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Is it Impossible to Start a Ski Area on Public Land Today? - Page 2

post #31 of 59

We got to the VR evil empire pissing match before page 2. Solid work.

post #32 of 59

There should be a separate Vail hater thread. 

post #33 of 59

Actually both Revelstoke and Kicking Horse were really just major expansions to existing small ski hills.

Kicking Horse was formally Whitetooth (the pioneer chair still operates occasionally) and Revelstoke was Mackenzie but the old chair was removed .

 

I think the enviromental laws and review process here is tougher and takes a lot longer than down south. This is the home of Greenpeace.

In addition in B.C. there are a large number of Indian bands, all with over lapping unresolved land claims, covering most of the province.

Their approval is required on anything which may be deemed to effect their aboriginal rights to land usage. That is in our constitution. 

It is also very difficult to even get an agreements between the Bands on any issues as often they have competing interests.

Any one band (or portion of it) in opposition can hold up any development review process for years.

In the 80's  Sun Peaks and Apex expanded their existing operations without 100% local band consent first and wound up with local road blockades as a result. That almost bankrupted both of them. 

 

There has been a lot of talk for many years about major ski developments at Powder Mt in the Squamish area, at the summit of the Cascades on the Coquihalla and on Jumbo Glacier. but none has cleared all reviews yet and I don't expect any will in my ski time.  

post #34 of 59

Getting back to the OP, a more relevant concern than environmentalists who don't get along with ski resorts or greedy CEO's is the basic business plan going forward: Who in their right mind would bankroll building a new resort from scratch that targets a seasonal sport projected to have shorter and less predictable seasons? It's like scooping up real estate in the Maldives. 

 

The best we can hope for is churning, tweaking, and consolidation of existing resorts as the smaller ones fail. Eg, Vail Corp.

post #35 of 59
Quote:
Originally Posted by anachronism View Post

The issue is less about individual choice of the skier, and more about Vail growing to a size where they become a price maker vs. a price taker. Vail gets to effectively set both the season pass and window ticket prices- and other competitors lack the market power to materially affect those prices- the entire front range season pass market has to fall in line with season pass prices comparatively less than whatever Vail prices their pass at- whether they turn a profit at that price or not.

On the flipside, Vail's market power allows them to set day prices at basically whatever they want- they didn't have this power when they had to compete with Breck and Keystone as seperate entities 30 miles closer to Denver.

As for anti-trust, regulators did find Vail's actions in buying Breck, Keystone, and A-Basin were anti-competitive under the anti-trust laws, so I am not sure why we are arguing about that. The part that pisses me off is that in my eyes they identified the intent behind the purchase correctly (Vail consolidating 43% of the CO skiing market at the time) and then gave conditions for approval that did nothing to change the impacts to competition. 

Right, and so they had to divest A-Basin.

If Vail's prices don't suit you, then up and over the pass to Copper. Where you can also buy a season pass or pay a really high window rate. Don't like that? Up and over the next pass to Loveland, where you can buy a more expensive season pass or a much cheaper day ticket. Don't like that? Up and over the pass to A-Basin, where you can get a super cheap season pass or pay a relatively high window rate, unless you bought online for a decent discount. Don't like that? Back over the pass, down to Empire, up and over the pass to WP, where you can yet again buy a relatively cheap season pass or pay a really high window rate.

Ski area operators are selling lift tickets. I think the argument that you are making is that it is anti-competitive to sell multiple skis areas on one all you can eat pass. This suggests consumers are being harmed.

How so? On the RMSP, it takes 3 days to break even at the window rate to season pass. So people who will only ski 1 or 2 days in an entire season are being harmed by high window prices. So for those 1 or 2 days, ski a cheaper place. Or better yet, stop skiing because you can't drive in mountain weather,
either. Why do we need market pricing regulation for people who are not regular consumers of the product?

Don't consumers benefit from higher demand and lower prices? My two passes cost me $18/day this season. That's practically giving it away. Until you add up all the other high margin money I spent.

And that's why you can't build ski resorts. The cheap season pass is a loss leader, and if you don't have blades it is unwise to give away razors.
post #36 of 59
Quote:
Originally Posted by NayBreak View Post


Right, and so they had to divest A-Basin.
 

