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 Admin » Sun Oct 10, 2010 4:02 pm

longshanks wrote:What is Cap and Trade? - short answer please...Happy Thanksgiving eh!


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cap_and_trade

And yes, happy Thanksgiving to our northern neighbors!
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Re: Is the ski resort model dead?

Postby Tony Crocker » Sun Oct 10, 2010 6:36 pm

I will leave the pure politics alone in this thread. I'm addressing the "clean energy at ski areas" issue from the perspective of economic advantage and sustainability of the ski area. A ski area should not make an investment that depends upon cap and trade becoming law soon in order to make sense. California does have a state law with renewable energy goals that might result in Mammoth's investment being subsidized to some degree by its utility.

soulskier wrote:The problem with Mammoth is they have over 30 lifts, many of them high speed, numerous lodges and a rather large footprint. Sure they have the wind, solar and hydro, but they need to generate an enormous amount of energy to be net negative.

Say we could develop Mammoth today, in 2010, forgetting the permitting process. We would install one chairlift from the base area to the top the Gondola, with a mid loading/down loading around the top of chair 1/bottom of chair 3. Maybe a couple nut crackers to pull you out from Canyon Lodge and the bottom of Chair 13/14, so you can ski from DragonBack to Whitebark Bowl. Totally minimalist approach, but all the same terrain as is accessed today. In fact, we would add an eco friendly shuttle bus to take you back from Tamarack so you can ski the whole backside, including one of Cali's coolest run, Hole in the Wall.

Sure, you aren't skiing 40,000 vertical feet/day, but you aren't skiing bumps and crossing tracks too much either. We think it's all about the quality, not quantity.

Mammoth has 3,500 acres, nearly all of it usable, and the only congested sectors are near the lodges. There are people like joegm who think Mammoth doesn't have enough moguls! Mammoth also has close to 1.5 million skier visits highly concentrated on weekends, which is why it needs all those lifts. When I started skiing there in the late 1970's there was routinely a 30+ minute wait for the gondola to get up top to the expert terrain. And intermediates often had a 45 minute wait for chair 2. Do I want to go back to those days? No thank you.

soulskier wrote:The point here was creating more energy than you consume, thus creating another revenue stream. But if the solar panels are paid off in full, wouldn't that essentially be an 11% ROI?

Yes, that's why I'm quite happy with it, despite having to spend another $6,300 this winter to redo the roof under the panels so it won't leak. Over time that 11% is a minimum because it assumes no increase in future electricity rates. But generating enough energy to be net negative is an ideological, not an economic goal. On the residential side at least, utility rates are tiered. The economics work (at least in my case) for eliminating the high cost tier(s) but not necessarily the half as costly basic level. Over an entire year I'm covering about 2/3 of my electricity use, though from late March to late July I covered all of it. If you go negative for a whole year you're going to be paid at the lowest rate. The more usual case is you get a credit toward a future billing period when you're net positive.

soulskier wrote:Mt Abram, Maine is in the permitting process for 2 acres of solar panels. When installed, they will be North America's first net negative ski area. The cost was 4.2 million, and they financed it over 40 years. And bear in mind, they have snowmaking, which as we all know, is over 60% of a ski area's energy consumption

Photovoltaic solar? In Maine? I'd really like to see the numbers on that. During the year+ I've had solar panels I've had 84% sunshine by a crude spreadsheet model based upon my actual 87% vs. maximum production. I assume (based upon actual results from my panels) you get 20% production on a completely cloudy day from diffused light. I doubt anyone in the Northeast is over 50% sun, which would translate to 60% production. I'm ignoring effects of higher latitude, removing snow/ice from the panels promptly, etc.

I'm making constructive suggestions for the type of ski areas soulskier should visit and investigate thoroughly to see which of his criteria can be realistically implemented. Mammoth is a mega-mountain that is far from the MRA model. But I do think it's an interesting example for him to investigate on the renewable energy angle. Mammoth gets a whole lot more sun than Maine too, but I still suspect the economics of wind are better for Mammoth.

I forgot about Patrick...
Patrick wrote: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.

Yes it worked that way for me too, the sharp increase starting at age 44. A Kottke report a few years back showed skier/rider visits by age on a remarkably flat plateau from the early 20's to the late 40's. I suspect the 45-year-old skier visits come from fewer people skiing more days per person that the 25-year-old skier visits.

