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When is it REALLY ski season in North America?

post #1 of 24
Thread Starter 

It seems like almost every season we see the same things and hear the same end of season gripes.  Ski areas are shutting down amidst some of the best fresh snow dumps of the season.  And, next November they will blow all of their resources trying to assemble that WROD in time for Thanksgiving weekend just to watch it all get washed away in Early December to have to start all over again.

 

Even Christmas Break greets many areas with 50% coverage at best thanks to changing weather patterns.  Wouldn't it make more sense to alter the expectations of everyone to changing "ski season" to being January through March (Mid and South) or April/May (West and North)?

 

Just something I've been kicking around for the past couple seasons.  Don't get em wrong, I LOVE to be able to hit the WROD with my turkey sandwiches packed Thanksgiving Saturday.  However, I hate more to be disappointed year after year when it doesn't seem to be possible anymore.  I'd rather not be told resorts shoot for this seemingly unobtainable opening goal only to shut down in March with plenty of snow.

post #2 of 24

Most people are tired of winter and cold and snow by the time it's late March. 

post #3 of 24

At Tahoe good skiing at xmas is at best 50-50, Thanksgiving maybe 1 in 5, or less.  Most areas stay open until late april with a few into early may, with the snow usually outlasting the interest in skiing.  Once it stops freezing at night the skiing gets pretty sloppy.  I've skied on Memorial Day. The suncups about knocked my fillings out--imagine skiing on upside down moguls. A couple of years ago they tried to start the Tour of California bike race up here in May and day two was cancelled by a snowstorm.

post #4 of 24

It's threads like this that will keep me living in the NW.

post #5 of 24

Latest Colorado closing dates:

 

Keystone 4/7

Breck, Beaver Creek, Vail 4/14

A-Basin as long as they can make it :) right now the web states June (tentative)

 

It's all a matter of perspective.

post #6 of 24

Our season usually starts around Thanksgiving.  For the last few years my home mountain has been staying open into July (July 16,2011).   This year we will be shortchanged and only get to ski until June 16th.  cool.gif  

post #7 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by rx2ski View Post

Latest Colorado closing dates:

 

Keystone 4/7

Breck, Beaver Creek, Vail 4/14

A-Basin as long as they can make it :) right now the web states June (tentative)

 

It's all a matter of perspective.

It's all a matter of who shows up, really.

 

I've done my share of skiing in April and May at Abasin, even a few days in June, and no one is there.

post #8 of 24
Thread Starter 

Who shows up is a matter or perspective and expectations.  If resorts and the ski industry could successfully communicate the message that ski season doesn't start until January and runs through April perhaps more people would be showing up in March.  Simultaneously, the golf industry could communicate the message that Golf season doesn't start until May and runs through November.  If the majority of the US climate patterns seem better suited to this when why continue to fight it?  Let's shift the retail season more towards the climate.  Tent sales in November instead of October.  Wouldn't want to cut that too close to Christmas though.  We still want early to mid December to be the peak retail period for snow sports gear.  But, don't have the clearance sales until April.  Peeps would be showing up in April instead of February to try out the new gear they got on clearance.

 

As a side note, I'd like to see golf bring back the Thanksgiving Day Skins Game wink.gif

post #9 of 24

Is it just me or does it seem cold and snowy later than it used to, and finish thawing out later than it used to? It seems to me that when I was a kid, December/January were the coldest months, with July being the hottest. Now it seems that February through March are the coldest, with August/September being the hottest.

 

I think that perhaps our calender is simply out of synch with the seasons! My solution if I was an evil dictator? Roll back the calender by a month or two. That should solve our problems with resorts starting too early and shutting down right when the snow's at it's prime!

post #10 of 24

I don't know what ski areas can do to change this, other than getting the AD Council to run PSA's for a decade: "Fact: Thanksgiving skiing sucks. Start an Easter ski vacation tradition and leave Thanksgiving for getting carbohydrate stoned and watching football. Paid for by the Ad Council."

 

People just have the mindset that skiing is Thanksgiving-February, and it seems once warm weather starts where people live (as opposed to where they ski), people stay home.

 

I do think ski areas TRY to change this.  I've seen more advertising pushes for Spring Break, lots of Spring festivals at ski areas, that type of thing. But its hard to change the mentality.

 

I think the casual skiing population just has a really hard time grasping how great skiing can be in the Spring.  I think they believe it all melts away with the first thaw, forgetting how long it takes snow to melt away when a snowpack 5-15 feet deep gets thawed only for a few hours each day, not to mention that it gets replenished with all the additional Spring snow.

 

The busiest day of the season for Wolf Creek was New Years.  Wolf is a natural snow mountain with a TINY snowmaking capability for patching small holes in coverage, not even enough to WROD one run. Wolf had recieved 25 inches of snow in Mid November, NOTHING for a month before a nice 60" cycle week before Christmas, and NOTHING from then to New Years. Conditions at new years were adequate, but patchy, many of the expert runs and trees were still sketch,and the place was just mobbed with beginner 1-2 times a year skiers.  Many I talked to had the idea that New Years/Christmas was the prime time to ski, many were quite surprised when I told them that the snowback continually grows until Mid March, and the later conditions were vertually always better than Christmas.

