Is the ski resort model dead?

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Re: Is the ski resort model dead?

Postby rfarren » Sat Nov 20, 2010 1:19 am

soulskier wrote:
rfarren wrote:One other thing. Let's say that MRA is really successful. What's to keep private developers from building around there? I


In my fantasy world, I would create community and affordable housing projects (with an eco/green focus) for everyday folk to be able to purchase. Back at Squaw Valley USA, we used to refer to them as the Squawjects.


It's a nice idea but not exactly economically responsible, at least from a business perspective, but hey, as long as it has showers for those granola eating, smelly ski-bums the rest of us day trippers will be pleased.
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Re: Is the ski resort model dead?

Postby Mike Bernstein » Sat Nov 20, 2010 2:33 am

soulskier wrote:
2) That's true, it depends on the state. At the very least, the electric company will issue a credit, thus eliminating the electric bill, which according to many besides Geoff, is the number one expense of a ski resort, especially if the area requires snowmaking like Killington.

The bolded portion is 100% verifiably false. Unless ski areas are operated by mostly/solely by unpaid volunteers, labor costs are always, ALWAYS the #1 expense in running a ski area, even at a large snowmaking hill like Killington.

Jamie - I think what you don't understand is that it's not that people are opposing your idea. On the contrary, I think that most people here would love to ski at the type of hill you're envisioning. Rather, you continue to display an embarrassing level of naivete about the economics of the ski industry while setting up strawmen against which you are striving to rebel. The MRS, as you've articulated it, is more of a juvenile high-school term paper project than a serious business proposition. I love your idealism and your passion, but your strident insistence of certain economic details in the face of empirical facts to the contrary renders much of what you say laughable.
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Re: Is the ski resort model dead?

Postby Tony Crocker » Sat Nov 20, 2010 2:35 am

Da wood wrote:I would assume that you are all on this forum because you love the sport, the mountains, the lifestyle and the freedom that you get from skiing, so I wonder why you aren't offering more constructive criticism to help MRA succeed instead of simply bashing it, and Soul Skier's posts.

This is a very long thread now. Especially early on, most of our comments were constructive. The responses seem to ignore a lot of valid concerns, as Mike Bernstein notes above.

Da wood wrote:"In Search of Powder" explores the impacts of those of us that made our living in these towns and finally had to give it up because it became too difficult.

Fair enough. I should try to read that book sometime. I did read Downhill Slide and had the same view as Skip King quoted earlier.

Much of the time the ski resort developer does not have much control over what happens with the real estate/environment. I know this was the case with Vail. In Aspen they have been very environmentally conscious for a long time. I'm sure it's better for the wildlife and ecosystem, but the real estate is no surprise even more expensive. Jackson Hole is another example of a well preserved environment surrounding a small amount of very pricey real estate.

If the ski resort offers a great product appealing to a wide range of people, demand will increase, real estate is nearly always limited in a mountain environment, so prices can skyrocket. So the only thing the resort/company town can do is maintain some employee housing. Whistler has quite a bit of this and Aspen has some.

Da wood wrote:so what is the harm in giving them some support.

Most people on FTO would love to see more expert-oriented, low density, minimalist infrastructure areas. But for my part I think soulskier would be well advised just to emulate the ones that exist now (I've listed several elsewhere in this thread). It's enough of a challenge as it is to sustain a ski area that appeals to a narrow niche, without claiming he can take on a bunch of tangential issues.

The whole ski bum pricing issue is not likely to be relevant. An MRA area is not going to be located in a pricey area, and its demand probably won't jack up the local real estate. I suspect Silverton is a relatively affordable place to live compared to towns where the ski area has high volume and broad based appeal.

The energy issue is also likely to be irrelevant. With no snowmaking and just a few simple lifts, energy consumption will be low. Given the high capital cost, producing your own energy makes the most sense if you're a big energy consumer like Whistler. It is very rare for the local utility to pay a price for excess energy production that justifies capital cost. If your local situation yields a short payoff period like Mt. Rose, go for it. But that's an analysis any intelligent business should make, really has little to do with being a ski area. In the current era (and remember I have actually done this) it depends mainly on the combined government subsidy plus the renewable energy potential of the particular location.
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Re: Is the ski resort model dead?

