Today’s one of those slow news days that I can either simply post nothing like I inadvertently did on Monday – and receive a lot of emails asking if I was okay… OR I can post a bunch of ramblings which tend to vent my frustrations with one ski area or another and receive a bunch of phone calls asking if I’m an idiot.
I’m opting for the latter but I’m going to do my best to avoid offending anyone specific. However I AM going to vent…just a little. Maybe it’s the Irish in me and according to my mom I have a wee bit o’ the green in me somewhere.
Oh yea – Happy St. Paddy’s Day everyone.
Some Quick Resort Notes First…
Here are the resorts that are closing this weekend:
Beech – Closing Saturday (4 more days)
Cataloochee, Bryce, Canaan Valley, and Wintergreen all close this Sunday. That’s 5 more days of skiing and snowboarding at those locations.
Massanutten will go ONE extra day and close after Monday sessions.
These resorts will ski and ride through March 28th:
Ober Gatlinburg – Weekends til March 28th
Timberline Resort – Closes March 28th
Winterplace – Closes March 28th
Wolf Ridge – Closing March 28th (Weekends only til then.)
Wisp Resort – Tentative March 28th and then possibly the following two weekends.
Sugar Mountain – ??? (I’ve heard the 28th, but they could decide differently.)
Going a bit longer:
Snowshoe Mountain – April 5th
Appalachian – April 11th
Sapphire – Already Closed for the Season
I don’t want to offend anyone or any resort specifically but several times this season I’ve heard from assorted people – some within the management or marketing crews of various resorts – about "how bad ‘xyz resort’ is doing this season."
I’ve been doing the major portion of the reporting on this website for 14 years now and I’ve always honored private conversations and will continue to do so, but more times in the last two seasons than I care (or would dare) to relate individually I have heard in various forms how every single ski area in this region is failing financially with the exception of the one who is sharing that "insight" with me. I was having dinner recently with a friend who works within the management team at one of the ski resorts (who never reads this website) and no matter which resort I would mention that was having a great season – I would get an "Oh, no I was talking with so and so who would certainly know and he was telling me that they’re down 30%, 20%, ready to go in the tank…or worse."
A few times earlier in the season I would relate with a number of industry insiders about how good this or that ski area did during the Holidays or subsequent MLK or President’s Day weekends …only to hear a response much like the one I just shared.
One industry insider who I have a lot of respect for recently pretty much threw nearly every ski area in his state under a bus…except the one he was trying hard to promote. Funny thing is that I was relating how well THAT ski area was doing this year (sharing information that the last guy told me about how great that resort was doing) to the friend I was having dinner with recently – I was told, "Oh, no, they have so many bills that they’re hurting right now."
According to my friend – only his ski area was having a great season. According to him nobody else in the region was making any money. Without question, HIS ski area had the most business of any ski area in the region this and last season.
A couple of times this season I related how well booked up this or that resort was on a particular weekend only to hear, "You didn’t hear? They had a ton of cancellations and they are not nearly booked up. They’re down 15% this weekend."
Another contact was relating to me about a severe injury that took place at "xyz resort" the previous weekend…when I’d already heard about a very nearly fatal head injury that took place at his resort the weekend before.
I’ve never heard as much of that kind of junk talking in my previous 13 seasons as I’ve heard this season. I’m not sure why and maybe I’m talking with some of the wrong people – but in many cases it’s the same people I’ve been dealing with for years. To be fair and since I’m not being very specific – there are MANY of the ski area management teams who seem to ALWAYS stay above that fray…choosing to even PROMOTE other ski areas in their state, etc. You guys and gals know who you are and you’re very much appreciated.
However, to those few of you who have shared that kind of negative sentiment with me this season – please stop. I’ve always attempted to operate with a "he who throws dirt, loses ground" mentality and I think that bodes pretty well most of the time.
There’s no question that some ski areas are doing better than others this season or any other previous one. There’s no question that one or two are probably hurting a little. However there’s also no question that the last two ski seasons have been pretty darn successful across the board for those in the Southeast and Mid Atlantic. We might not have set any records out there but I know that the 2008-2009 season was pretty good for the region and even though there was a blip or two during the current season – things have gone VERY WELL for most every ski area.
According to data that was released by the National Ski Areas Association our Southeast and Mid Atlantic ski resorts turned 5,664,000 skier visits during the 2008-2009 ski and snowboarding season. That would rank last year as the SEVENTH BEST skier visit season since 1978 when the organization began tracking data.
