What is stopping new ski areas from being built?

Discussion in 'General Skiing' started by Miller, Jan 18, 2019.

  1. James

    James Skiing the powder Instructor

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    Geeze, maybe a ski resort and the Eb-5 program would make a great start to a Ponzi scheme? As long as the ski area is running, everything looks kosher and you could get more money for something like...a BioTech center in the middle of nowhere! And then, well maybe expand the ski area? No, no one sees that, build a convention center!
     
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  2. Wasatchman

    Wasatchman over the hill Skier

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    One factor in the disconnect of skier visits down and crowded slopes is where you are looking.

    In general, the West is growing while the East is in decline in terms of skier visits.

    Speaking of which, the Cottonwoods resorts in Utah might be at full capacity right now in terms of skier visits. Unless they decide to close the Cottonwood Canyons to public transportation only. I would not be surprised if that happpens in my lifetime.
     
  3. Tom K.

    Tom K. HRPufnStf Skier

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    Yup. See also, Mount Bohemia on the U.P.

    And, IIRC, they just received another investment booster shot.
     
  4. Bolder

    Bolder Getting on the lift Skier

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    There's plenty of room, literally and figuratively, to expand and reconfigure/reinvest in current areas if your goal is to increase visits, decrease crowding and make more money. But if existing resorts are having a problem finding capital to build high-speed detachable lifts, add more amenities/parking/shuttles/marketing & promo etc., it's not likely you'll see any new areas soon.

    Also, the acceleration of global warming -- we've probably already lost a third of the ski season in the northeast, for example, to say nothing of the mid-atlantic or southeast.

    The one area where I could see a new resort opening is Colorado, given the growth in Denver metro areas, you could probably make a case for the investment and permitting process.
     
  5. no edge

    no edge Putting on skis Skier

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    Global warming is a huge factor. The other reason new mountains are not being developed is the cost of real estate. Resorts make a ton of their money in development.

    Look at Taos. It is having a rough time with lack of snow and quick snow melt after their storms. How many mountains are high enough to host a ski resort in New Mexico. In other states, the mountains that get snow and hold snow are either already developed or they are protected.

    Vermont is done. No more development and smaller, lower elevation mountains are just not making it.

    Hunter Mt in the Catskills expanded this year, but snow making is the key for many East coast resorts. Northern NY is mostly state park... protected. One area near Lake George closed this year. Great little mountain with fun terrain - elevation was too low.
     
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  6. raisingarizona

    raisingarizona Out on the slopes Skier

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    Skiing isn’t going to be much of a thing 20 to 30 years from now. Thats reality.
     
  7. QueueCT

    QueueCT Getting on the lift Skier

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    Why in the world would you build a new ski resort in New England? There's what, 16 or so in VT alone? Don't like the crowds at K'ton? Go to Pico. Don't like the crowds at Stowe? Go to Smuggs or Jay (let's hope). Sugarbush, Bolton, Bromley, Magic. Want more? Cross the river into NH or the other river into NY. Lots of relatively uncrowded mountains up here once you move away from the big resorts. Except on holiday weekends ... but you're not going to build a business plan on holiday weekend overflow.

    I think the question is why aren't there more feeder hills for families with kids around metro areas. But, there are quite a few. Within 1.5 hrs of NYC there's a handful, including one by commuter rail. Boston is blessed. Philly, Pittsburgh, no problem. Hell, Detroit has four bumps within 1:15. All easy day trips. Does it get crowded sometimes? Sure. But not wait 20 minutes in a lift line crowded.

    Our local hill has phenomenal snowmaking and has stayed open since before Thanksgiving including weathering several 60 degree days with over an inch of rain. It's been so slow for them that they ran one of their triples for the first time on Saturday. And there were no lift lines on a beautiful mid-20s holiday. No, there won't be anything new opening for quite a while.
     
  8. raisingarizona

    raisingarizona Out on the slopes Skier

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    New areas are being developed in Vermont, you just gotta climb to use them. I love that sort of model. It’s something any town that gets natural snow in mountains can do and the overhead costs can be next to nothing. In today’s world and expected climate change I don’t see a need to develop more resorts.
     
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2019
  9. Vcize

    Vcize Booting up Skier

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    As others have mentioned lots of regulatory issues and the economics of it all.

    Let's be real, we as skiers have to be the worst customers out there. Everything we want is counter productive to the places we love actually making money. We want cheap season passes, we often bring our own lunches (how dare the place we love make money on food!), we want low crowds (directly counter productive to a place we like staying in business), and we don't want them to develop lodges/restaurants in the area that are going to attract casual vacationers that actually spend money.
     
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  10. Goose

    Goose Out on the slopes Skier

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    Good points imo and kind of comical in anot so funny sort of way. Its a catch-22 in many ways as we want to see the reasons for a growing ski community, expanding resorts, and more of them in general but at the same time we don't want to live with the reasons that justify them.

    Even if land itself and resources, utilities, and environmental restrictions were more easily hurdled and obtained, you still need to first have a known money machine of enough people (skiers) to make it profitable. And while we may find many areas crowded (even zoo like) on weekends and holidays (certainly like that of the Pocono resorts) a lot of them are quite light (even rather empty relatively speaking) during the week. And that is mostly the season tix lower spending crowd. Then combine that with rainy days (on weekends too) and days when temps are too bone chilling cold. I have to say I just don't know if a ski resort is the cash cow we might think it is. Certainly we have the so called "destination" resorts that are profitable and some as many you know are very profitable. And a lot of that profit is fed by other means vs the skiing itself of course.