Postby Geoff » Sat Nov 20, 2010 6:46 am

Da wood wrote:BTW Geoff, read the book and tell me how many of the "ski bums" in it receive any form of public assistance from you or anyone else? (answer: zero, most of them even own their own homes). In all my years of living in ski towns, I can't recall a single person that received so much as food stamps.


I can name quite a few who get food stamps and get state paid Vermont Catamount health insurance. If you mostly work cash jobs, you qualify for all kinds of public assistance.
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Re: Is the ski resort model dead?

Postby Geoff » Sat Nov 20, 2010 6:52 am

soulskier wrote:Bolton Valley, Vermont just installed a wind turbine. I believe that's ski area number 3 in the US with a wind turbine(s). Note all 3 have a large snow making demands.

http://snowboardgreen.blogspot.com/2010 ... izing.html


More cluelessness. Snowmaking consumes huge quantities of diesel to run compressors. If there wasn't a monster subsidy for wind turbines, Bolton wouldn't have installed one. My tax dollars at work subsidizing a Chittenden County commuter hill. Not exactly an appropriate spending priority for my tax dollars.
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Re: Is the ski resort model dead?

Postby Geoff » Sat Nov 20, 2010 7:14 am

Mike Bernstein wrote:
soulskier wrote:
2) That's true, it depends on the state. At the very least, the electric company will issue a credit, thus eliminating the electric bill, which according to many besides Geoff, is the number one expense of a ski resort, especially if the area requires snowmaking like Killington.

The bolded portion is 100% verifiably false. Unless ski areas are operated by mostly/solely by unpaid volunteers, labor costs are always, ALWAYS the #1 expense in running a ski area, even at a large snowmaking hill like Killington.

Jamie - I think what you don't understand is that it's not that people are opposing your idea. On the contrary, I think that most people here would love to ski at the type of hill you're envisioning. Rather, you continue to display an embarrassing level of naivete about the economics of the ski industry while setting up strawmen against which you are striving to rebel. The MRS, as you've articulated it, is more of a juvenile high-school term paper project than a serious business proposition. I love your idealism and your passion, but your strident insistence of certain economic details in the face of empirical facts to the contrary renders much of what you say laughable.


Jeez. Many of us do ski the type of hill he's talking about. I wander up to Mad River when it's good. I tend to ski little retro places like Monarch when I have a few spare days in Denver rather than that I-70 blight. My issue is that you can't have a rational discussion about something when soulskier ignores any facts presented in counter-arguments and just re-states his position over and over. I'm wrong all the time. When somebody presents me with data that invalidates my opinion, I change my mind. There's no ego in it. I don't know about you guys but if I behaved like soulskier professionally, I'd get fired. It's really hard to respect someone who ignores facts and just drones on with their position. You're not entitled to a quaint pied a terre in some idylic ski town ignored by the masses where my taxes subsidize your existence. If you want to create some cool and funky new ski hill, by all means go out, earn a boat load of money, hire the army of lawyers to navigate the permitting, and build your nirvana. SInce the 'earn a boat load of money' part is not gonna happen, this is all just a bunch of snow-melting hot air.
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Re: Is the ski resort model dead?

Postby rfarren » Sat Nov 20, 2010 11:01 am

Tony Crocker wrote:Much of the time the ski resort developer does not have much control over what happens with the real estate/environment. I know this was the case with Vail.


That was my hunch. I would imagine that Vail resorts doesn't own that whole swath of land from eagle all the way to Frisco. I'm sure much of that land was developed by outside entities. Therefore, I'm not sure what steps could be taken to reduce development other than the state stepping in and declaring, as NYS did in the Daks, that the land is thereby state owned and forever wild. However, if you think that will lower real estate prices you would be mistaken. By limiting the quantity (i.e. the supply) the prices should rise.

