.

Bogus Basin is also kind of funky. It is a 501(c)(3) so people tossing money into the hat to keep it operating could deduct it on their federal income tax return. I don't see how a local ski hill that can only survive through local charity every time it hits a lean snow year can be called "successful".
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Re: Getting Back to your Inner Ski Bum

Postby Patrick » Tue Jul 26, 2011 7:08 am

I think the point that is missing is variety.

If all the Vermont ski areas would be and have the same feel as MRG then it wouldn't necessarily be as successful. However over the years, some ski areas blasted, widened, increase capacity, added or increase snowmaking, grooming in the last 30-40 years, making leaving MRG more unique. Not saying that every should have done what MRG is going, but there is place for very minimalist ski area where the focus is mainly skiing.
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Re: Getting Back to your Inner Ski Bum

Postby Marc_C » Tue Jul 26, 2011 8:59 am

Patrick wrote:If all the Vermont ski areas would be and have the same feel as MRG then it wouldn't necessarily be as successful. However over the years, some ski areas blasted, widened, increase capacity, added or increase snowmaking, grooming in the last 30-40 years, making leaving MRG more unique. Not saying that every should have done what MRG is going, but there is place for very minimalist ski area where the focus is mainly skiing.

Just to keep perspective:
* MRG grooms about 90% of their green and blue terrain nightly - there are only about 5 blue square trail sections (not even complete trails) that aren't groomed. Of their black diamond terrain, only 2 or 3 trails get groomed (but not necessarily every night).
* MRG has snowmaking on 15% of its terrain - essentially the high traffic, low part of the mountain. True, the vast majority is strictly natural snow cover, but it's a misconception to say that MRG has no snowmaking.
* MRG has indeed widened and regraded some terrain in the past 40 years.
* Sugarbush next door uses the same grooming philosophy as MRG - all the green, the huge majority of the blue, and only a tiny fraction of black terrain get groomed nightly. Stowe operates the same way. When you look at percentage of advanced terrain that gets groomed regularly, you'll find that a majority of VT areas operate the same as MRG.

IOW, other than ownership model and snowmaking (and the fiscally irresponsible insistence of the shareholders to rebuild a museum relic of a lift at a significant up-charge over a modern double), MRG isn't as unique in as many respects as people think it is.
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Re: Getting Back to your Inner Ski Bum

Postby Patrick » Tue Jul 26, 2011 12:22 pm

Marc_C wrote:
Patrick wrote:If all the Vermont ski areas would be and have the same feel as MRG then it wouldn't necessarily be as successful. However over the years, some ski areas blasted, widened, increase capacity, added or increase snowmaking, grooming in the last 30-40 years, making leaving MRG more unique. Not saying that every should have done what MRG is going, but there is place for very minimalist ski area where the focus is mainly skiing.

Just to keep perspective:
* MRG grooms about 90% of their green and blue terrain nightly - there are only about 5 blue square trail sections (not even complete trails) that aren't groomed. Of their black diamond terrain, only 2 or 3 trails get groomed (but not necessarily every night).
* MRG has snowmaking on 15% of its terrain - essentially the high traffic, low part of the mountain. True, the vast majority is strictly natural snow cover, but it's a misconception to say that MRG has no snowmaking.
* MRG has indeed widened and regraded some terrain in the past 40 years.
* Sugarbush next door uses the same grooming philosophy as MRG - all the green, the huge majority of the blue, and only a tiny fraction of black terrain get groomed nightly. Stowe operates the same way. When you look at percentage of advanced terrain that gets groomed regularly, you'll find that a majority of VT areas operate the same as MRG.

IOW, other than ownership model and snowmaking (and the fiscally irresponsible insistence of the shareholders to rebuild a museum relic of a lift at a significant up-charge over a modern double), MRG isn't as unique in as many respects as people think it is.


=;

Marc. you're going exactly what you criticize Tony of going. You don't know what you are talking about living many thousands miles away...how many ski days have you taken in Vermont last season? The last 3 years? Last 5? How many of those days at MRG? Tony has more seasonal experience in the LCC than you. Notions or perceived notions of the time you lived in New Jersey won't fly.

PS. Never said that MRG didn't have snowmaking.
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Re: Getting Back to your Inner Ski Bum

Postby soulskier » Tue Jul 26, 2011 3:54 pm

Marc_C wrote:

IOW, other than ownership model and snowmaking (and the fiscally irresponsible insistence of the shareholders to rebuild a museum relic of a lift at a significant up-charge over a modern double), MRG isn't as unique in as many respects as people think it is.


I'd argue that MRG created their Co-op to protect their mountain from being corporatized. That's pretty unique in the ski industry these days.

Here's a nice little clip of the history of the Co-op and keeping true to their roots.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8wnP65o3zTo
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Re: Getting Back to your Inner Ski Bum

Postby Tony Crocker » Tue Jul 26, 2011 6:15 pm

My comment about those 3 ski areas being successful is that they appear to have stable business models and are not in danger of going out of business. If you have low ticket sales like MRG, you need low marginal costs and mostly importantly no debt service. Bogus has substantial ticket sales and the income from their cut rate season pass program raised enough money eventually to pay for 2 high speed quads. No question from their coffee table book they have had tough times in low snow years in the past. I'm not sure whether their improved status over the past 13 years will make future drought years any easier to withstand. Bogus has concluded that they do not have enough potential snowmaking resources to make sense spending money there.