Patrick wrote: in 25 years I'll be 70 ([censored] that is depressing) and wondering if Tony will ski as much then too?

At age 82 I'm sure not. :lol: This is another reason I don't get the real estate model. It's easier to modify gradually your leisure pursuits if you're not anchored to a specific vacation location. There's still my Iron Blosam week, but that was cheap and Adam will have it by then anyway.
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Re: Is the ski resort model dead?

Postby rfarren » Sun Oct 10, 2010 9:17 pm

soulskier wrote:
The problem with Mammoth is they have over 30 lifts, many of them high speed, numerous lodges and a rather large footprint. Sure they have the wind, solar and hydro, but they need to generate an enormous amount of energy to be net negative.

Say we could develop Mammoth today, in 2010, forgetting the permitting process. We would install one chairlift from the base area to the top the Gondola, with a mid loading/down loading around the top of chair 1/bottom of chair 3. Maybe a couple nut crackers to pull you out from Canyon Lodge and the bottom of Chair 13/14, so you can ski from DragonBack to Whitebark Bowl. Totally minimalist approach, but all the same terrain as is accessed today. In fact, we would add an eco friendly shuttle bus to take you back from Tamarack so you can ski the whole backside, including one of Cali's coolest run, Hole in the Wall.

Sure, you aren't skiing 40,000 vertical feet/day, but you aren't skiing bumps and crossing tracks too much either. We think it's all about the quality, not quantity.

[/quote]

You're kidding right? All of Southern Cali goes there every weekend and you're advocating cutting lift capacity? So, you're not skiing 40000 feet a day, but it's quality over quantity right? :brick:

Is waiting 40 minutes every time you finish a run sound like quality? With that business strategy, Mammoth would lose customers and go under.

Don't get me started on a carbon neutral ski area. What does that have to do with economics? If carbon neutrality was a viable form of revenue many ski areas would already be doing that. Frankly, if "green energy" was really viable on an economic level we would be well on our way to being carbon neutral as a country by now( for those of us in the USA).

I'm with Crocker on this one. And I'm pretty skeptical about that resort in maine. I doubt they're carbon neutral and making snow.
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Re: Is the ski resort model dead?

Postby soulskier » Sun Oct 10, 2010 9:33 pm

Tony Crocker wrote:I will leave the pure politics alone in this thread. I'm addressing the "clean energy at ski areas" issue from the perspective of economic advantage and sustainability of the ski area. A ski area should not make an investment that depends upon cap and trade becoming law soon in order to make sense.

MRA isn't going to invest because of the potential of the cap and trade, and the subsequent carbon offsets that will be sold. However, if and when it passes, it will be another advantage. We will put a * after that one in the future.

California does have a state law with renewable energy goals that might result in Mammoth's investment being subsidized to some degree by its utility.

Yes, subsidizing and other government handouts will be a part of the lasagna financing.

soulskier wrote:The problem with Mammoth is they have over 30 lifts, many of them high speed, numerous lodges and a rather large footprint. Sure they have the wind, solar and hydro, but they need to generate an enormous amount of energy to be net negative.

Say we could develop Mammoth today, in 2010, forgetting the permitting process. We would install one chairlift from the base area to the top the Gondola, with a mid loading/down loading around the top of chair 1/bottom of chair 3. Maybe a couple nut crackers to pull you out from Canyon Lodge and the bottom of Chair 13/14, so you can ski from DragonBack to Whitebark Bowl. Totally minimalist approach, but all the same terrain as is accessed today. In fact, we would add an eco friendly shuttle bus to take you back from Tamarack so you can ski the whole backside, including one of Cali's coolest run, Hole in the Wall.

Sure, you aren't skiing 40,000 vertical feet/day, but you aren't skiing bumps and crossing tracks too much either. We think it's all about the quality, not quantity.


Mammoth has 3,500 acres, nearly all of it usable, and the only congested sectors are near the lodges. There are people like joegm who think Mammoth doesn't have enough moguls!

The MRA market will be catering to the higher level skier that prefers longer smooth and untracked runs, not bumps. Remember, with one chair and a couple nut crackers, we could access the same 3,500 acres currently accessed by 30 lifts (more than 5,000 acres if we ran an eco shuttle from the bottom of the backside/Tamarack). In all due respect, there are plenty of mountains where joegm can ski moguls.

More importantly, if you don't have 30 lifts, than you don't need 1.5 million visits.