Tony Crocker wrote: In Aspen they have been very environmentally conscious for a long time. I'm sure it's better for the wildlife and ecosystem, but the real estate is no surprise even more expensive. Jackson Hole is another example of a well preserved environment surrounding a small amount of very pricey real estate....
If the ski resort offers a great product appealing to a wide range of people, demand will increase, real estate is nearly always limited in a mountain environment, so prices can skyrocket.

Yep, that's pretty much economics 101.

Tony Crocker wrote: the only thing the resort/company town can do is maintain some employee housing. Whistler has quite a bit of this and Aspen has some.

That's nice to do for some transient employees, but I'm sure that won't please Da Wood and his ilk. I wonder what Da Wood thinks should be done to rectify his grievances.
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Re: Is the ski resort model dead?

Postby rfarren » Sat Nov 20, 2010 11:17 am

Mike Bernstein wrote:
soulskier wrote:
2) That's true, it depends on the state. At the very least, the electric company will issue a credit, thus eliminating the electric bill, which according to many besides Geoff, is the number one expense of a ski resort, especially if the area requires snowmaking like Killington.

The bolded portion is 100% verifiably false. Unless ski areas are operated by mostly/solely by unpaid volunteers, labor costs are always, ALWAYS the #1 expense in running a ski area, even at a large snowmaking hill like Killington.


If that be the case then green energy certainly makes no sense whatsoever on an economic level. Energy production would only raise your labor cost by requiring maintenance, installation, etc...

IMHO for Soulskier this isn't so much a business issue as much as he feels moral one. That is fine as long his MRA model brings in enough money each day of operation to overcome the losses induced by green energy installation. The only issue is that ski areas tend not to make too much money as it is, so especially as a start up it would not be wise to add anything onto already existing debt.

I do think it's somewhat dubious (perhaps overly idealistic) to think that if a mountain produces more energy than it consumes it will get paid by the energy company. However, if this operation is small enough, it might be able to pay off its loans, and quit paying the energy company after a while. Nonetheless, it will still be on the hook for maintenance and labor...
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Re: Is the ski resort model dead?

Postby Geoff » Sat Nov 20, 2010 11:55 am

rfarren wrote:If that be the case then green energy certainly makes no sense whatsoever on an economic level. Energy production would only raise your labor cost by requiring maintenance, installation, etc...

IMHO for Soulskier this isn't so much a business issue as much as he feels moral one. That is fine as long his MRA model brings in enough money each day of operation to overcome the losses induced by green energy installation. The only issue is that ski areas tend not to make too much money as it is, so especially as a start up it would not be wise to add anything onto already existing debt.

I do think it's somewhat dubious (perhaps overly idealistic) to think that if a mountain produces more energy than it consumes it will get paid by the energy company. However, if this operation is small enough, it might be able to pay off its loans, and quit paying the energy company after a while. Nonetheless, it will still be on the hook for maintenance and labor...


Wind turbine electricity generation only makes economic sense because the government is subsidizing it. The zero carbon footprint solution that scales and where the economics work is to build nukes. The granola people don't particularly care for that solution. I lived a few miles from the Seabrook nuke plant in New Hampshire. That one was engineered properly and is competently operated so I had no reservations living near it. If I lived near Vermont Yankee, I might have a different opinion. I think nukes should have one standardized design, a standardized operations procedure, and oversight that is empowered to toss people in jail for being Homer Simpson on the job.

Nobody is going to invest a penny in a group like MRA that is so out of touch with how to run a ski business. The best hope is to keep the ski areas alive that don't have developable land at the bottom. Ski Santa Fe, Monarch, ... Speaking of that, what ever happened at Wolf Creek? I know some politically connected Texan did a land swap for forest service land at the bottom of the new lift. Everybody was suing everybody else over it.
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Re: Is the ski resort model dead?

Postby EMSC » Sat Nov 20, 2010 1:15 pm

Wow, you ignore a thread for a few pages and look what happens.

Let's see which needs addressing....

Labor costs are #1 as previously stated - not even close. Vail Inc is public, please read through their 10K or 10Q reports. It's a bit generic in some language, but you'd learn a lot I think (just as you say we'd learn a lot by reading downhill slide, et al).

