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Is "feeder resort" a bad way to describe some fun areas? - Page 2

post #31 of 41

I think there are basically three types of ski areas or gradiations thereof.  They can function separately or feed into each other.  They don't necessarily correlate to size/acreage/vertical:

Day trip area, no lodging or resort amenities

Weekend area, some lodging and resort amenities

Destination area, lots of terrain, lodging and amenities

 

We ski what we can afford to ski and fun can be had at all types.  Some of the best are hybrids; short on amenities, but long on terrain.  These are where you get all hill and no frill and can afford to make two visits instead of one.  I call them the anti-resorts:  http://www.dcski.com/articles/view_article.php?article_id=1317

post #32 of 41

For many people there is a natural progression, often based on where you live:

 

Example, many people on the East Coast or Midwest start skiing at smaller more-local areas.  If you live in the Detroit area maybe you started at one of the local areas and progressed to resorts in Northern Michigan.  Some like in NYC maybe started skiing in Vermont.  Later, these people progress into skiing western resorts.  Maybe even further down the road they start during trips to Europe, Cat skiing, or heli trips up in  Canada.  Sometimes these people may never go back to the smaller places.  In other cases, people return back to their small local hill even after doing trips to bigger resorts.

 

I know several people in the Detroit area who refuse to ski in Northern Michigan.  They simply fly out to Colorado or Utah for 1-2 trips/year and that is all they do.  I have friends who live on Long Island and gave-up on skiing on the East Coast.  They simply fly out to Colorado or Jackson and do about 4-5 long weekend trips per winter. 

 

Myself on the other hand, ski in Northern Michigan about every other weekend, travel out west for one week-long trip + 2 long weekends, and occasionally ski a few nights at the small local Detroit areas when the conditions are decent.

 

---

Looking back at the history of skiing, there are a few events that have let to changes and closures of smaller ski areas:

 

1960s: Jet-Era: Thehuge growth in air travel, along with the development of larger western resorts led to a significant number of smaller ski areas in the Midwest & Northeast to close.  People more easily go fly out to larger resorts instead of driving trips to smaller areas.

 

1970s:  Snowmaking; larger ski areas that could afford snowmaking systems put them at a huge advantage over smaller areas. 

 

1980s:  Weather:  A few bad winters in various portions of the US, put many smaller ski areas out of busiess.  These didn't have snowmaking, and often ran on very low margins between proft and loss.

 

1990s:  High-speed lifts:  Many smaller areas found themselves disadvantaged against larger areas that were spending huge amounts of money to upgrade their lift systems.  The cost of new lifts is now expotentially higher than what it was in previous decades.  However, the 1990s were actually a relatively more stable period, primarily since the economic growth was so high during this era

 

2000s: Economy & Insurance/Overhead Costs:  2 major economic downturns had a direct impact on the amount of skiers - the post 9/11 downturn, and the massive fall-off in 2008-2009.  This led to noticable declines in skier visits at many areas in many regions.  Real estate took a huge hit in many areas too.  During this time the cost of doing business rose significant and ski area insurance costs sky-rocked, and energy costs increased too.

 

2010s: Changing demographics??? - I think this is a major risk looming on the horizon for many smaller areas.  The core group of skiers are getting older and some dropping out of the sport all-together (especially with older women 65+).  I don't see the growth on the younger end of die-hard skiers and boarders developing to replace this group.  It's not really an issue directly for more major resorts as they will always have the demand, but is a real issue for smaller areas.  I don't see the younger generations snapping up vacation home real estate like the boomers either.  Ski areas to a decent job of getting kids into the sport but how well are they able to retain them once they go off to college or grow-up?

post #33 of 41

I ski at a very small mid-west hill and I'll often hear 20-30 year olds complaining about how small the hill is, how much better Colorado is, how much better the snow is, etc, etc.    Then I'll ski down behind them off the lift and they can barely ski.

 

I don't get spending thousands of dollars to go ski out west once per year when you're not very good to begin with.   You're not going to progress that way.   If you can hardly ski is going to a bigger area with harder slopes going to be that much more fun?  

 

Sure, the trip out west is fun, it's more of a vacation for them than anything, but why poo poo the little hill in MN when you can hardly ski it to begin with.   And why even go there if you're going to bitch about it the whole time?  

post #34 of 41
Quote:
Originally Posted by afski722 View Post

 

2000s: Economy & Insurance/Overhead Costs:  2 major economic downturns had a direct impact on the amount of skiers - the post 9/11 downturn, and the massive fall-off in 2008-2009.  This led to noticable declines in skier visits at many areas in many regions.  Real estate took a huge hit in many areas too.  During this time the cost of doing business rose significant and ski area insurance costs sky-rocked, and energy costs increased too.

 

2010s: Changing demographics??? - I think this is a major risk looming on the horizon for many smaller areas.  The core group of skiers are getting older and some dropping out of the sport all-together (especially with older women 65+).  I don't see the growth on the younger end of die-hard skiers and boarders developing to replace this group.  It's not really an issue directly for more major resorts as they will always have the demand, but is a real issue for smaller areas.  I don't see the younger generations snapping up vacation home real estate like the boomers either.  Ski areas to a decent job of getting kids into the sport but how well are they able to retain them once they go off to college or grow-up?

 

You say that you don't think major resorts will be impacted by the massive wave of retiring skiers, but I disagree. Massive ski areas are currently in a huge arms race to fight over what they see as the dwindling number of skiers out there (ski days are up, total skiers and boarders are declining).  To attract these skiers, we have huge capital investments into new terrain, new lifts new restaurants, and new boxes of condos, which all requires lots of debt.