 

Which did effectively nothing to address the competition problem. 

 

Regarding competition and skier choice-

 

In the mid 1990's, it was dead simple to get discount tickets for Breck and Keystone for $25 for an adult ticket. You could get those tickets from a supermarket, the venerable gold C books, all over the place. In 2015 dollars, that would be $38. What is a discount day pass on liftopia or wherever the best deal is? $130?

 

What got completely lost on the Vail/Breck deal is price competitiveness on day passes, and we see the market that reflects that.

 

I am not against multi mountain deals- remember those existed before Vail, with Breck, Keystone, and A-basin on the same pass, Vail and BC on the same pass, etc. As in the current environment we see those deals matter to consumers, why do we think those relationships would be stymied?

 

As I see it, the problem becomes that instead of Vail/BC and Breck/Keystone/A-Basin being on relatively even and competitive footing, with Copper and WP being wildcards that could still reall;y move the needle with pricing, we have a monotlith of Vail, BC, Breck, Keystone, dictating pricing, and the also rans.

 

We have less competition than we had in 1996. We have seen pricing rise much faster than inflation as a result. That choice still exists in the market doesn't change that. That affordable pricing options for us dedicated skiers (locking skiers into specific resorts) still exist doesn't change the competition problem- because what we don't know is how things would look if Vail was sent packing in 1996 when they tried to buy up Summit, and the last 18 years and season pass wars were fought between Vail/BC and Breck/Keystone/A Basin on comparable footing. I have a feeling folks in that alternative future would be shaking their heads at the argument of how cheap skiing is in the current season pass market. 

post #37 of 59
Quote:
Originally Posted by noncrazycanuck View Post
 

Actually both Revelstoke and Kicking Horse were really just major expansions to existing small ski hills.

Kicking Horse was formally Whitetooth (the pioneer chair still operates occasionally) and Revelstoke was Mackenzie but the old chair was removed .

 

I think the enviromental laws and review process here is tougher and takes a lot longer than down south. This is the home of Greenpeace.

In addition in B.C. there are a large number of Indian bands, all with over lapping unresolved land claims, covering most of the province.

Their approval is required on anything which may be deemed to effect their aboriginal rights to land usage. That is in our constitution. 

It is also very difficult to even get an agreements between the Bands on any issues as often they have competing interests.

Any one band (or portion of it) in opposition can hold up any development review process for years.

In the 80's  Sun Peaks and Apex expanded their existing operations without 100% local band consent first and wound up with local road blockades as a result. That almost bankrupted both of them. 

 

There has been a lot of talk for many years about major ski developments at Powder Mt in the Squamish area, at the summit of the Cascades on the Coquihalla and on Jumbo Glacier. but none has cleared all reviews yet and I don't expect any will in my ski time.  


Furthermore, it is still not clear whether Revy or Kicking Horse will ever actually make any real money, as opposed to scratching for survival. Skier traffic at these Canadian areas is much lower than at any of the Colorado areas being discussed, and I don't really see how some of them survive.

 

Jumbo is a prime example of what happens when a developer with an emotional dream (and possibly a scheme for extracting government money) persists in attempting to develop an area that makes no economic sense. It sounds a lot like the Wolf Creek proposals, except that the plan includes building a ski area as well as lodging. At this point, the guy is in his 80's, some construction is being done that is clearly a desperate attempt to keep his approvals alive, and he's not attracting the necessary investment - because the thing will never make money.

 

Going back to the OP, my opinion is that it is not possible to develop a ski area on public land today, in either Canada or the US. Not a major one, anyway.

 

And who would want to? The market is flat, at best, and things are getting warmer, for whatever reason. It would be less hassle to just flush your money down the toilet. It may be possible to make a little money with Whitewater or A-Basin, but only because they already exist. Red Mountain just underwent a large expansion, but that's different than a completely new area, and Red is also on shaky financial ground. If real estate at Colorado ski areas is too rich for your blood, take a look at some of the deals to be had at the base of Red. Or Schweitzer in northern Idaho, for that matter.

 

How do you make a small fortune in ski area development? Start with a large one.