I believe that the folks on this board and this thread are not opposed to MRA, just opposed that the statements posted come off as very one sided preaching that the ski industry as a whole is broken and MRA is a magical savior and only MRA knows how to do it right. Also that somehow there is only one way to do a ski business model. Most of us here would love to hit your funky slow lift but big terrain resort. But there's a whole lot fewer of us than those going to Vail or Breck. And for good reasons too.

Geoff wrote:Wind turbine electricity generation only makes economic sense because the government is subsidizing it. The zero carbon footprint solution that scales and where the economics work is to build nukes.


Wind isn't quite as bad as most think as far as economics... (not great, mind you, but not as bad as you probably think). Though I have heard that Sea based installations have huge % of downtime for maint issues. Solar is the tech that is absolutely horrific economically. Cute and 'cool' technology (I once built a solar powered car in College for a Mechanical Engr class), but even with 50% Gov't subsidies the payback is quite long. Just ask the Germans who force the energy companies to buy any excess power from solar farms at ridiculously high rates (literally tons of farmers making a buck by selling solar power due to the regulation that the electric co must buy it). Germany now has the world's most expensive electricity - by a lot. Anyway I agree that Nukes should be a decent portion of the solution.

Geoff wrote:Speaking of that, what ever happened at Wolf Creek? I know some politically connected Texan did a land swap for forest service land at the bottom of the new lift. Everybody was suing everybody else over it.


Still tied up in lawsuits If I recall. They finally agreed to scale it back by a lot as far as size and also to do a new land swap that would at least put the development outside the ski run boundary (previously it would sit right smack in the ski terrain). Those two combined dropped some of the ferocity of the opposition, but last I knew it was still being fought, just less vociferously.
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Re: Is the ski resort model dead?

Postby Marc_C » Sat Nov 20, 2010 2:01 pm

soulskier wrote:Bolton Valley, Vermont just installed a wind turbine. I believe that's ski area number 3 in the US with a wind turbine(s). Note all 3 have a large snow making demands.

http://snowboardgreen.blogspot.com/2010 ... izing.html



Wind Turbine Design Cost and Scaling Model
National Renewable Energy Laboratory

http://www.nrel.gov/wind/pdfs/40566.pdf
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Re: Is the ski resort model dead?

Postby Da wood » Mon Nov 22, 2010 9:09 pm

Some constructive criticism in these latest posts. Just to be clear, I have nothing to do with MRA other than they asked me to write about the current state of the industry. I do however support their conviction, drive, idealism and vision, despite the non-polished message and communication and wish them the best. As for real estate development, much is driven by the resorts, either through their wholly or partially owned real estate arms or through "strategic partnerships" with developers. And as to the question of development that is not resort related, the local communities and elected governments can control this and are increasingly stepping in to do so. Democracy at its finest...

For those few of you on here that love to trot out absurd generalizations and hackneyed stereotypes, especially about my "ilk," whomever they may be, this vid is for you: http://www.xtranormal.com/watch/7782417

As someone once said: "arguing on the internet is like..." Well, this says it better: :dead horse: posting.php?mode=reply&f=10&t=9084#
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Re: Is the ski resort model dead?

Postby rfarren » Mon Nov 22, 2010 10:12 pm

Da wood wrote: And as to the question of development that is not resort related, the local communities and elected governments can control this and are increasingly stepping in to do so.


Local governments can only control it to a certain extent. Besides, that sounds a little socialist to me.
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Re: Is the ski resort model dead?

Postby Patrick » Tue Nov 23, 2010 8:32 am

rfarren wrote:
Da wood wrote: And as to the question of development that is not resort related, the local communities and elected governments can control this and are increasingly stepping in to do so.


Local governments can only control it to a certain extent. Besides, that sounds a little socialist to me.


:roll: ](*,)
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Re: Is the ski resort model dead?

Postby jamesdeluxe » Tue Nov 23, 2010 10:31 am

rfarren wrote:Besides, that sounds a little socialist to me.

Patrick wrote::roll:

If you want to hang with us Americans, you have to become an Adam Smith groupie.
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