Financial Viability of Late Spring Skiing

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Comments

  • edited April 25
    bmwskier said:

    Something else to consider-- getting spring skiing going is an investment that has to start in literally December when the spring trails have to have a big buildup of snow in order to make it that long. We hammer Steins, Spring Fling, Organgrinder, Downspout, lower Grinder and upper and lower Jester to build up that base. It's a big gamble because every inch of snow put on those trails is an inch not somewhere else. I am not sure how much Killington has to put down to keep going until June, but I assume they have to literally put feet of snow on those trails to make it that far. 

    While Killington's commitment to the late season product begins with prepping Superstar for the World Cup, I'm not really talking about them.  Look at all of the areas that have 100% open-able terrain that made no plans to open.  It seems like with social-media, these ski areas have access to the weather forecast and can get the word out quickly if they will be open.

    The report on Sunday's crowd at Sugarbush indicated they did very well; even Killington apologized for their handling of their un-expected mob on Saturday - and today: a non-holiday Tuesday, there was a line all day on the Superstar Express.  Bottom line: If the weather is good and the snow is there, people turn out.
  • bmwskier said:

    Something else to consider-- getting spring skiing going is an investment that has to start in literally December when the spring trails have to have a big buildup of snow in order to make it that long. We hammer Steins, Spring Fling, Organgrinder, Downspout, lower Grinder and upper and lower Jester to build up that base. It's a big gamble because every inch of snow put on those trails is an inch not somewhere else. I am not sure how much Killington has to put down to keep going until June, but I assume they have to literally put feet of snow on those trails to make it that far. 

    While Killington's commitment to the late season product begins with prepping Superstar for the World Cup, I'm not really talking about them.  Look at all of the areas that have 100% open-able terrain that made no plans to open.  It seems like with social-media, these ski areas have access to the weather forecast and can get the word out quickly if they will be open.

    The report on Sunday's crowd at Sugarbush indicated they did very well; even Killington apologized for their handling of their un-expected mob on Saturday - and today: a non-holiday Tuesday, there was a line all day on the Superstar Express.  Bottom line: If the weather is good and the snow is there, people turn out.

    Not always. Take a look back at some of my March trip reports from places such as Magic, Abram, and Bolton. There is plenty of snow, but not many people around.
    - Sam
  • edited April 25
    My last day of the season at Berkshire East featured beautiful sunshine, great conditions and maybe 25 folks out on the mountain.

    Ski Conditions Report: A detailed report describing the snow conditions on the mountain the day of your visit. Skiers should become familiar with the following snow surface descriptions: Ice: Packed Powder, Slush: Packed Powder, Frozen Granular: Packed Powder , Packed Powder - A thin covering of snow over bare earth.

  • bmwskier said:

    Something else to consider-- getting spring skiing going is an investment that has to start in literally December when the spring trails have to have a big buildup of snow in order to make it that long. We hammer Steins, Spring Fling, Organgrinder, Downspout, lower Grinder and upper and lower Jester to build up that base. It's a big gamble because every inch of snow put on those trails is an inch not somewhere else. I am not sure how much Killington has to put down to keep going until June, but I assume they have to literally put feet of snow on those trails to make it that far. 

    While Killington's commitment to the late season product begins with prepping Superstar for the World Cup, I'm not really talking about them.  Look at all of the areas that have 100% open-able terrain that made no plans to open.  It seems like with social-media, these ski areas have access to the weather forecast and can get the word out quickly if they will be open.

    The report on Sunday's crowd at Sugarbush indicated they did very well; even Killington apologized for their handling of their un-expected mob on Saturday - and today: a non-holiday Tuesday, there was a line all day on the Superstar Express.  Bottom line: If the weather is good and the snow is there, people turn out.

    Not always. Take a look back at some of my March trip reports from places such as Magic, Abram, and Bolton. There is plenty of snow, but not many people around.
    Have they made any effort to market it?  My experience is, no.
  • edited April 25
    Marketing is likely not going to have a drastic effect on late March revenue for areas with less established spring skiing venues. There is only so many skiers and riders left to go around. This year is certainly more of an exception with the terrible February followed by Noreasters in March to keep interest afloat longer.
  • newpylong said:

    Marketing is likely not going to have a drastic effect on late March revenue for areas with less established spring skiing venues. There is only so many skiers and riders left to go around. This year is certainly more of an exception with the terrible February followed by Noreasters in March to keep interest afloat longer.

    I disagree.  Every other sport has successfully extended their season.  How many years did it take Killington to make spring profitable.  When Killington made Thanksgiving a holiday ski weekend, a dozen other wannabes jumped on board.
  • newpylong said:

    Marketing is likely not going to have a drastic effect on late March revenue for areas with less established spring skiing venues. There is only so many skiers and riders left to go around. This year is certainly more of an exception with the terrible February followed by Noreasters in March to keep interest afloat longer.