Edited by jhcooley - 6/16/15 at 10:50am
post #38 of 59
Quote:
Originally Posted by anachronism View Post
 

As I see it, the problem becomes that instead of Vail/BC and Breck/Keystone/A-Basin being on relatively even and competitive footing, with Copper and WP being wildcards that could still reall;y move the needle with pricing, we have a monotlith of Vail, BC, Breck, Keystone, dictating pricing, and the also rans.

 

We have less competition than we had in 1996. We have seen pricing rise much faster than inflation as a result. That choice still exists in the market doesn't change that. That affordable pricing options for us dedicated skiers (locking skiers into specific resorts) still exist doesn't change the competition problem- because what we don't know is how things would look if Vail was sent packing in 1996 when they tried to buy up Summit, and the last 18 years and season pass wars were fought between Vail/BC and Breck/Keystone/A Basin on comparable footing. I have a feeling folks in that alternative future would be shaking their heads at the argument of how cheap skiing is in the current season pass market. 


Actually, in 1996 (or thereabouts), season pass prices were much higher, especially in 1996 dollars, than they are today. Somewhere in there, after a so-so season, Gary DeFrange, then the new CEO of Winter Park (before Intrawest), decided he wanted some guaranteed cash flow, regardless of snowfall, and drastically lowered the price of WP season passes. The snowfall during the season that accompanied that move was poor, and Gary looked like a genius, although, in fact, he just got lucky, in some sense. As a result, season pass prices fell all along the I-70 corridor to compete with "wildcard" WP. They definitely moved the needle, and that price model still prevails today along I-70. It's the day passes that have risen much faster than inflation. A season pass to Steamboat or Whistler or most places in the PNW is still quite expensive, however.

post #39 of 59
Quote:
Originally Posted by jhcooley View Post
 


Actually, in 1996 (or thereabouts), season pass prices were much higher, especially in 1996 dollars, than they are today. Somewhere in there, after a so-so season, Gary DeFrange, then the new CEO of Winter Park (before Intrawest), decided he wanted some guaranteed cash flow, regardless of snowfall, and drastically lowered the price of WP season passes. The snowfall during the season that accompanied that move was poor, and Gary looked like a genius, although, in fact, he just got lucky, in some sense. As a result, season pass prices fell all along the I-70 corridor to compete with "wildcard" WP. They definitely moved the needle, and that price model still prevails today along I-70. It's the day passes that have risen much faster than inflation. A season pass to Steamboat or Whistler or most places in the PNW is still quite expensive, however.

 

Yes, WP started the season pass war, but the Vail/BC/Breck/Keystone monolith won it, by being able to price that block of resorts at a point that sucked up a lot of skier visits from the other two resorts, made VR a ton of money, but also limited revenues (and thus ability to sink money into improvements to compete) from the rest of the market.

 

You are correct that season pass prices were higher. The faulty logic is to assume that that same season pass pricing model wouldn't have developed if Vail didn't buy Summit County- Vail wasn't the one that came out with a $200 (or whatever it was) season pass (Winter Park did), so it stands to reason that the season pass wars would have happened regardless of Vail owning Summit County. 

 

For example, imagine Vail and Breck were competing aggressively for season pass sales. Is it too hard to believe that you could buy BOTH a Breck/Keystone and Vail BC pass for less than the current EPIC pass if they had to fight each other for sales? Basic Econ assumes that outcome.

post #40 of 59
I think the season pass model had to be - some things simply cannot drive demand in a pay per use model. That resorts with established infrastructure decided to raise the minimum revenue floor, gaining profit from adjacencies like food and lodging, was inevitable. Two season models to leverage the asset base were inevitable as well. Look at who you can buy a season mountain biking pass from. It is hard to monetize the summer without being an actual resort.

The problem with the season pass is "season". Why aren't you selling me an annual pass? Why aren't you using your fixed lift infrastructure to put people up on the mountain eight months out of the year? Note who is running a gondola in the summer months already. Note who sells an annual MTB pass. WP's MTB pass is only $100 less than its ski pass, and they run what, one lift?

The problem with ski development isn't the FS. There is a huge barrier to entry, which is often the case for natural oligopolies. You have major fixed asset costs, and in this case a seasonal time period to leverage ROA. The rest of the time, your asset base sits idle, out in the weather. How many industries have high fixed asset and labor costs, but only operate seasonally? What does membership cost? A pool membership here is $1,500 for 90 days.