I agree firmly with Patrick about diversity of ski models. Everyone here knows I prefer areas with big mountain scale. But I also like variety and thus still put in some time at smaller places I consider interesting, and MRG certainly qualified.
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Re: Getting Back to your Inner Ski Bum

Postby Geoff » Sun Jul 31, 2011 11:57 am

soulskier wrote:
Marc_C wrote:

IOW, other than ownership model and snowmaking (and the fiscally irresponsible insistence of the shareholders to rebuild a museum relic of a lift at a significant up-charge over a modern double), MRG isn't as unique in as many respects as people think it is.


I'd argue that MRG created their Co-op to protect their mountain from being corporatized. That's pretty unique in the ski industry these days.

Here's a nice little clip of the history of the Co-op and keeping true to their roots.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8wnP65o3zTo


I think Soulskier has rose-colored blinders on about what really happened.

MRG went co-op because the doors would have completely shut otherwise. Sugarbush had fallen on hard times. Les Otten had scooped up the resort for next to nothing in 1995, the same year Betsy Pratt was looking to unload Mad River Glen. Sugarbush was running at a loss and Otten was unable to turn it around despite plowing big dollars into lifts and snowmaking. That is why the American Skiing Company dumped it for next to nothing to Win Smith in 2001. There was no market for Mad River. The Co-op really was Betsy Pratt's only possible exit strategy.
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Re: Getting Back to your Inner Ski Bum

Postby soulskier » Sun Jul 31, 2011 7:09 pm

Geoff wrote:
I think Soulskier has rose-colored blinders on about what really happened.

MRG went co-op because the doors would have completely shut otherwise. Sugarbush had fallen on hard times. Les Otten had scooped up the resort for next to nothing in 1995, the same year Betsy Pratt was looking to unload Mad River Glen. Sugarbush was running at a loss and Otten was unable to turn it around despite plowing big dollars into lifts and snowmaking. That is why the American Skiing Company dumped it for next to nothing to Win Smith in 2001. There was no market for Mad River. The Co-op really was Betsy Pratt's only possible exit strategy.


That sounds similar to what Magic Mountain, in your fine state, is trying to accomplish, correct?
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Re: Getting Back to your Inner Ski Bum

Postby Admin » Sun Jul 31, 2011 7:32 pm

soulskier wrote:That sounds similar to what Magic Mountain, in your fine state, is trying to accomplish, correct?


That is however where the similarities end. Magic is much less mountain with much, much less snowfall. They need to be able to depend on snowmaking but lack any substantial water source to run a sufficient snowmaking system, even if they had the money to install one - which they don't. That's largely the reason why they've been through owner after owner after owner, with each one predictably losing their shirt.

And from what I understand the structure that's being proposed is quite different from the MRG co-op. The current owner will stay in charge -- he's just selling what amount to equity shares.
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Re: Getting Back to your Inner Ski Bum

Postby Geoff » Mon Aug 01, 2011 9:03 am

Admin wrote:
soulskier wrote:That sounds similar to what Magic Mountain, in your fine state, is trying to accomplish, correct?


That is however where the similarities end. Magic is much less mountain with much, much less snowfall. They need to be able to depend on snowmaking but lack any substantial water source to run a sufficient snowmaking system, even if they had the money to install one - which they don't. That's largely the reason why they've been through owner after owner after owner, with each one predictably losing their shirt.

And from what I understand the structure that's being proposed is quite different from the MRG co-op. The current owner will stay in charge -- he's just selling what amount to equity shares.


Yep. And Magic isn't viable unless they get enough skier visits to cover the snowmaking costs. You can't run it as a living ski museum. You need full parking lots. I know the most recent operator has done some snowmaking pond work but I don't believe they've ever solved their basic problem of lack of water for snowmaking.

It's pretty clear to me that the current incarnation of Magic will die an ugly death. There's no way they're going to find people willing to throw the money away buying shares in a non-viable business.
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Re: Getting Back to your Inner Ski Bum

Postby soulskier » Wed Aug 03, 2011 9:47 am

Geoff wrote:It's pretty clear to me that the current incarnation of Magic will die an ugly death. There's no way they're going to find people willing to throw the money away buying shares in a non-viable business.


My sources tell me they have sold almost three hundred shares ($3,000) to date.
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Re: Getting Back to your Inner Ski Bum

Postby Marc_C » Wed Aug 03, 2011 10:33 am

soulskier wrote:
Geoff wrote:It's pretty clear to me that the current incarnation of Magic will die an ugly death. There's no way they're going to find people willing to throw the money away buying shares in a non-viable business.


My sources tell me they have sold almost three hundred shares ($3,000) to date.

Phase 1: sell shares
Phase 2: ?
Phase 3: Profit!

Reminds me of the old South Park bit about the underwear gnomes...
http://www.southparkstudios.com/clips/151040/the-underpants-business
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