    I disagree.  Every other sport has successfully extended their season.  How many years did it take Killington to make spring profitable.  When Killington made Thanksgiving a holiday ski weekend, a dozen other wannabes jumped on board.
    I think that Thanksgiving skiing is much easier to market to the masses as there's a degree of pent up demand from the masses who haven't skied in 7+ months in most cases, and they will seek out a few snowmaking runs because in spite of no snow in there yards at home in most cases, they believe the snowmaking will make things ok, and the want to sk, from not having done so in a while and/or check out the new equipment they may have bought in the off season adds into the desire to go.  Plus in many cases, there isn't kids other sporting obligations to deal with for many family in late November.

    Spring, the masses seem to think that the rate that the melt out occurs in their own yard is likely similar to what it is up in the mountains, they don't necessarily in some cases believe the snow reports maybe due to a "bad" snow report experience they had earlier in the year,  they also ave had a season of trips under their belts, and often the desire to partake in warm weather sports they haven't done in months, plus a likely busier kids other sports schedule to put a greater time constraint on things.  Also not so sure how much extra marketing dollars a resort really wants to spend late season, or even if there IS an amount they could spend to really drive up Spring skiing volume, when typically their incoming revenue stream is about to take a major cut back for months on end approaching....

    I look at it this way, those of us in the know of what Spring skiing is, we win! Even if it means that we may have to drive a bit further than our preferred home hill to enjoy late season skiing! 
  • One of the things that I miss that we had while growing up as skiers was the community that was there. While the kids slid down Yodeler on trays and cheap sleds before night skiing, the parents were in the Middle Chalet drinking bad beer and (stereotypically) many times someone had a guitar and they sang together by the fire. It was more than just patrolling families-- there were members of the Lederhosen Ski Club, the E'ville Ski Club and other friends who loved to ski. 

    I don't see that often today-- except in the Spring. DrJeff is right-- those who know how fun spring skiing can be on a warm sunny day aren't just vacationers who happen to ski-- they're the die hards who love the sport and love the community. I wish I could've come off of the mountain to wander the parking lot to check out the scene as I am sure it was rocking. Everyone I saw come off of the chair seemed to be having a great time and I loved the old outfits that came out-- stretch pants from the 80's, neon, costumes and the like. It was great fun for everyone and it kept going on and on. 

    I'm pretty sure that I could've waked through that crowd and showed them SnowJournal and many would have signed up! :-) 
    "Making ski films is being irresponsible with other people's money, in a responsible sort of way..." 
    Greg Stump
  • One anecdotal data point on this.   Last Saturday a large group of us (from another ski forum) went to Wildcat.  Some were season pass holders, others weren't.  I'm usually a deal shopper but in this case I was wary of the forecast so I didn't purchase ahead of time. That meant my wife and I each bought a $59 walk-up ticket.  Many of the other people we were with did the same thing.  And there was a long line of others buying tickets.  We considered the extra cost to be insurance in case we canceled last minute.   So, for what it's worth relative to this thread, at least a bunch of people were showing up and purchasing tickets.  It wasn't just a bunch of passholders bleeding the profitability late season.   




  • If you had told me at the end of February that we'd still be skiing Castlerock on April 22nd without walking, I'd have said you were nuts. It was fun, but sadly an outlier. 

    I think the places that can guarantee the late-season skiing (Killington) go for it. The others, if they can flex with it, like Sugarbush opening CR, can generate a buzz online and clearly can get the crowds.


  • If you had told me at the end of February that we'd still be skiing Castlerock on April 22nd without walking, I'd have said you were nuts. It was fun, but sadly an outlier. 


    I think the places that can guarantee the late-season skiing (Killington) go for it. The others, if they can flex with it, like Sugarbush opening CR, can generate a buzz online and clearly can get the crowds.


    I'm pretty sure Sugarbush has made it to May for many, many years in a row. With their Valley House area doing very well in spring with Spring Fling, Snowball, Stein's Run, and Coffee Run lasting late.
  • flbski said:

    The Slutsky's used to operate Hunter thru April into May with 20 - 25 employees (and frequently just the A lift).



    Something not mentioned, so far, is the extra cost of running Detachable Grip Lifts. Case in point are the days Hunter operated late into April, and a couple of times, into the first week of May. The '80s vintage A Lift (installed in the Summer of '78) was a fixed grip double, with a Mid-station off load. When the turn on Hellgate got super narrow, you had the option of skiing from the Mid down, and avoiding the mess.

    I had a conversation with David, on a beautiful Spring day, a few years ago (HSQ era).  We were talking about the "old days".  In that discussion, he explained how the Detachables were so much more expensive to run. That makes the point where Spring operations start to loose money earlier, when the numbers of paying customers start to decline. 


  • edited April 25
    I remember skiing at Hunter when the HSQ was brand new and being load tested. I think this was November 1987. What a vast improvement that chair was over the slow double chair with the funky mid-station on Hellgate.