Winter will eventually be the "other" season, not summer. I am not talking climate change. In summer, Vail can compete against Galveston. Mountain climates are exceptional for everything you want to do in the summer except going to the beach. They figured this out in the Alps forever ago, and you hear this statement being made by Summit County residents all the time:

"I came for a winter and stayed for the summers."

It is only a matter of time. Monetizing summer on an existing asset base allows all kinds of flexibility in winter pricing models. If winters do get shorter, then summers get longer, beaches get hotter and more bug infested, and mountain resorts grow in appeal.

Start a summer mountain resort that people use for skiing in the winter. Coming at it from the other direction in 2015 is madness. Although I do hear that there are some pyramids waiting to be built in Egypt.
post #41 of 59
Quote:
Originally Posted by anachronism View Post

 

The faulty logic is to assume that that same season pass pricing model wouldn't have developed if Vail didn't buy Summit County- Vail wasn't the one that came out with a $200 (or whatever it was) season pass (Winter Park did), so it stands to reason that the season pass wars would have happened regardless of Vail owning Summit County. 

That was actually my point. I don't think I assumed anything about what might have happened if Vail didn't buy Summit County. The motivation (as expressed to me personally by Mr. DeFrange at the time) was an assured minimum cash flow regardless of snow conditions. WP rocked the boat regardless of what Vail was doing.

post #42 of 59
Quote:
Originally Posted by anachronism View Post
 

 

The difference in out count is what we define as major. Skier visits at Loveland and A-Basin are a bump compared to the other 6 on the list. They are great places to ski, but very few people make a destination vacation out of skiing Loveland, and if they do at A-basin, it has a lot to do with operating past the close of everything else in CO and most of the US.  These places don't drive the industry- they serve their niche and bank their money.

 

The easy way to differentiate between "major" and "local areas" in this context is by whether they have lodging at their base. WP, Keystone, Breck, Copper, Vail, BC do, Loveland, A-Basin, Eldora, Ski Cooper do not.

 

Vail's competition with the smaller areas is limited- because the smaller areas don't really have a way to outcompete and steal Vail's skier visits- Loveland for example, could slit their wrists and burn handfuls of money selling $15 lift tickets- and at best, the result is that they lose a ton of money, get overcrowded, and make their guests really unhappy- till those guests stopped coming. There is no business plan that somebody could execute today that would get them more skier visits than Vail.

 

Before Vail bought Summit County, they had plenty of competition. Breck and Keystone tended to win the contest for the day skiing crowd, being closer and cheaper. Vail competed tooth and nail for destination skiers with Aspen.

 

Being allowed to buy up Breck and Keystone changed all that.  They pulled destination skiers away from Aspen with the prospect of all of the additional acreage Vail had to offer. At the time, the Vail ski area itself had about as much acreage as all of the Aspen areas. They also seized undisputed control over the day ski market- gaining enough of the market to become the price setter. There is zero chance Vail would have the opportunity to sell $160 tickets if they didn't own Breck and Keystone. 

 

Thanks for the detailed answer... I think we were actually in agreement, but I just took this statement - "Because Vail owning 4 of the 6 major resorts within day ski range of Denver is competitive as long as A-Basin gets left out." - to mean YOU were counting A-Basin as one of the major resorts. That's why I would have lumped A-Basin and Loveland into the 8 I listed. My bad.

post #43 of 59
Quote:
Originally Posted by NayBreak View Post


Winter will eventually be the "other" season, not summer. I am not talking climate change. In summer, Vail can compete against Galveston. Mountain climates are exceptional for everything you want to do in the summer except going to the beach. They figured this out in the Alps forever ago, and you hear this statement being made by Summit County residents all the time:

 

 

Personally I and lots of other skiers agree that the mountains are great summer destinations but there is lots of competition and it takes resorts that have their act together to make something of it in summer.  Austria and Switzerland are way better than France for instance where many purpose built resorts remain largely shuttered ghost towns in summer graced by the odd mountain biker.

