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December 20, 2007

Running the Numbers

I use Beaver Creek as an example, but in reality I am referring to any major megaresort--you know, the ones that the ski magazines drool about. This is more an illustration of the pros and cons of major destination skiing at a high end resort (Vail, Aspen, Beaver Creek, Breck, Keystone, Park City, Whistler, etc.) versus skiing at a smaller resort in the Rockies that costs half as much but also offers less. I am going to run down the resorts that I have skied and compare and contrast them:

Colorado - Wolf Creek, Beaver Creek, Loveland, and A-Basin
Arizona - Snowbowl, Sunrise
Montana - Red Lodge, Big Sky
Utah - Alta, Brian Head

What you find is that once you find a place that you really like, you tend to go there until you find a better deal, get bored, etc. So I am an Alta guy because I just like it so well because of the price, location, skiers only policy, snow quality, and experience that I never drive to the other resorts in the area. Now, I am probably going to have a tough time ever going to Vail because Beaver Creek is so awesome and I have yet to even scratch the surface of all that is there. I am not sure how to compare Beaver Creek to Vail to Keystone to Breck when you couldn't touch all the mountain on any of them in a week or solid skiing.

I am assuming that for folks with the Colorado Pass, they choose their resort based on snowfall numbers, location, or just plain familiarity. So since I haven't skied all the resorts, I leave it open for more comments and info. This is somewhat generic, but there are just too many resorts to know everything about. For the most part though, the mega resorts are that way for a reason--they have a lot to offer and all compare very favorably to the next tier or resorts.

In my mind, there are three categories of ski resorts. Megaresorts. Midsize resorts (and this is a broad category). And places that just plain blow. First, let's talk about the mega resorts. You are going to get a well developed base area, great restaurants, touristy bars, lots of high end shops, and a few high end hotels. Expect lots of folks that are crazy rich and have really nice stuff. Expect people in $1000 jackets riding $2000 worth of gear on groomers who look crazy pimped sipping lattes at the base area. Folks from the East Coast can't get this kind of snow or experience so expect most folks are destination skiers or locals that get really good pass deals or work at the resort. Lots of folks from Europe, etc. Just a different kind of guest. But folks don't come for just the base area. The mountains are massive, but you gotta have the skills to relly enjoy it. And the money to spend because it ain't cheap. EVEN WHEN YOU GET A GREAT DEAL.

The next category is the smaller Rocky Mountain resorts and most East coast resorts. Places like Wolf Creek or Bridger Bowl or Brian Head. Usually these resorts are smaller mountains and do not offer the same level of amenities as the big guys. Not as much vertical. Off the beaten path. Poor airport access. No development rights. Less snowfall. But far lower prices. So then it is a matter of what you are willing to sacrifice. All of these resorts are missing something and it is up to you to decide what you are willing to sacrifice. I am willing to sacrifice shopping, dining, amenities, and nightlife but not snow. I would rather ski powder at a small resort that offers nothing (i.e. Wolf Creek) than ski crap snow at a more developed resort.

I won't get into the third category of places that just plain suck, but they are out there. Usually they have a couple old doubles that some other resort took out 20 years ago.

Beaver Creek was the first place that I didn't have to worry about a sacrifice. I look at the things that I usually am willing to give up. First, I give up base area amenities. I like to stay in town where I can afford it anyway. Then I give up nightlife. Then I give up some of the massive areas and vertical. What I usually don't give up is snow.

I can't get over the $92 price tag. So now it really highlights how good the Colorado Pass is. Season pass at Key, Breck, A-basin, and then the free days at Vail and Beaver Creek. I am just hating that I don't live in Colorado. The Beav and the Colorado resorts are so affordable for locals due to VRI's passes. I can't help but sing their praises. If you want to ski these resorts, you just have to look for deals and I am able to ski Vail and the Beav for the same price as Brian Head.

Posted by Justin at 09:40 AM | Comments (3)

July 20, 2007

American Ski Co. Is No More

This from the SLC Tribune:

The Canyons Resort, final vestige of the American Skiing Co. empire, will be sold for $100 million to the company that bought United Park City Mines and is converting its property along Deer Valley's fringes into a posh ski and golf development.

Talisker Canyons Finance Co. LLC, a subsidiary of the Toronto-based real estate development and investment company Talisker Corp., will buy the resort outside of Park City and all stock in American Skiing Co. Resort Properties, Inc., which has contractual rights and obligations involving The Canyons.

Talisker also is assuming responsibility for pending litigation in which the resort's former owner, Wolf Mountain, contends it should regain the property because American Skiing defaulted on a lease...

The sale of The Canyons means American Skiing has disposed of all eight resorts under its control at the start of last ski season, raising $599 million used to pay off creditors. Those creditors included Oak Hill Capital Partners, a Connecticut-based private equity firm that was American Skiing's majority shareholder.

On June 21, when American Skiing filed papers to dissolve with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, company officials said The Canyons would continue to operate under Oak Hill as it has in the past.

Well, that is everything. Gone are 9 resorts in a little under a year. The folks at Steamboat seem pretty happy about the changes and no one wuite knows what to make of what is going to happen to the smaller resorts.

Posted by Justin at 10:17 AM

April 10, 2007

Statistics on Utah Skier Visits

I have added a new page with detailed statistics of Utah skier visits from the state's Demographic and Economic Analysis Department. Check out the new page and info. Here is the chart:

Some interesting info, but Skier Visits have increased dramatically since 2001.