 

Once March hits, I notice the ski crowd starts thinning, with a temporary reprieve come Spring Break, followed by the ski area becoming a ghost town in April.  I have to shake my head pretty much every year when the ski areas get a massive dump 3 days after they closed.

 

But sometimes it is not just about crowds- some areas have hard and fast closing dates mandated by the Forest Service- my understanding is Monarch is limited in staying open past the first weekend in April because of an elk migration that happens in April through the ski area.

 

Back to the question at hand- I think it is "really" ski season when enough natural snow is down to allow skiing on ungroomed, non WROD terrain. Last year for Wolf, ski season started April 8 with a 40" storm that opened most of the mountain before Loveland and Abay opened their 1 run WRODS.

post #11 of 24
It would be interesting if some of the industry leaders like Vail Resorts, CNL, Powdr, Apsen, Boyne, Peak, and Intrawest offered "ridiculous" discounts at their resorts still operating for Easter vacationers. Free skiing, deeply discounted rooms, almost a loss leader type situation. It would probably mess up their current pricing schemes. But if the industry made a huge push for about five years it would be interesting to see if they could change perceptions and get more people to think ski vacation at Easter time. However, would it wind-up taking business away from their lucrative current Holiday periods as people shift their family Christmas ski trips to cheap Easter trips?
post #12 of 24

I don't think it has anything to do with marketing, at all. Most people prefer warm weather, so by March, they are all complaining about how they are tired of winter. In November, people are excited for winter. In March, they are excited for summer. 

 

(Me, I am sitting in beautiful 75-degree weather in Scottsdale, crabby and pissed that I just missed a snowy weekend back home. I was at the very-crowded pool yesterday thinking about how I am probably the only person there who would prefer to be like this

 

post #13 of 24

I think it boils down to people just get sick of the cold and snow except for us epic ski weirdos.  Some places stay open longer and run at a loss to keep stoke alive and support ski towns but not many. 

post #14 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jamesj View Post

It would be interesting if some of the industry leaders like Vail Resorts, CNL, Powdr, Apsen, Boyne, Peak, and Intrawest offered "ridiculous" discounts at their resorts still operating for Easter vacationers. Free skiing, deeply discounted rooms, almost a loss leader type situation. It would probably mess up their current pricing schemes. But if the industry made a huge push for about five years it would be interesting to see if they could change perceptions and get more people to think ski vacation at Easter time. However, would it wind-up taking business away from their lucrative current Holiday periods as people shift their family Christmas ski trips to cheap Easter trips?

Like this? http://www.steamboat.com/tickets-and-passes/april-passes.aspx

 

If you are planning a ski trip in April, $189 for unlimited at Steamboat and Winter Park isn't a bad deal at all.  Lats year was even better- it was like $90, but I suspect that was because April conditions were getting really sketchy.

 

Its also $119 for 3 days at the Boat, which is close to what a normal day ticket costs.

 

I do think a lot of ski areas are trying here.  However, I think the other issue is that the reduced visits this time of year make it tough to justify discount tickets because the whole issue in the first place is they aren't seeing enough visits to justify spinning the lifts, and if you discount the tickets, you need that many more people to get in the black.  

post #15 of 24
Thread Starter 

It all boils down to the tendency to want what we don't quite have.  In October/November we want winter sports and in March/April we want summer sports.  I wish we could shift these back a month so wants=what is readily available.

post #16 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by crgildart View Post

It all boils down to the tendency to want what we don't quite have.  In October/November we want winter sports and in March/April we want summer sports.  I wish we could shift these back a month so wants=what is readily available.

I think you would be more correct to say THE GENERAL PUBLIC want... rather than we.

 

What I want is to be able to have great skiing every day of the year.  I have a lot of fun in the Summers camping, hiking, running my jet skis, etc., but I would rather have skiing.  I might get tired of cold eventually, but 10-11 months of full winter and 1-2 months of full summer would probably suit me just fine.

post #17 of 24

Part of the Thanksgiving to Easter season has to do with the school holiday calendar. Ski areas are trying to grab the early season destination skier or local school groups around T'gving, and after spring break most folks don't get a holiday till Memorial Day. Catering to the local die hards probably isn't enough to keep the whole mountain open to break even. 

post #18 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by asp125 View Post

Part of the Thanksgiving to Easter season has to do with the school holiday calendar. Ski areas are trying to grab the early season destination skier or local school groups around T'gving, and after spring break most folks don't get a holiday till Memorial Day. Catering to the local die hards probably isn't enough to keep the whole mountain open to break even. 