Mammoth also has close to 1.5 million skier visits highly concentrated on weekends, which is why it needs all those lifts. When I started skiing there in the late 1970's there was routinely a 30+ minute wait for the gondola to get up top to the expert terrain. And intermediates often had a 45 minute wait for chair 2. Do I want to go back to those days? No thank you.

MRA is not looking to create the 1.5 million skier visit experience. We want to create a skier centric experience, more about legendary runs, enjoying the wilderness and the solitude.

soulskier wrote:The point here was creating more energy than you consume, thus creating another revenue stream. But if the solar panels are paid off in full, wouldn't that essentially be an 11% ROI?

Yes, that's why I'm quite happy with it, despite having to spend another $6,300 this winter to redo the roof under the panels so it won't leak. Over time that 11% is a minimum because it assumes no increase in future electricity rates. But generating enough energy to be net negative is an ideological, not an economic goal.

Why not an economic goal? If your liabilities could be assets, than that makes economic sense.

On the residential side at least, utility rates are tiered. The economics work (at least in my case) for eliminating the high cost tier(s) but not necessarily the half as costly basic level. Over an entire year I'm covering about 2/3 of my electricity use, though from late March to late July I covered all of it. If you go negative for a whole year you're going to be paid at the lowest rate. The more usual case is you get a credit toward a future billing period when you're net positive.

soulskier wrote:Mt Abram, Maine is in the permitting process for 2 acres of solar panels. When installed, they will be North America's first net negative ski area. The cost was 4.2 million, and they financed it over 40 years. And bear in mind, they have snowmaking, which as we all know, is over 60% of a ski area's energy consumption


Photovoltaic solar? In Maine? I'd really like to see the numbers on that. During the year+ I've had solar panels I've had 84% sunshine by a crude spreadsheet model based upon my actual 87% vs. maximum production. I assume (based upon actual results from my panels) you get 20% production on a completely cloudy day from diffused light. I doubt anyone in the Northeast is over 50% sun, which would translate to 60% production. I'm ignoring effects of higher latitude, removing snow/ice from the panels promptly, etc.

Here's an article you can download. Sounds like they will make most of their energy in the summer months, but over the course of a year, will be net negative.

http://mountainridersalliance.files.wor ... energy.pdf



I'm making constructive suggestions for the type of ski areas soulskier should visit and investigate thoroughly to see which of his criteria can be realistically implemented. Mammoth is a mega-mountain that is far from the MRA model. But I do think it's an interesting example for him to investigate on the renewable energy angle. Mammoth gets a whole lot more sun than Maine too, but I still suspect the economics of wind are better for Mammoth.

I think the most interesting comparison is that Mammoth used to be values based, and about the skiing, as opposed to trophy homes and a sterile cookie cutter village. The has not been a terrain expansion since Gondola 2 was installed, only uphill capacity, which IMO decreases the skier experience.

I'm curious to know how Dave McCoy really feels about the direction is beloved mountain has taken since he first installed the rope tow back in 1942.


I forgot about Patrick...
Patrick wrote: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.

Yes it worked that way for me too, the sharp increase starting at age 44. A Kottke report a few years back showed skier/rider visits by age on a remarkably flat plateau from the early 20's to the late 40's. I suspect the 45-year-old skier visits come from fewer people skiing more days per person that the 25-year-old skier visits.

Patrick wrote: in 25 years I'll be 70 ([censored] that is depressing) and wondering if Tony will ski as much then too?

At age 82 I'm sure not. :lol: This is another reason I don't get the real estate model. It's easier to modify gradually your leisure pursuits if you're not anchored to a specific vacation location. There's still my Iron Blosam week, but that was cheap and Adam will have it by then anyway.
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Re: Is the ski resort model dead?

Postby soulskier » Sun Oct 10, 2010 9:55 pm

rfarren wrote:
soulskier wrote:
The problem with Mammoth is they have over 30 lifts, many of them high speed, numerous lodges and a rather large footprint. Sure they have the wind, solar and hydro, but they need to generate an enormous amount of energy to be net negative.

Say we could develop Mammoth today, in 2010, forgetting the permitting process. We would install one chairlift from the base area to the top the Gondola, with a mid loading/down loading around the top of chair 1/bottom of chair 3. Maybe a couple nut crackers to pull you out from Canyon Lodge and the bottom of Chair 13/14, so you can ski from DragonBack to Whitebark Bowl. Totally minimalist approach, but all the same terrain as is accessed today. In fact, we would add an eco friendly shuttle bus to take you back from Tamarack so you can ski the whole backside, including one of Cali's coolest run, Hole in the Wall.