    Ski Conditions Report: A detailed report describing the snow conditions on the mountain the day of your visit. Skiers should become familiar with the following snow surface descriptions: Ice: Packed Powder, Slush: Packed Powder, Frozen Granular: Packed Powder , Packed Powder - A thin covering of snow over bare earth.

  • newpylong said:

    Marketing is likely not going to have a drastic effect on late March revenue for areas with less established spring skiing venues. There is only so many skiers and riders left to go around. This year is certainly more of an exception with the terrible February followed by Noreasters in March to keep interest afloat longer.

    I disagree.  Every other sport has successfully extended their season.  How many years did it take Killington to make spring profitable.  When Killington made Thanksgiving a holiday ski weekend, a dozen other wannabes jumped on board.
    You can't really compare smaller areas to Killington, Jay, and Sugarbush (and to a lesser extent Wildcat and Sugarloaf). Those bigger areas have numerous advantages, most notably people KNOW those areas will be open through the end of April due to history without even checking. Additionally, those areas have a much larger marketing pipeline and more people subscribed to those marketing channels. The big names can always make big moves and thus make big waves. When a smaller area tries to make a big move, even if they scream, few people are going to notice. 

    And what I keep coming back to is this... there were only single digit number of areas open last week. What if there were twice as many? All those visits that K and Bush and the others received from non-passholders would have been diluted and their spring operations would have been significantly less successful. It is a bit of a pseudo-prisoners dilemma... spring skiing only is financially viable if a few areas consolidate on supplying the demand. If lots of areas go for it, no one is profitable. If some hang it up early, they may not make money but they are guaranteed not to lose money.

    And making money is directly tied to the weather. Sometimes it is better to take the guarantee of not losing money than the risk of making losing a bunch of money for a small risk of making money.

    Final thought... operations managers (and in some cases owners) are coming off a long and grueling season. They have some self interest in pulling the plug. How much more money are they going to make by opening one more week? Maybe a little if the weather is good. But often times, those folks are going to value hitting the reset button and having some down time to prepare for spring operations... in many cases, the prep time for getting ready for next season may be worth more than a bit of extra change for opening. You only have so much time as an operations manager and sometimes that time is worth far more than a very small bit of extra revenue at great risk. 
  • edited April 25
    mtsnow123 said:

    If you had told me at the end of February that we'd still be skiing Castlerock on April 22nd without walking, I'd have said you were nuts. It was fun, but sadly an outlier. 


    I think the places that can guarantee the late-season skiing (Killington) go for it. The others, if they can flex with it, like Sugarbush opening CR, can generate a buzz online and clearly can get the crowds.


    I'm pretty sure Sugarbush has made it to May for many, many years in a row. With their Valley House area doing very well in spring with Spring Fling, Snowball, Stein's Run, and Coffee Run lasting late.
    Bush does usually make it until the very end of April or first weekend of May. But lotsoskiing was specifically commenting on skiing a fully opened Castlerock that relies on natural snow. Usually by now, Bush is struggling to keep Jester open to connect Heaven's Gate to Spring Fling et al. Some years, they wouldn't even have Heaven's Gate this late. Bush had 100% of its terrain open from any open lift last weekend, including Castlerock. It was a stunning late season showing and a testament to how much snow fell in March and was added to just last week.

    This wouldn't normally be the case, most seasons.
  • Spring skiing will be more popular as soon as parents start thinking their kids can get a skiing scholarship.
  • River's right. This is just an unusual season all around. Without the March dumps, this would have never happened, Usually this late, we're down to Valley House, the Fling, Snowball and Steins. Assuming HG is fixed, we should be able to open everything off of there, including Paradise (hopefully) and Spillsville. That's really unusual. 

    Lower down, usually Moonshine and Twist have had it for the season but they may be open this weekend. Depends on the rain. Tomorrow they'll start grooming and I'll get a status report for what we're looking for this weekend. 

    The following weekend I'd just bet on Valley House, Stein's et al. 
    "Making ski films is being irresponsible with other people's money, in a responsible sort of way..." 
    Greg Stump
  • jaytrem said:

    Spring skiing will be more popular as soon as parents start thinking their kids can get a skiing scholarship.

    Then that lasts until they do some research and find out that there's only about a dozen D1 programs in the US, total for all of the programs over all 4 years combined just over 200 scholarship positions.... Add in the Europeans who grab some scholarship positions, and pretty much unless one is spending big $$ on a ski academy and basically year round on snow training from the time their kids are 2nd year U12's, at which point you're probably spending as much on their 7th through 12th grade ski academy education as you would on 4yrs of many colleges, and hoping ski racing will lead to full ride to a college for their kid is a bit like hoping for 18" of untracked blower powder at 11AM on President's Day Saturday down the main run of any major New England ski area ;)
  • Exactly, thus spring skiing will never be all that popular with families. Gotta get that soccer scholarship!!!
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