Yep. Thanksgiving through Christmas is one time that most kid sports aren't happening as much, as well. Spring sports are well underway during April, and it isn't practical to vacation then. This goes for families, and specifically families with kids in sports, but that is a decent chunk of the skiing public, I'm sure. 

post #19 of 24

It's different out here in the PNW, where we don't have destination resorts nor that early season WROD scenario. But ski areas here do make it very cheap for you to ski in spring--they usually have a very inexpensive spring season pass. There's nothing similar for early season. So they do encourage people to come later. And it's funny, we generally have very good early season conditions, but people don't ski then either. it seems like most people are busy doing other things until Xmas break, even though early December especially can be wonderful, with lots of snow and cold temps. Most people here are not thinking skiing at Thanksgiving, even though they could. Which makes me wonder if the early skiing trend/expectation is regional. Is this just a CO thing? Or a New England thing?

post #20 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by segbrown View Post

I don't think it has anything to do with marketing, at all. Most people prefer warm weather, so by March, they are all complaining about how they are tired of winter. In November, people are excited for winter. In March, they are excited for summer. 

 

(Me, I am sitting in beautiful 75-degree weather in Scottsdale, crabby and pissed that I just missed a snowy weekend back home. I was at the very-crowded pool yesterday thinking about how I am probably the only person there who would prefer to be like this

 

 

The 50 car pile-up was at my exit on Saturday so I could have done without that.

But I'm with you--take the cold over heat any day!

post #21 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by Christy319 View Post
 Which makes me wonder if the early skiing trend/expectation is regional. Is this just a CO thing? Or a New England thing?

I think its a "most places" thing.  I think the local season pass holding population of Colorado ski areas understand what the score is, and understand that Thanksgiving season is going to be overly crowded with very hit or miss snow- this year I didn't even ski anywhere around Thanksgiving because the snow was nasty.

 

But, there is a LOT of ski vacation traffic at Thanksgiving to Colorado. I think a lot of people have this Norman Rockwell vision of a skiing Thanksgiving that doesn't really jive with the reality. I think 2 years out of 10 in Colorado you have situations where there has been enough snow to allow "real" skiing on natural snow, ungroomed slopes.  Maybe up that to 4 years in 10 at Wolf Creek. There is a much better chance to be paying $40-$100 lift tickets to be skiing two WROD runs with thousands of other people at the major Colorado resorts at Thanksgiving.

 

Christmas is better, but is still not prime season. In a good year, mountains will be 100% open at Christmas, in a bad year, they will have all of their runs with snowmaking open and little else (applied both last year and this year).

 

Mountains that use mostly or all natural snow (Monarch, Ski Cooper, Wolf Creek, and I think Powderhorn) tend to play looser with things and open stuff that other ski areas probably would want more cover on- Wolf Creek is especially notorious for this, basically when they open a lift, 100% of the terrain served by that lift will be listed as open, even if it has scree slopes covered in boulders hidden by 2" of snow, or has stuff that is completely impassable without hiking...Its amazing looking at how Loveland opens terrain (it will stagger openings of new terrain for a few hours a day to get compaction, then close again, usually several times until there is a firm base of about 18" of snow on the run before it is officially open) vs. Wolf Creek (Go nuts, and good luck- compact it now so we have less concern over avalanches).

post #22 of 24
Quote:

 

 I think a lot of people have this Norman Rockwell vision of a skiing Thanksgiving

This is funny to me, because Thanksgiving where I live is generally known for windstorms, fierce rain, and shop vac'ing out your flooded basement. Except for the diehard skiers, of which I don't know many, people are always surprised to hear that we go to Whistler for T-day ("they have snow?" is typical). Then we come home and shop vac out the water that's accumulated in the basement, and are thankful that the neighbor's Doug fir has not fallen on our house. And every year people are surprised when I say, in early December, that I had a great day at Crystal. No one here seems to think you can ski until Xmas.

post #23 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by segbrown View Post

Yep. Thanksgiving through Christmas is one time that most kid sports aren't happening as much, as well. Spring sports are well underway during April, and it isn't practical to vacation then. This goes for families, and specifically families with kids in sports, but that is a decent chunk of the skiing public, I'm sure. 


Yep It's all about families, kids, school vacations. At least back east Xmas is a crap shoot at best. Too bad a lot of the resorts throw big $$$$ to get a few trails open Nov to end of Dec only to have a rain storm/melt or two wash it all right back into the snowmaking ponds, while they close around end of March with 80-100% terrain open and no one on the hill. My area Middlebury College Snowbowl closes 3/31, the guys are sick of winter, most have to get down to open and work  the college golf course  but we have everything open and woods are skiing best all year right now. Just too bad.

post #24 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by segbrown View Post

Most people are tired of winter and cold and snow by the time it's late March. 

Yup. Op's premise is great, but vastly underestimates the ADD, jump-to-the-next-thing tendencies of the general public. This isn't a resort driven phenomenon. 

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