Last season was one that was clearly affected by the ridiculously stupid economy that hit America hard in December of 2008. Even so we saw a top SEVEN year across the region and there is no question that some ski areas probably set some skier visit records last season.
This season began slowly but that slow period was during a time that isn’t that important to the ski areas. Late November and early December isn’t all that important to a ski area’s finances. By December 7th or so we got into a snowy pattern that dumped as much as 250" at some resorts in the region. Every resort saw a snowy winter…and one in which I’ve already suggested that ONE IMPORTANT RECORD WAS DEFINATELY SET THIS SEASON – our region has made less manmade snow than in any season prior.
This season’s "blips" that I alluded to were ill-timed, heavier than desired snows that caused some last minute cancellations here and there during normally, fully-booked weekends. Even so, traffic was brisk across the board and then a bit of a "positive anomoly" took place. After President’s Day weekend we’ve seen weekend after weekend of heavier, late-season traffic than normal and weekends that were not normally fully booked in previous seasons – have been this late season.
So I’m going on record to say that more than JUST ONE ski area has had VERY, VERY, VERY nice skier visit seasons during the 2009-2010 ski and snowboarding season. I’m betting one or two ski areas HAVE set traffic records this season and I’m betting that most ski areas will beat last season’s numbers. IF LAST season was a "top seven" year, then this season will probably be a top five.
The best skier visit season in the Southeast and Mid Atlantic was set during the 1987-88 season when 5,885,000 skier visits were recorded in the region. It should be noted that the NSAA calls the Southeast those resorts that we cover but also those in New Jersey and PA.
Here’s the top seasons according to them:
In closing, "XYZ Resort" didn’t pull 5,663,000 visitors last season while everyone else saw 1,000. I think it’s safe to say that in my conversations with most ski area management teams…I think they’ve done anywhere from "okay" to "pretty decent" to "very nicely" over the last couple of seasons and when you look at how stupid our economy is right now…I think we’ll all take that…thank you very much.
Sugar will be zip lining soon – [maybe]
Sugar will be adding a high speed quad – [not happening]
Bare spots are showing up at several ski areas – [they are but not much]
There will be snow tubing at App next season – [don’t think so]
Sugar will be summer tubing – [could happen]
One ski area has passed on having two of their lifts inspected and they won’t be running anytime soon – [true]
One ski area that hasn’t skied in years HAS had their lifts inspected recently – [true]
Two new ski areas will be opening in West Virginia very soon – [maybe] There’s a group that is looking into making that happen within ten years.
Snowshoe/Intrawest is looking to buy Timberline and/or Canaan – [don’t think so]
Intrawest is selling Snowshoe – [don’t think so] I haven’t even bothered to check on this one because Snowshoe and Intrawest is a publicly traded company and they could not share that kind of information if they wanted to because that could be presumed as insider information, etc. But Intrawest and Fortress is selling off properties that are not typical ski resort properties such as some of the interests in Florida, etc.
My head is now hurting and I have so many more rumors to cover. Maybe another day.
In closing, one of our staffers was told by one of the ski resorts that doesn’t appreciate us very much (there’s more than one, okay) that "You guys think you run the ski industry around here".
NOW THAT my friends IS JUST A RUMOR. We only report and promote. If left to manage or run a ski area anywhere – it would crash and burn before it got started. Those who can’t play – coach. Those who couldn’t run a ski area – report on them. No illusions or delusions here, I assure you!
That’s enough venting today. Hopefully I’ll have something nice to say on Thursday. Check back…
Here are some notables:
Bryce has "upgraded" their tentative closing date of March 21st to a definate closing date now. So five more days of riding at Bryce.
Massanutten posted, "Due to unseasonably warm temperatures projected for the next two weeks, the Massanutten Ski Area and Tubing Park will be closing on March 22nd. We will try to re-open the weekend of March 26th – 28th for our final ski weekend." They ARE open today with all 14 trails open and tubing.
Wintergreen looks to be potentially upgrading their tentative Sunday closing to something more definate as they have announced, "COME SKIING ON ST PATRICK’S DAY! SLIDE AND SPLASH BASH WEEKEND IS ON THE WAY WITH A 50% DISCOUNT ON LIFT TICKETS, RENTALS AND TUBING. WE WILL ALSO HAVE GREAT MUSIC, POND SKIMMING, RAIL JAM, AND MORE!"
We’re on day 111 and there are 26 more days of opportunities to enjoy the snow for the 2009-2010 ski and snowboarding season!
Go enjoy the snow! Check out the Snow Report at http://www.skisoutheast.com/skireports.php and please send us your favorite ski photos, ski videos, trip reports and comments to [email protected]