Homewood to eventually go private?

ChrisC

Well-known member
Interesting development - the future of Homewood is a private resort for local homeowners?

I have only been to Homewood 2x, but it can be a very good storm mountain. Likely has the best views of Tahoe.

Over the past decade, skier visits to Homewood have dropped 40% and season passholder sales have fallen from 2,800 in 2012 to 1,800 this winter, a 64% decline. According to Chapman, the large majority of current passholders are West Shore residents. He attributes these slumping numbers to one major thing — traffic.

“The fact is today with all the Ikon passes, if you go to Highway 89 on a Saturday afternoon you will see traffic backed up all the way from Squaw and Alpine into Truckee. You can’t even get to Homewood,” Chapman said. “Commuters coming from the Bay Area can’t get past Squaw and Alpine and get to Homewood unless you are through the Mousehole at 7:30 in the morning.”

Because of the traffic and a younger generation that is more attracted to the steeper and bigger terrain of Palisades Tahoe and Northstar, Chapman said Homewood can no longer compete with the large resorts.

“If we are going to keep the ski area open, we can’t do it as a public ski area that requires a lot of employees and having to rely on fewer skiers,” he said. “We are not in the least bit interested in trying to promote Homewood as a competitor to Squaw or Northstar.”



 
Are there any examples of what Homewood is proposing -- where membership is based on living in the housing development surrounding it?

I liked the pix from @Tony Crocker's TR last year. A shame how it's become collateral damage from the Ikon Pass.
 
Are there any examples of what Homewood is proposing -- where membership is based on living in the housing development surrounding it?

I liked the pix from @Tony Crocker's TR last year. A shame how it's become collateral damage from the Ikon Pass.
They have hired some of the same consultants who are behind the private Yellowstone Club in MT.
 
I don't get the economics here. Yellowstone Club was developed private from day one with high membership fees and annual dues, plus a requirement to build property.

At Homewood the people already own their properties. Why would they pay more to make Homewood a private ski area, especially if it's already skiing like one???
 
And this? There is obviously no business plan/model going on at poor Homewood.

According to Chapman, pass prices will remain about the same, for now. But as more amenities are added and infrastructure replaced, pass prices will increase. By how much is unknown at this time.

JMA will be investing heavily in the resort, whose infrastructure has been in steady decline for decades. According to Chapman, JMA will spend $15 million to replace two lifts that are about 50 years old. The Madden Chair will be replaced with a gondola in 2023, and the Ellis Chair by a new high-speed detachable quad a few years later. Homewood already spent $1 million fixing the Ellis Chair’s gearbox last year, which broke down in January, trapping people on the lift for up to four hours.
 
I have always viewed Homewood as generally poorly managed given their prime location on the lake for all these years. They basically just did the same old thing for multiple decades as the whole world around them changed. Some people will love that about a particular place, but it is generally very few. Thus they now find themselves decades behind in thinking, innovating and infrastructure. Now I'd bet they have little margin for error and with the rules/regulations heavily against them making a fair number of the changes they could have far more easily (and cheaply) done long ago - with any foresight at all.
 
What changes should they have made?
Several items that I can think of right off the bat:
  • They have access in boundary to more acreage at higher altitude. At least one lift up Ellis peak for better snow conditions/reliability (probably a fixed grip would have been OK). Good luck getting approvals for that in the current environment.
  • They have significant challenges as to beginner terrain (hill pops up very quickly from the bases) and have never even attempted to solve that. I'm certain they could find places to put actual learning terrain and provide access to it (eg even where they currently use green terrain upper mtn for terrain parks). Right now they have several carpet/platters that have virtually no vertical and then only ~3 green trails outside of that tiny amount of never-ever learning area. They could find a way to provide stellar views upper mtn on the hill for beginners, a wasted opportunity IMO. Again good luck getting permits to clear more runs in the Tahoe basin and add another lift today.
  • Related: They have some of the best views in Tahoe but have some of the oldest lifts out of base. Year round access lift for spectators and night dining, etc... as well as skiing are real decent $ possibilities. There is a lakeside restaurant too (I think they own it?), but it is 'rustic', don't do much of anything to it, kind of place last I knew. Sounds like this is the proposed very first thing that they have been told to do (eg the gondola talk).
  • They always seemed to only be interested in locals and locals desires instead of trying to cater to much of any of the tons of visitors in the area. Strange way of thinking IMO considering where they are on the lake. You don't want to completely ignore the locals, but they previously seemed go out of the way to only listen to locals desires. Sounds like even the local homeowners in Homewood/Tahoma either have little interest anymore, or more probably, many are aging out of skiing. So scraping-by on the locals only is no longer an option.
Sure makes for uncrowded slopes for the handful of esp Homewood locals, but not a great business plan for the long term. New lift prices have sky-rocketed in the past 5 years or so too; making even replacement lifts way more expensive than if they had been paying attention and pro-active in the business plan at any time in the past two decades+.