 

I understand the Vail "hate" - there's plenty about their offering that is entirely superfluous to me but I don't know how the "ideal" hypothetical world would play out if their reach had been restricted.  Summit would still be chocka at weekends as its just more convenient for Denverites, maybe Vail/BC would have retained more premium priced season passes and fewer Denverites would be tempted to drive over the extra pass so tourists would enjoy a more premium experience (though even as it is BC can be remarkably quiet on a Saturday).  Hard to see that Vail/BC day passes wouldn't still be astronomical - they are at Aspen and Jackson without the same market dynamics.  That is really just opportunistic pricing on what the market will bear - if you're a status destination your day tix customers are relatively price insensitive and they just don't want poor newbies.

post #44 of 59
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Lee View Post

First off, I'd ask if more ski areas are really needed or economically viable, given the flattening of the market.

http://ski.curbed.com/archives/2015/01/ski-industry-expert-says-31-of-todays-ski-areas-are-dying.php
post #45 of 59
post #46 of 59

Oh well, I read somewhere that the memory is the second thing to go. I forget what the first thing is.
post #47 of 59

Any new ski development in B.C. is now even further away.

The proposed Jumbo ski resort has lost their initial preliminary approval after lack of progress

 So its back to the drawing board after 20+ years to get to this point

post #48 of 59

There was a ski area that was proposed in the late 60s or early 70s in Colorado and they were going to name it Stagecoach.  It was in a good location, not far from Steamboat and it was supposed to have 2000+ feet of vertical.  Not sure if the ski area ever opened, but I think I heard the initial investors backed out then.  The land stayed undeveloped over the years and just recently (within about 5 years I believe) someone wanted to try to start the process again to open the ski area.  Unfortunately, they failed again.  I would have thought that the location and size of the ski area would be great.  It is located near Steamboat, giving people visiting Steamboat another option for good skiing.

 

http://www.coloradoskihistory.com/lost/stagecoach.html

post #49 of 59

Stagecoach was open a couple of years, but they don't get the snow that steamboat does.

post #50 of 59
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Lee View Post

First off, I'd ask if more ski areas are really needed or economically viable, given the flattening of the market. What was that area in Idaho that opened not too long ago and then folded really quickly? Tamarack? Seems like the possibility of starting a new ski area on public land is something of a moot question.

But as pointed out, Siverton is (I think) the latest ski area to open and stay open, but it has such a different business plan (and location) that it kind of places it outside most people's concept of "ski area."

The article linked does point out a really important thing, that the people and agency philosophies are quite variable over time. The same project might be approved or not depending on who and/or when.

Bob and I don't with a lot of things regarding expansion, but IMHO he has this right. Nothing will open unless the promoters/financiers can make money or at least not lose money. Therefore, it is possible for a "specialty" mountain to open and survive, just for racers or perhaps for rich people who don't want lift lines or undesirables (read: average income people) as their skiing neighbors. The success of real estate ventures for the latter groups is not known. For example, the Yellowstone Club seems to be bouncing back. Regardless, these exclusive clubs do little for the sport, contributing nothing for its long term growth. 

 

IMHO more investment is first needed to improve skier days with what we now have:

1) The family ski tenure is limited. Kids grow up and move, parents become old, etc. In a relatively short amount of time (20-30 years), middle age skiers--those with families-- largely leave the sport and new skiers must be found to replace them.

2) The conversion rate of first time skiers to those who continue with the sport is terrible and should be addressed yesterday.

3) Many ski resorts are underutilized in the off season. Almost all resorts do little or nothing to convert summer visitors to winter visitors regardless of summer activities. In other words, a non-skiing family can alpine slide, zip-line, golf, hike, MTB, etc. at a resort (e.g., PCMR) in the summer and never receive an incentive to return in the winter. This is as dumb as not teaching never-evers how to ski on an artificial surface in the summer.

4) A lot of the industry is focused on trends. The changing trends of going back to thinner waists, or getting a pair of 117mm for two days per year of powder, or b/c skiing, etc. are meaningless for long term growth. I believe the addition of more ski areas is not a solution to either long term growth of the sport or even keeping the number of skier days constant. Doing more with what we have (what is left) is the key.

 

The Forest Service should be helping ski areas promote long term skiing for the good of the sport while reasonably protecting the environment. I am not sure the former is a consideration.

post #51 of 59
Not sure I entirely agreed with 3. My daughter used to work summers here at the resort as a guide and was frequently told by people they'd never realized this place had skiing and that it looked great and they hoped to come back in the winter. Now, she was a skier, the other guides weren't necessarily, so the conversation just might have gone that way because of her.