Sure, you aren't skiing 40,000 vertical feet/day, but you aren't skiing bumps and crossing tracks too much either. We think it's all about the quality, not quantity.



You're kidding right? All of Southern Cali goes there every weekend and you're advocating cutting lift capacity? So, you're not skiing 40000 feet a day, but it's quality over quantity right? :brick:

Is waiting 40 minutes every time you finish a run sound like quality? With that business strategy, Mammoth would lose customers and go under.

We are talking in the context if Mammoth were developed today from scratch, not with a client base of 1.5 million skiers.

Don't get me started on a carbon neutral ski area. What does that have to do with economics? If carbon neutrality was a viable form of revenue many ski areas would already be doing that. Frankly, if "green energy" was really viable on an economic level we would be well on our way to being carbon neutral as a country by now( for those of us in the USA).

Just because it hasn't been done before doesn't mean it shouldn't be done in the future. Do you know there was a big uproar when the decision was made to standardize time? Besides, if climate change is not reversed, our children's children aren't going to enjoy skiing.

I'm with Crocker on this one. And I'm pretty skeptical about that resort in maine. I doubt they're carbon neutral and making snow.[/quote]

Here's the link to the article.

http://mountainridersalliance.files.wor ... energy.pdf
http://www.MountainRidersAlliance.com
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Re: Is the ski resort model dead?

Postby Tony Crocker » Sun Oct 10, 2010 11:09 pm

My $48,000 solar panels produce 10,000 kWh per year, so the $4.2 million producing 733,000 kWh a year in a worse climate is in the ballpark. However, 733,000 kWh a year at 11 cents is $80,630, not a great return ~2% on a $4.2 million investment. So I hope Mt. Abrams has a sweetheart deal on that 40 year loan.

soulskier wrote:I think the most interesting comparison is that Mammoth used to be values based, and about the skiing, as opposed to trophy homes and a sterile cookie cutter village. The has not been a terrain expansion since Gondola 2 was installed, only uphill capacity, which IMO decreases the skier experience.

I'm curious to know how Dave McCoy really feels about the direction is beloved mountain has taken since he first installed the rope tow back in 1942.


When I first skied Mammoth there were 16 double chairs and 2 T-bars. Dave McCoy moved to correct his lift line problems by installing new lifts within the existing terrain, starting with chairs 17-19 in 1979. For experts the key additions were chairs 22 (which also opened previously hike-to terrain) and 23 in 1982. This was all done before the high speed era, and by 1997 only chairs 1 and 16 had been converted to high speed. Dave McCoy sold his real estate to Intrawest then, presuming they had the expertise to improve that part of Mammoth. However Dave retained 51% control of mountain operations and got Intrawest to upgrade the gondola and several more lifts to high speed. So I think Dave was all in favor of the lift upgrades and figured out a way to get someone else to pay for them. When Dave reached 90 years old and decided to sell (rather shrewdly at the top of the real estate market in 2006 and coming off back-to-back 500+ inch, 1.5 million visit seasons), 15% of the stake went to Rusty Gregory, the CEO who came up through the ranks over 30 years.

Compared to the vast majority of mega-mountains, Mammoth stays truer to its roots. Flexible opening and closing dates and lift operations are still quite similar to "the good old days," as I've documented on the Mammoth Forum. Intrawest screwed up the Village development, notably with the parking issue, but I find little to complain about so far in Mammoth's mountain operations. I do know that Starwood (70% ownership) is carrying a lot of debt on that excessive 2006 sale price, so Mammoth is being aggressive about trying to generate revenue.

None of this is relevant to MRA. MRA is going to buy a small ski area (at least in terms of existing skier visits) because it can't afford a large one.
soulskier wrote:The MRA market will be catering to the higher level skier that prefers longer smooth and untracked runs

You may also have to deal with avalanche control, which is not cheap. I presume soulskier is already studying Silverton closely.
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Re: Is the ski resort model dead?

Postby riverc0il » Mon Oct 11, 2010 5:50 am

Any one have any stats regarding how much carbon the resort puts out compared to how much carbon its visitors put out to go skiing? The biggest issue obviously here is travel (car, plane, or both) but I suppose you could go so far as to look at all the gear each patron has bought (which incurred carbon in its creation, transportation to the retail outlet, and transportation to the retail outlet to the consumers' home). I guess that data should not argue against a resort trying to get as close to neutral as possible.