One could argue it's a bit like Sunlight - with hordes of visitors in the valley nearby that go to the bigger name places up the street. I feel like Sunlight is sort-of trying to get it's act together (they feel slightly busier than they used to be, and marketing a bit more), but not exactly trying too hard for them either.
 
Agree with all of EMSC's points. My first ski house in Tahoe was 1-2 miles from Homewood, and we ignored it - except for one storm day.

If Homewood ever did that Mt. Ellis lift, they would have the 2nd largest vertical drop in North Tahoe. (6200 to 8740 ft = 2,540 vert ft) Greater than Northstar, Alpine Meadows, Sugar Bowl and Mt. Rose. It's a no-brainer and they have had it in their current use permit forever.

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And look what can happen to a well-run Tahoe ski area that was the same size as Homewood in 1994.

Sugar Bowl - 1994

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Sugar Bowl - 2014. 20 Years Later. A different, popular beast.

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If Sugar Bowl can transform itself, and not lose its soul - Homewood could. Sugar Bowl is my 2nd favorite mountain in North Tahoe.

Homewood replaced one lift with a HSQ in 20 years. The mountain has just been mismanaged.
 

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Several items that I can think of right off the bat:

  • They have significant challenges as to beginner terrain (hill pops up very quickly from the bases) and have never even attempted to solve that. I'm certain they could find places to put actual learning terrain and provide access to it (eg even where they currently use green terrain upper mtn for terrain parks). Right now they have several carpet/platters that have virtually no vertical and then only ~3 green trails outside of that tiny amount of never-ever learning area. They could find a way to provide stellar views upper mtn on the hill for beginners, a wasted opportunity IMO.

This point is very perplexing. Homewood should be a natural learn to ski hill, but they never created an appropriate learning area. They likely could offer a reasonable ($), low-stress introductory experience.

Tahoe in general can be a bit challenged for beginners. Squaw's terrain is all up high - great if someone has the confidence to go up there and navigates properly. Northstar is actually not great - just a small crappy little lift. Alpine is OK. Heavenly requires a gondola ride up to a leaning area - a bit convoluted if you do not know where you are going. Sugar is OK. Sierra-at-Tahoe is perhaps the best, Kirkwood too.

I think this is a market Homewood unfortunately ignored. You better be an intermediate skier or better if coming to Homewood.

If Homewood had 1. Built Mt. Ellis lift and 2. Created a beginner area and more terrain, it could easily compete with Northstar. Bigger vertical, better Lake Tahoe views, more reasonable/authentic (no fake village, no Ritz resort), sits on the Sierra Crest (? almost) so more snow, get on the Indy Pass (maybe a relationship with Sugar Bowl?).

Just missed potential....
 
Another minor Tahoe resort remains relevant due to decent management - Ski Incline/Diamond Peak.

1980s
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Now - Diamond expansion was the late 80s, but constant upgrades to terrain and HSQ.
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Diamond Peak integrates itself well into the local community and homeowners/hotel in Incline Village.


Homewood is special to have remained frozen in time. Now finds itself losing 50% of its skiers. And just woke up.
 
Agree with all of EMSC's points. My first ski house in Tahoe was 1-2 miles from Homewood, and we ignored it - except for one storm day.