I think you have a dynamic that summer visitors are more likely to use their vacations in the summer and not necessarily have yet more days for winter vacations, either due to kids or companies starting to take back the paid vacation (yes, it's happening). When I retired I had effectively six weeks of paid vacation, but with everyone working six days a week anymore, how many actually take that time?
post #52 of 59
Quote:
Originally Posted by SHREDHEAD View Post
 

Stagecoach was open a couple of years, but they don't get the snow that steamboat does.

 

I don't think snow was the issue, although with the area about 15 miles S of Steamboat it is out of that microclimate. Like most of that area, I would expect snowfall to be enough for skiing and high quality at that- I'd be surprised if the area got less than 300".

 

As I understand it, the area failed because the whole development was focused on real estate by Woodmoor out of Colorado Springs. Woodmoor did not exactly have a sterling reputation in COS as well.

 

The resort opened barebones in 1972, but the bank backing the developer with credit access to build the project got cold feet and pulled the line of credit. Faced without any money to continue, the developer limped operations along for another year, but when they couldn't find anyone willing to extend credit it shut down.

 

I find it interesting that the development of Stagecoach was during a period where Steamboat wasn't really a destination resort either- The fabled Priest Creek lift didn't open until 1972 (opening year of Stagecoach) and access to Storm Peak and a Gondola only happened in 1970. 

 

Perhaps if the developer had access to the line of credit they planned on, Steamboat would have two destination resorts. I wonder how much that would have changed things...

post #53 of 59
Quote:
Originally Posted by quant2325 View Post
 

Bob and I don't with a lot of things regarding expansion, but IMHO he has this right. Nothing will open unless the promoters/financiers can make money or at least not lose money. Therefore, it is possible for a "specialty" mountain to open and survive, just for racers or perhaps for rich people who don't want lift lines or undesirables (read: average income people) as their skiing neighbors. The success of real estate ventures for the latter groups is not known. For example, the Yellowstone Club seems to be bouncing back. Regardless, these exclusive clubs do little for the sport, contributing nothing for its long term growth. 

 

 

I think you are right that niche ski areas are about all that are feasible at this point- because while I doubt all good ski area locations in Colorado are used up, I am relatively certain that there exists no undeveloped ski area location in Colorado that one could build to compete head-to head with Vail.  To do so, it would likely need to be within 90 miles of Denver, get over 300 inches of snow, have 3000+ feet of vertical, have a large area on private land at the base to create the base area/town, and would need to be right off a major highway- you can't run road 15 miles in to the mythical valley that satisfies this any more, because of roadless area/wilderness protections. You also won't find private land there for your base, so nope, has to be right off the highway.

 

I can think of dick that satisfies that. 

 

This is assuming that one would have deep enough pockets to do so. What would it take to develop a tier 1, 5000 acre+ ski area, with enough real estate at the base from the get go to make it s destination? 500 million? A Billion?

 

One's entry into the ski business at this point is through niche products like Silverton.

 

And I think Yellowstone is doing well because the bankruptcy wiped out most of the debt required to actually build the area. I don't think the model works in its own right- You could buy many decent ski areas for the price of a house at Yellowstone...

post #54 of 59

It took 30 years for Vail to make it to the back bowls and hit 4000 acres and ~20 lifts. No developer is going to go toe to toe with them right out of the gate.  

 

There have been 3 areas opened since 2000. Silverton is a bit of an oddball, but all 3 have one key similarity. A ton of terrain with very few lifts. 3 main lifts at Revelstoke, 4 at Kicking Horse, 1 at Silverton. Big time vertical with lengthy high capacity lifts (again, Silverton different), lots of natural terrain and reasonably few interstate groomers. I hope this is a trend that continues.

post #55 of 59
Revy and KH were actually expansions of existing resorts and for the most part, unsuccessful real estate plays.
post #56 of 59

Money - It takes big dump truck loads of money to even get to start the process.

 

Forest Service and other agencies want any development fully funded before you talk to them.

 

Environmentalists want you to prove the development is necessary, wanted, and won't harm the earth.  You need to spend money to accomplish this.