But in the bigger picture, don't we already know the enemy and the enemy is us? Can a resort be truly neutral if the consumer is not taken into account either? I am concerned about the environment and any potential harm I may be doing to it. But I can not reconcile that with my love of skiing, especially when I don't really and truly know exactly how much harm driving 200 miles round trip actually has on the environment. Is a policy to try for being carbon neutral not internally consistent with itself if customers cause the most carbon and it is not addressed?
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Re: Is the ski resort model dead?

Postby rfarren » Mon Oct 11, 2010 7:49 am

riverc0il wrote:
But in the bigger picture, don't we already know the enemy and the enemy is us? Can a resort be truly neutral if the consumer is not taken into account either?


Exactly.

I believe that Soulskier wants resorts with fewer beds and fewer skiers. If Mammoth were to be rebuilt today in his vision, it would be a huge mountain without the capacity to support the population interested in visiting it. We all want a huge mountain with empty lift lines, powder runs all day, and cheap lodgings, but it's not 1948 anymore. Lot's of people ski live in major urban areas (away from the mountains), and they need places to stay. Let's use Revelstoke as an example. It's hard to get to, and it's more or less a new resort. Yet, it is seeing a growth of about 10% each year in skier growth (during a recession). I promise you those stories of empty trails and powder all day will soon disappear. And as the mountain is very large, people will continue head over that way. If the lift layout is what Soulskier would want for Mammoth, most of the people visiting would probably not return, relegating Revelstoke into a locals mountain. However, there is one problem with that: Revelstoke is too large to effectively be a locals mountain( the cost of operation increases with terrain). In response, they would either have to close, or reduce the skiable terrain to contain expenses. Yep, quality of quantity.

As far as Mt. Abrams is concerned. It is a mountain with 1150 Vertical Ft. and 650 acres of skiable terrain, of which 250 acres are trails. Perhaps they make snow on all 250 acres of trails, but I doubt it. So, for them to use green energy, although still a stretch to be carbon neutral, is possible due to size. The snow making line only need to be pumped up 1150 vert ft. Now double that for a mountain with 2300 vert ft, and 500 acres of trails.... that's quite a bit more energy (in fact more than double), and that's just getting water up the side of the mountain. The increase of cost in terms of longer lifts, more staff (required in the case of medical emergencies), insurance, and upkeep would be substantial. This would result in either increased prices for lift tix, or a need to expand the number of people skiing at the ski area, or both.

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.
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Re: Is the ski resort model dead?

Postby Patrick » Mon Oct 11, 2010 9:21 am

Off to Montreal to get a letter signed :evil: ...anyhow here is a parting shot.

From MRG's website posted 3 years ago.

http://www.madriverglen.com/?page=skigreen.html

Mad River Glen, with the help of it's non-profit partner, The Stark Mountain Foundation, has implemented the "Ski Green If You Can" carbon offset program for the upcoming season. It involves Mad River Glen purchasing carbon offsets to render the ski areas already minimal operations carbon neutral. These offsets will be earmarked to fund methane digester projects on dairy farms right here in Vermont. These projects directly reduce green house gas emissions in a meaningful way and would not have been possible without these kinds of carbon offset purchases.

What sets this program apart from others in the ski industry is that it also tackles the impact of each skiers commute to the mountain, not just the operational impact. In Mad River Glen's case the skier's commute has five times the impact as the mountain's operations. Using the "Ski Green If You Can" program as a vehicle we challenge skiers to follow the mountain's lead and voluntarily offset their commute when they buy tickets or season passes. "We wanted to get involved with this program so we could help Mad River Glen offset their operations, and encourage the skiers to mitigate their impact as well," says Stark Mountain Foundation President, Penny Parson. Skiers pay either $1 for a day ticket, $3 for a Mad Card(a book of 3 discounted tickets) or $10 for a season pass when they make their purchase.
It is pretty common these days for businesses to talk about their "carbon footprint" as concern over climate change has finally begun to resonate with consumers. Mad River Glen's philosophy is; if you don't build it in the first place you won't have to offset its long-term environmental effects. That being said the ski area operations still have an environmental impact. "We looked long and hard at offsets because, frankly, I was quite cynical about them," said Mad River Glen Marketing Director, Eric Friedman. "We would only go down this road if we could guarantee that the funds raised would actually go to a project that wouldn't have happened anyway, and we wanted it to be used for a project here in Vermont. That's why we after a great deal of research we decided to buy our offsets from Native Energy." Native Energy is a privately held Native American energy company. On behalf of its member tribes, they work to power America with wind and other renewable energy sources. They are involved in many projects around the nation including methane digesters on family farms in Vermont. All proceeds from the "Ski Green If You Can" campaign will go specifically towards these local projects.
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Re: Is the ski resort model dead?