If Homewood ever did that Mt. Ellis lift, they would have the 2nd largest vertical drop in North Tahoe. (6200 to 8740 ft = 2,540 vert ft) Greater than Northstar, Alpine Meadows, Sugar Bowl and Mt. Rose. It's a no-brainer and they have had it in their current use permit
In mid/late 70s, I lived for a year on Ward Ave, just S of Sunnyside, about 5 mins from Homewood, but never skied there. Why would I when I had full Squaw pass (now Palisades)? My sister and girlfriend would sometimes go there and buy 16 and under tickets for <$10 to ski there. At the time, they had the only quad chair at Tahoe. I have had some good, often powder, days at Homewood since, usually on a free or discounted ticket which are no longer available. Their day tickets along with Mt. Rose, Diamond Peak and Sugar Bowl have risen a lot, so again why would I go there when Palisades is free for me, along with Northstar, Heavenly and Kirkwood.

I also have to question your base altitude no. as current lake level is 6,224 so Homewood's base must be a little higher than 6200 so possible vertical is a little less than you've listed. While that is a little picky, Homewood's other problem is that base is low so snow there burns off and people driving by/up look at it and don't want to go there when most of the bottom is brown. Replacing base chair with a gondola as planned would solve a couple of problems listed; giving beginners access to upper mountain with better snow without having to take often very advanced and busy beginner route down and giving non-skiers access to lodge and view from higher on mountain.

I'd seen previous discussions about Homewood only selling ~100 lift tickets on some days and have to agree with others who wonder how it work better when they no longer sell any. It is a tough place to get to if you have to drive past Palisades on a busy day or from So. Tahoe when Emerald Bay is closed. I've done that when Homewood was only ski area providing day care to 2 year-olds or to use free ticket.

While I like Sugar Bowl and agree it has some great terrain (for 1500' vertical area) and has added lifts to provide easier access to both edges (Summit which I've only rode a day or two and Crow's Nest which I never run, but I have skied top 2/3 of terrain), they don't run them due to lack of customers and staff, except on weekends in prime-season which I avoid. Between 2004 and 2011, I had almost 10 days at Sugar Bowl, always on free or heavily discounted (like $39 Safeway or $45 Sierra Avalanche Center). It worked well for me as I didn't always have season passes then and have friend who lives outside Nevada City, about an hour away who had pass there. He stopped buying passes there, getting Epic or Ikon passes with more areas instead, but went back to mid-week Sugar Bowl pass this year. He says they are so short staffed that he's used friend's child's pass on weekends as nobody is checking.
 
In mid/late 70s, I lived for a year on Ward Ave, just S of Sunnyside, about 5 mins from Homewood, but never skied there. Why would I when I had full Squaw pass (now Palisades)? My sister and girlfriend would sometimes go there and buy 16 and under tickets for <$10 to ski there. At the time, they had the only quad chair at Tahoe. I have had some good, often powder, days at Homewood since, usually on a free or discounted ticket which are no longer available. Their day tickets along with Mt. Rose, Diamond Peak and Sugar Bowl have risen a lot, so again why would I go there when Palisades is free for me, along with Northstar, Heavenly and Kirkwood.

It's hard for these smaller areas to justify the $100+ day tickets.

While that is a little picky, Homewood's other problem is that base is low so snow there burns off and people driving by/up look at it and don't want to go there when most of the bottom is brown. Replacing base chair with a gondola as planned would solve a couple of problems listed; giving beginners access to upper mountain with better snow without having to take often very advanced and busy beginner route down and giving non-skiers access to lodge and view from higher on mountain.

Yeah. They have a similar problem to Heavenly - California side. A big low elevation expert slope - named equivalently 'The Face'. They need some snowmaking on that, like Heavenly maybe just for marketing purposes. That slope does burn off quickly. The gondola would be helpful to resolve this issue.
 
It's hard for these smaller areas to justify the $100+ day tickets.
I paid a princely $85 to ski at Plattekill -- purely to get in some turns before my first Alps trip this season. I don't think I'd ever paid more than $60 in my life for a lift ticket. As always, it's shocking to note the differences in lift ticket prices between Europe and North America.

I've heard that Plattekill is a rare example of an independent ski area that has boomed over the past two years of the pandemic. Allegedly, season passes sold out, they have impressive day ticket sales (only open Fri through Sunday), and especially key, a fair number of private full-mountain rentals midweek and they don't participate in any kind of multi-mountain pass.
 
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