    How does a non destination resort survive? or how many can in the same area? and how can it be expected the opening of another will? Again,... what we tend to see on weekends does not exactly tell quite the whole story.
    Lousy expensive food, over crowded lodges, overcrowded runs, long lift lines, often rundown facilities, etc, etc...and we/I think how we need a place with less crowds and better facilities to handle them. And perhaps it would draw more customers. But will it really? are there enough customers to truly support more resorts? Especially in places like the Poconos where the seasons are relatively short and the downtime due to weather can be quite high some years. I hate skiing here but the Poconos are the only practical places (for me and my fam) to drive to without having to plan a weekend. So as much as I hate the crowds I look forward to it cause its all I got. I want to see more hills here then there are so I don't have the zoo like weekend crowds can be tamed a bit. But based on what I see during the rare weekdays I get to go, I honestly don't know if its its truly supportable if there were more.
     
  11. HardDaysNight

    HardDaysNight Out on the slopes Skier

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    You sure about that? Predictions are always dangerous, especially ones about the future!
     
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  12. raisingarizona

    raisingarizona Out on the slopes Skier

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    Ha! Yeah I’m not sure but if climate science is right then skiing isn’t going to be a realistic activity for most people. I guess it’s impossible to know for sure but if I had a lot of money I wouldn’t be putting it into the skiing industry
     
  13. onstar1

    onstar1 Booting up Skier

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    Not enough money being made by skiing. Vail make most of their money in real-estate...
     
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  14. Blue Streak

    Blue Streak Life is hard. Skiing is easy! Skier

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    Right now the government shutdown ;)
     
  15. AngryAnalyst

    AngryAnalyst Getting on the lift Skier

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    Ski resorts are pretty terrible businesses (high fixed costs, operate only a fraction of the year, subject to lots of variability during the part of the year they operate). I strongly suspect the only way Vail makes it sort of work is aggregation. New resorts would not have the benefits of scale.

    The other issue is federal land permitting.

    That said, Vail may eventually raise prices enough that new ski areas would be profitable. I doubt we are there yet.
     
  16. LKLA

    LKLA Out on the slopes Skier

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    Huh?

    Vail makes less than 10% of their revenue from lodging and less than 1% from real estate!
     
  17. jmeb

    jmeb Stereotypical Front Range Weekend Warrior Skier

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    I think the overriding factor is the lack of profit potential. When most of the ski resorts that are now big were being built, its because there weren't tons of other options locally. Its a relatively saturated market.

    The geographical analysis of where to put a new destination resort alone is pretty limiting. Nearish to a commercial airport, probably on Federally-owned land to reduce costs, good roads, reliable snowfall, variety of terrain, good aspects for snow retention, water available for snowmaking....those things occur in a tiny fraction of spots a new resort could pop up in.

    Now you've got the spot id'd. If its on public lands, it likely is home to a rapidly expanding user group that is backcountry recreationalists. They are going to be vocal opponents against a new resort -- giving the Feds an earful about keeping public lands public, about environmental conservation, etc. They'll show up to meetings much more than inbounds skiers who are just excited about another spot to ski.
     
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  18. tball

    tball Zipped up Skier

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    Colorado does make sense, especially if the climate continues to warm as expected. Colorado's elevation is a huge advantage.

    We do have a little problem with I-70 that needs four billion dollars to fix, and there is no money for it. I-70 is fine for destination skiers who can travel weekdays, but the masses on the front range increasingly can't get up skiing on the weekend which is really bad for the Colorado ski industry.

    Expanding existing areas makes a lot more sense than building new ones. It's a tough business and economies of scale help. Both Copper Mountain and Loveland have the potential for large expansions within their permitted areas. We'll see if the economics ever support them expanding.

    As a former Berthoud Pass/Timberline pass holder, I'll just say I was there first! The backcountry folks have no claim to the area. There should be lifts up there, especially given the proximity to Denver. Since the third bore of the tunnel will never be built, we need more lift-served skiing available on the Denver side. Berthoud should be the top priority. Geneva Basin second, along with the necessary improvements to the road. That's a lot of cars that don't have to squeeze through the tunnel.
     
  19. jmeb

    jmeb Stereotypical Front Range Weekend Warrior Skier

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    No one has a "claim" to the area. Its public land. Backcountry skiers are the primary users of that land today.

    Not sure I see the forest service giving a permit to an industry with higher environmental impacts and declining user numbers (inbounds skiing) vs increasing numbers (bc skiing) and lower impact.
     
  20. tball

    tball Zipped up Skier

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    @jmeb the Forest Service mission is to provide "the greatest good of the greatest number in the long run." I think it's hard to argue that's not lift-served skiing on Berthoud.

    There was lift-served skiing there for over 60 years before the Forest Service shut it down. The fact backcountry skiers are the primary users today is irrelevant. There's a much longer history of commercial skiing on Berthoud Pass.

    Things have changed since the Forest Service shut it down because of economic viability and the difficulty of avalanche control.

    Fat skis have made off-piste skiing far more accessible for a large swath of skiers. The success of remote Silverton is proof a small scale business model can work with similar terrain. And, with the growth of the Denver Metro area and the I-70 mess, I don't think there's doubt lift-served skiing could be economically viable.

    The Forest Service was misguided with their public safety argument about avalanche control on Berthoud. The safety risk is much greater now with all the backcountry skiers than if the area was professionally controlled with the latest techniques.

    And, there's a better argument for concentrated use than conservation. The area is split in half by a highway to one of the most popular resorts in the country!
     

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