Postby flyover » Mon Oct 11, 2010 11:35 am

Good thread. Is the resort model dead?

I have two thoughts. First, however, I’ll disclose my bias (and the bias of every skier I ski with) for simple skier/rider-centered areas with lower skier densities. I first learned to ski at the Middlebury Snow Bowl as a small child. I spent many of my formative years skiing MRG. I first skied west of the Mississippi at Alta in 1984 at the age of 16. Alta has probably been the western area I have most frequently skied over the last 20 years, although I have started to prefer Solitude, Snowbasin, or Powder Mountain on powder days in recent years due to the generally lower skier densities. When I ski Snowbird, I will often skip starting the day on the tram, in part, because I hate walking through what feels like several floors of shopping mall to get to the tram line.

I also must disclose that I don’t generally follow ski industry news, and have very little knowledge or interest in ski industry economics.

Thought number one: Assuming a robust economic recovery is dependant upon big increases in consumer spending by American consumers, then, IMO, it will be a long time before a robust recovery occurs. I don’t see how this won’t effect discretionary spending on second-home real estate and expensive vacations. For much of the American middle class, wages have fallen or failed to keep pace with the cost of living for a long time. (We can save political discussion of why wages have been falling for a more appropriate forum). Continued middle class spending, however, was facilitated by easy credit. Easy credit has evaporated. In other words, like Admin, much of the American middle class has been bending over at lot lately. Unlike Admin, I’m not sure backwards is the direction they have been bending. Does anyone see higher wages and/or easier credit on the horizon right now? If not, I don’t understand how American consumers will be able to start to spend at levels necessary to revitalize the economy. Unless all or most of the second-home real estate market is driven by the wealthy, I don’t see how the resort model won’t suffer as well.

Thought number two: Those interested in the how-to aspects of keeping a bare-bones ski area in the black, might want to do a little research on Mt. Bohemia, MI. I don’t know a thing about their finances. However, for the ten years since they opened they have kept the lifts spinning and managed to add new terrain most years.

I finally managed to get out to Bohemia for a long weekend at the end of January last year and was impressed by both the quality of the skiing (9-13 inches of dry lake-effect powder took two days to track out) and the simplicity of the operation. The infrastructure is certainly minimal and operating costs must be comparatively low: two 900 vert fixed-grips and a rickety shuttle bus, no lodge, restaurant, or slope-side real estate (just a small collection of yurts, food for sale worthy only of vending machines, and a handful of primitive rental cabins), no snowmaking, no grooming, and the only patrollers I saw were national.

In many ways, Bohemia is completely inaccessible. It is very remote. It is at least seven hours from Minneapolis/St.Paul, the nearest large metro area. (Driving out on a Thursday night, arriving on the Keweenaw before midnight, we did a 110 mile stretch of road on solid snowpack without spotting a single piece of pavement. For 50 miles of that, we didn’t see a single other moving vehicle.) Bohemia has no novice or beginner terrain. It is in a very sparsely-populated region of the country that has been economically depressed for decades. The local lodging and restaurant options are few and far-between and cater mostly to U.P. snowmobilers.

In one key aspect Bohemia is quite accessible: $99.00 season passes. Bohemia is certainly accessible to students at MI Tech in Houghton as well.

With 900 vert, 250+ inches of lake-effect, and sustained steep tree skiing, I’ll acknowledge that Bohemia offers an absolutely unique product given its location in the middle of a huge part of the country devoid of actual mountains. My guess, however, is that they have learned a thing or two about running a low-overhead ski area that just might be applicable to other regions of the country.
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Re: Is the ski resort model dead?

Postby EMSC » Mon Oct 11, 2010 12:14 pm

Interesting financing and thought process by Mt Abram. He's financing for 40 years on a product that typically has a 25 year life -or at least by then the production of solar panels has dropped off significantly. Either way the economics is ruined. I also liked the brief mention of the 141 condo's approved for construction. So perhaps not quite as green of a ski area as touted.