 

If you get over the government and environment hurdles, you still need money to clear the trails, build the lifts, install snowmaking, and all the other infrastructure visitors expect.

 

After you build, you need money to pay people to operate the area.  People have an aversion to working long hours for very little money.

 

Money is the reason ski areas go belly up.  Can't make payroll? Can't pay the electric bill?  Better look for a buyer quick.

 

Building a resort takes years of slow progress.  Vail wasn't just dropped into the mountains over one summer.  They needed to find money before they started planning.  It took years of planning to start construction.  Slow years of building a village.  Years of expanding adding terrain as demand grew.  All new terrain needed to be 'permitted' and environmental concerns addressed.  Some of the permitting took years and lots of money to complete.  Every year Vail spends lots of money just to continue the process.  Today Vail Resorts - the company - is in a position where they have money for any approved expansion.  The story is the same for most other ski areas.

 

So the bottom line is MONEY!

post #57 of 59

I agree with the consensus that it's not impossible to start a new ski area on federal lands in the US, just too expensive and arduous with too little chance of seeing a return on investment. The destination ski area market is already too full of competitors, and there's little chance of turning a new local ski area profitable enough to justify the upfront expenditures. New business models might conceivably change this--I don't think it's a coincidence that Yellowstone Club and Silverton are the best most recent examples we can think of in the US. But Yellowstone Club's market niche is so small that I don't think anyone else can make it work. Does anyone know whether Silverton is commercially successful... earning a decent return for the upfront investment, that is?

 

This thread and the recent news about the terrible Lake Fire in California got me me thinking about the wilderness/ski development tradeoff. The areas around ski areas tend to be managed more carefully to reduce fuels, they have roads and clear-cut runs to support firefighting, and they have the infrastructure that leads wildlands fire crews to give them more priority in fire defense. Not to say that ski areas are immune to fire, but it's an interesting thought experiment to consider whether the Lake Fire would have been so destructive had Ski Gorgonio gone ahead back in the 60s. If the realistic tradeoff consideration was something like "50 years of wilderness of the whole block of land, followed by ruinous fire" versus "only 80% of the land as wilderness, but responsible fire policies sufficient to keep it forested in perpetuity" it seems a lot harder to justify blocking ski development. Of course, in either case there's no real guarantee of how long/how bad fire will be... and it could well be that the drought, bark beetle, and climate might have doomed San Gorgonio to catastrophic fire sooner or later no matter what.

post #58 of 59
Re: a ski area mitigating the effects of the Lake fire in California^
1. The Lake Fire is largely burning in the San Gorgonio Wilderness - there is no ski area development, or any development, inside a wilderness.
2. The cut runs and roads in a ski area could only be used to protect parts of the ski area and would not prevent the fire from spreading outside the ski area.
3. The Lake Fire is 17,000+ acres, a huge ski area is 3,000 acres. The San Gorgonio Wilderness is almost 95,000 acres. Consider the scales - a ski area is minuscule compared to landscape scale fires.
4. Given the above factors, as well as the extreme drought and other environmental issues such as air pollution and aging forests, I think it's fair to say that if the San Gorgonio ski area had been developed it would have had a very minor effect on the Lake Fire, if any at all.

Given the scale of forests, ski area development will never really serve as an argument for fire prevention or mitigation.

As a rough rule of thumb, sooner or later, nearly everything that isn't intensively managed at great expense, and without a requisite sharp change in public acceptance of methods and effects of the management (like smoke and roads), will burn. Our best course is to manage what little we can and learn to accept fire as a natural process.
post #59 of 59
Quote:
Originally Posted by COBillsFan View Post

There have been 3 areas opened since 2000. Silverton is a bit of an oddball, but all 3 have one key similarity. A ton of terrain with very few lifts. 3 main lifts at Revelstoke, 4 at Kicking Horse, 1 at Silverton. Big time vertical with lengthy high capacity lifts (again, Silverton different), lots of natural terrain and reasonably few interstate groomers. I hope this is a trend that continues.

Right, and look at A-basin. Obviously not huge terrain acreage...but...add one lift with the Beavers expansion, take one lift out (Norway). The growth theme is adding desirable terrain with minimum infrastructure. Being positioned for a 230-240 day season near a major ski population doesn't hurt, either.
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