Utah still lags far behind Colorado as a national ski destination, but the state has a ton to offer. I rec'd an e-mail today that said the following:

I was lucky enough to ski Breck in January and Snowbasin in March. What are your thoughts on Snowbasin? Skiied it on a Wednesday and Thursday. No lift lines and the two gondolas were awesome. Different atmosphere than Breck.

Check the stats for Snowbasin:

  • Vertical rise: 2,959 ft (902 m)
  • Average yearly snowfall: 400 in (10 m)
  • Total lifts: 12
    • 1 Tram
    • 2 Gondolas (high speed detachable)
    • 1 Quad chair (high speed detachable)
    • 4 Triple chair
    • 1 Double chair
    • 1 Magic carpet
    • 2 Hand rope tows
  • Total lift capacity: 14,650 people per hour
  • Skiable area: 2,650 acres

Compare this to Breck that receives roughly five times the number of skier visits on the same acreage. Here are Breck's comparable stats:

  • Vertical rise: 3,398 feet (1,036 m)
  • Average Annual Snowfall: 300 in
  • Total Lifts: 29
    • 2 high-speed 6-passenger SuperChairs
    • 7 high-speed quad lifts
    • 1 triple lift
    • 6 double lifts
    • 1 8-passenger gondola
    • 4 surface lifts
    • 8 carpet lifts
  • Total lift capacity: 37,880 people per hour
  • Skiable Area: 2358 acres

Utah is nearly untouched. Colorado gets 12M + skier visits per year to Utah's 4M. Alta-Snowbird is absolutely massive and Snowbasin, Solitude, Brighton, and the West Side resorts getting half as much traffic as Park City.

Long story short--Utah has far fewer people than Colorado and the resorts are much less crowded. Down side is that the nightlife is lacking (save Park City) and the beer flows like water--but it has the same alcohol content and tastes like water too. Utah has a very different feel than Colorado, but as far as pure skiing, I prefer Utah. No, I take that back--I prefer Alta, and it happens Alta is in Utah. I have yet to try Snowbasin, but plan to early next year. Just been spending almost every day at Brian Head this season.

Posted by Justin at 03:44 PM

April 08, 2007

The Year That Was in Utah

The SLC Tribune has an article on the year that was in Utah:

"We got some good early snow," he said.

But starting in November, a high pressure ridge parked itself over the West until about February.

That weather pattern acted as a bubble, forcing snowstorms to other areas, he said.

Utah's loss was Canada's gain, as many storms shifted to the north, McInerney explained.

Meager snowpacks, which reached about 50 percent of average in northern Utah, are not only bad news for skiing, but they also spell trouble for the Salt Lake Valley's water resources in the summer.

This season sucked in a bad way for me. Early snow, but no mid season snow at all. I finally had my place done and Brian Head got 225" of snow (and a huge chunk of that came in March). Normal snowfall is over 400".

But take what you get and thank the Ski Gods for the wonderful sport. It still was a ski season and the laws of averages mean that sooner or later we will have another 600" winter like two years ago.

Posted by Justin at 11:21 PM | Comments (1)

January 11, 2007

Park City / Deer Valley Reaches Out to New Media for Freestyle World Cup Event (h/t Rocky Mtn Voices)

From Rocky Mountain Voices.com the following about Deer Valley and Park City trying to reach Gen X / Y:

When Deer Valley Resort wanted to reach the Gen Xer’s and Y’s to market the Freestyle FIS World Cup, they turned to social networking and new media distribution like YouTube. Erin Grady, Deer Valley’s Communications Manager, worked with the Park City Chamber and Visitors Bureau to create a short, 5 minute Video Podcast that could be uploaded to YouTube and linked to blogs, MySpace pages, and web sites where local skiers hang out. “We knew that the younger crowd gets a lot of their information through interactive mediums, so that’s why we selected social media and podcasting,” said Grady. Since the event includes free concerts from The Samples and The Wailers (the reggae band made famous by Family Man and Bob Marley) in addition to the freestyle competition, the web is a perfect medium to reach out.

Video Below:

Posted by Justin at 02:42 PM | Comments (2)

August 11, 2005

Road Trip to Park City

My oldest son is 8 and spent far more time away from school than he should have last year to ski with me. But how can you look in an 8 year old's eyes and have him ask, "Why can't I go with you?"

My usual answer is, "Because you have school tomorrow." He has learned an effective strategy to counter this argument and frequently employs the "But don't you have to work tomorrow" defense. I have learned a new countermeasure though that my mother in her ancient wisdom taught--"Because I said so." But sometimes it is far better to have some conversation during the ride up and someone to hang with than to worry about having a child that is literate and can do simple mathematics. When my other buddies actually have to work and cannot "telecommute" (Erich), then the ride from Phoenix gets kinda long. But enough about that though... the point is we are taking a pre-season roadie to Park City.

One of the key features of the 2002 Olympics (besides the whole bribery thing which was my favorite part) was the construction of several different venues that are open to the public. One such facility is the Freestyle/Aerials Splash Pool.

Jake and I are taking a three day road trip north to Park City to attend one of the Aerials clinics at the splash pool and check out what is happening up there. And when he asks, "But Dad, why do I have to go to Park City to learn new Aerials at an Olympic training venue" the answer is {SMACK} "Because I said so". Let's hope we don't have the conversation...

Posted by Justin at 10:39 AM | Comments (1)