Tony Crocker wrote:My $48,000 solar panels produce 10,000 kWh per year, so the $4.2 million producing 733,000 kWh a year in a worse climate is in the ballpark. However, 733,000 kWh a year at 11 cents is $80,630, not a great return ~2% on a $4.2 million investment. So I hope Mt. Abrams has a sweetheart deal on that 40 year loan.


Those taxpayer subsidies are nice aren't they. Without them solar is very, very niche. Even the very best designed industrial scale solar is at a minimum 17-18cents per KWH right now and usually much higher (which is down significantly from the past, but still nowhere near coal, gas, etc...).
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Re: Is the ski resort model dead?

Postby Tony Crocker » Mon Oct 11, 2010 1:49 pm

EMSC wrote:a product that typically has a 25 year life

Mine are warrantied to produce at least 95% of initial capacity for 25 years.

EMSC wrote:Those taxpayer subsidies are nice aren't they.

Yes, after the utility rebate and federal tax credit I paid $17,000 out of pocket. It's hard to get a precise fix on the energy savings. Glendale's city-owned utility has 2 tiers at 10 cents and 20 cents. There are also taxes and the breakpoint between the tiers varies seasonally. My best guess is that I'm saving about 18 cents per kWh of solar production. The highest tier for private utility customers in California can be 33 cents or more, though the construction rebates are also smaller for those customers. I suspect admin and EMSC find these numbers mind-boggling. I'm fairly sure consumer utility prices in mountain and midwestern states are well under 10 cents per kWh.

EMSC wrote:Even the very best designed industrial scale solar is at a minimum 17-18cents per KWH right now

Wind can be quite a bit cheaper than that, which is why I make that suggestion for Mammoth.

I think EMSC, rfarren and I are all on the same page here. It's going to be enough of a challenge to buy a ski area and operate it on many MRA guidelines. The energy production angle is not likely to pencil out without a lucky location and/or lavish subsidies. I believe the Mt. Abrams cost vs. solar production illustrates this point well.

Definitely add Mt. Bohemia to the list of areas soulskier should study.
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Re: Is the ski resort model dead?

Postby Harvey44 » Mon Oct 11, 2010 10:01 pm

flyover wrote:...Mt Bohemia (and pics)


Sweet looking hill!
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Re: Is the ski resort model dead?

Postby Mike Bernstein » Tue Oct 12, 2010 12:00 am

rfarren wrote:

I think it easy to say that we are going to be waiting a while and what analyst predict. History often tells a different story. In 80,92, and 99 many analysts predicted that those recessions would take 10 years from which to recover. I don't know how realistic an appraisal can be when speaking about a recession while in it. Emotion plays a large part in how the public reacts to a recession and spending habits, if they begin to feel better, based on even modest gains in employment a recovery could rapidly pick up speed. As of now, the news has been less than great economically. Yet, if history can teach us anything, it would foolhardy to imply that we will be economically stagnant two years from now. Therefore, I think a more realistic approach would be to say, that the resort model has taken a hit for the time being, but as the economy recovers so too will the resort model.


I haven't read through to the end of this thread yet, but this post bears responding to. You pointed out the recessions in 1980, 1990-ish, and 1999. The problem with those examples is that only one of them was the result of a real-estate bubble - the 1990-ish one. 1980 was a functioning of rapid inflation in energy prices and lousy monetary policy while 1999 resulted from the bursting of the tech bubble. In the recession that started in 1989, you did in fact see price decreases in ski resort real estate that lasted for a decade or more. I know prices at Sugarbush didn't recover until the 2000s and many places in California saw big hits, though not lasting as long. Even still, that bubble was a small fry as compared the the one that popped more recently. It will take a lot long to unwind the imbalances that drove the run up in prices in the late 2000s, especially since the demographic trends that previously helped to drive the market will now act as a headwind (no new boomers to buy second homes anymore).
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Re: Is the ski resort model dead?

Postby Mike Bernstein » Tue Oct 12, 2010 12:27 am

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.

Given the stated criteria, you're really looking at a small geographic area. Basically the Sierras (June? Terrain probably not good enough but sickter slackcountry), the Cascades (but what small areas have the elevation and terrain there?), Idaho/Montana (several possibilities in the latter state) and interior BC/Alberta. Snow in South America seems to unreliable and NZ/Aus are too far away from the majority of the skiing population to really work.

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.
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