 

I think you will see a huge wave of resorts going bankrupt, because there just won't be enough skiers left to pay for it all.  Especially ski area operations where most of the income comes from hotel and real estate sales, which is most of the major resorts- Its not just the hill they have to pay for, its a city, and if less people come to the city? Ouch.

 

I think some of the mid-size skier focused areas are better positioned to weather the storm- Many (speaking of Colorado Here) have been seeing profits and visits increase, and the past ten years have been better than the previous 20 for most of them. I'm talking about places like Loveland, Monarch, Wolf Creek, Arapahoe Basin. They are all looking pretty decent on the balance sheet, have been making capital improvements that they will pay off in 2-3 years, and have pretty loyal skiers.  They don't have to sell condos to make it work, they just have to attract the skiers, and their product has always been really good.

 

Finally, I don't think "feeder resorts" is derogatory- its been in the Colorado vernacular and marketing for years. Back then, Colorado actually had feeder resorts in pretty much every city.  Arapahoe Basin started Arapahoe East in Evergreen as a feeder area to develop skiers to come ski on top of the hill, and Vail bought Broadmoor for similar reasons.  There were tons of small hills everywhere whose niche was teaching beginners who would then go West. Almost all of them are gone.

post #35 of 41

@  anachronism:

 

Pretty well laid out, not sure you are very far from the mark.

post #36 of 41

I'm pretty sure I'm blinded by my own biases so this is *completely* a thought experiment, but I'm curious what other people think: In my world it will be the shopping-village-cum-mega-resorts that go out of business because the skiers that remain are there for the mountain, not the mall, and there are a lot of other places to have malls and amusement parks that don't cost so much to maintain.

 

If you're willing to envision that future, how would it go down? What becomes of the condos and the villages? Can you resurrect a skier-focused resort from the ashes?

post #37 of 41

For all the things wrong with the ski business the term "Feeder" has to rank near the bottom.

 

When I was learning to ski 40+ years ago in MN there were a ton of small areas at which to learn to ski. Even then the smaller areas were falling prey to the larger areas. The area I started skiing at (Tartan Park:125 vert, 2 rope tows, 1 snow gun, Lift ticket a quarter if a family member was a 3M employee) closed to focus on it's golf course by the early 70's. Went on to Afton Alps. By the early 80's Afton was considering buying 2 of the local areas where I had raced in High school, ultimately deciding they were too small and too close to be worth buying. Without a buyer they both shut down by the mid 80's. Part of the problem I'm sure were all the kids I went to school with (or rather, their parents) Who would proudly announce " I only ski in Colorado". To which I would counter "I ski 3 days a week.

 

All of this was going on long before I heard the term "feeder resort". As long as resorts are marketing to humans, a large percentage will fall for the idea that skiing at "exclusive" resorts will mean they are better skiers, while others will actively turn away from those same resorts. Watching the mega resort merger mania of the 80's and 90's I felt that Booth Creek, ASC, Vail assc. etc. were missing the boat by not buying small areas to keep affordable skiing afloat in regions far from the mountains. I was happy to hear Vail had bought my old home of Afton Alps. We'll see if they keep it affordable, but having a deep pocket backer who is interested in growing their total business can only help.  

post #38 of 41

"feeder resort" is not necessarily a bad thing. Keeps the crowds down. I've had some great powder days at Loveland without the Breck / Vail lift line scrums. 

post #39 of 41
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dave W View Post

For all the things wrong with the ski business the term "Feeder" has to rank near the bottom.

 

When I was learning to ski 40+ years ago in MN there were a ton of small areas at which to learn to ski. Even then the smaller areas were falling prey to the larger areas. The area I started skiing at (Tartan Park:125 vert, 2 rope tows, 1 snow gun, Lift ticket a quarter if a family member was a 3M employee) closed to focus on it's golf course by the early 70's. Went on to Afton Alps. By the early 80's Afton was considering buying 2 of the local areas where I had raced in High school, ultimately deciding they were too small and too close to be worth buying. Without a buyer they both shut down by the mid 80's. Part of the problem I'm sure were all the kids I went to school with (or rather, their parents) Who would proudly announce " I only ski in Colorado". To which I would counter "I ski 3 days a week.

 

All of this was going on long before I heard the term "feeder resort". As long as resorts are marketing to humans, a large percentage will fall for the idea that skiing at "exclusive" resorts will mean they are better skiers, while others will actively turn away from those same resorts. Watching the mega resort merger mania of the 80's and 90's I felt that Booth Creek, ASC, Vail assc. etc. were missing the boat by not buying small areas to keep affordable skiing afloat in regions far from the mountains. I was happy to hear Vail had bought my old home of Afton Alps. We'll see if they keep it affordable, but having a deep pocket backer who is interested in growing their total business can only help.  

Great post.

 

As an FYI, Afton has NOT rasied their prices at all.   Their prices are actually going to be slightly LOWER next year, and Vail has announced 10 mil in upgrades to the place including rope tows (which will really bring in the boarders/park kids), new snow guns and better food choices.

 

Vail realizes the money they can make by getting people to go to Afton, buy also getting those same people to fly to CO or CA and go to one of the larger resorts.   Very smart IMO.

post #40 of 41
Feeder resort assumes people "graduate" from small hill to medium to large ones but that's not really the case. Where I live a small local hill is less than 30 minutes away, so I can go there for a few hours after dinner everyday if I wanted to, try that with any of the fancy big resorts. As long as I live here I'll probably always have a evening season pass there, which costs less than two day tickets at any of the medium/large places.
post #41 of 41

I don't know if Eldora would be considered a "feeder area", but it's definitely not a destination resort.

 

I don't ski 7 hour days anymore, so being able to drive up there in an hour and get four hours in is enticing. Going up to the resorts takes 2.5 hours and has a ton of traffic. I like spending more time skiing than driving.

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