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Small-Market Skiing in the Future


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#1 SkiKC

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Posted 14 July 2021 - 08:01 PM

How do you all see the future of skiing in non-mountainous areas that have previously had ski areas? As an example - here in Kansas City, we have Snow Creek. It's a piddly little place with almost no vertical and no terrain that an experienced skier would consider difficult. But arguably, that's not its point - it introduces more people to our sport who would otherwise never get to ski and who perhaps will become interested enough to venture to the mountains. I grew up skiing there all the time and having access to a place like that an hour from home in KC was a big reason I stuck with skiing as an adult and continue to vacation to the real mountains and spend real money to ski at the resorts.

That being said, I cannot imagine a place like that (or most other small-market midwestern areas away from MI/WI/MN) actually makes money year-over-year. It seems like a losing proposition financially, but perhaps resort companies with deep pockets like Vail (who recently bought out Peak Resorts, the prior owner of the KC ski area and many others like it) are willing to operate small areas at a loss to incentivize visits to their bigger areas. There's a definite push now that we're under Vail's umbrella to buy an Epic Pass. And the value proposition does make sense - instead of paying ~$80 a day each for my kids to rent and ski plus $40 for me to ski locally, we just buy the Epic Pass and cheap skis for the kids and it's all covered, even visits to VR properties out west. All under one pass. It takes less days in the mountains to make the Epic Pass "pay off" now that we can get value out of it at home. And maybe that's the idea - write off losses incurred by flatland ski areas to drive business to the big resorts?

I guess where I'm going with this - how sustainable are "flatland" ski areas? Do you see Vail, et cetera continuing to operate them as they have been, at what I can only imagine is a loss, to convert local markets to passholders? Or do you think that there will be a point where a line is drawn and smaller, corporate areas are closed? How about smaller, private areas like some up in MI/WI/MN?

#2 Lift Dinosaur

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Posted 21 July 2021 - 09:09 AM

I think your evaluation of the situation is spot on. Peak Resorts showed that Midwest areas could be profitable. They don't have the large overhead and infrastructure expenses that the large destination resorts have. Vail understands that they need the feeder areas and if people like you buy the Epic pass you will at least frequent your "home" area more often and one of their larger areas when you go "out west". Western resorts do a sizeable portion of their skier days in the Spring- Mid February to Mid April. Many of the Midwest areas close in March which sends skiers to the West for Spring Break.
The biggest issue I see with 'non-mountainous' areas, whether they are 'corporate' or 'private', is climate change and the need for snow-making- they will need to upgrade their snow-making capabilities, as opposed to building new lifts like the larger areas, on a continuing basis to be able to produce a ski-able surface on a consistent basis.
My $0.02
Dino
"Things turn out best for the people that make the best of the way things turn out." A.L.





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