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Laurel Mtn Jan 4
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Updated 5 months ago
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5 months ago

I decided to skip the blue bird yesterday and ski Laurel Mountain today (Jan 4th) with the hope of catching a few inches of fresh snow.  My plan turned out to be successful.

The mountain was empty. To the point where a lifty shouted “Congrats, you’re the sixth person on the mountain” about an hour after they opened to a chair behind me.  It was like this all day.  Most of the day I saw no one on either the lift or the runs.

The morning was perfect, the top of the mountain was groomed, and there was about an inch and a half of fresh snow everywhere else.  The snow held all day.  Since the place was empty it was cordouroy on everything until I left around 4pm, even the green runs!

Wildcat was excellent.  Upper Wildcat had a pocket of fresh snow about 3in deep all day on skiers left.  Lower Wildcat was packed powder until about 2pm when the 35mph winds and the few skiers finally won out creating a few icy spots. I hesitate to use the term ‘icy’ because it was smooth hard pack that you could still cut an edge into.

Dream Highway is waiting for a few more inches of snow. I skied the top, there was a boot deep powder drift for a good 200 ft. Laurel Run looked bad with grass poking through, but skied really well.  On the other hand Lincoln Highway looked great, but I took some base hits towards the top.  Lincoln Highway with another 6-8” of snow would be ideal.

The glades were closed and looked scraped off.  I ducked in and out of some tree lines near the edge of a few trails that were holding snow, but nothing major.

It was brutally cold, a wind chill of -11 most of the day.  But with a few layers I was warm the entire time. It was worth going out for an empty mountain with ideal conditions.

I have a season pass to Snowshoe, but I’d say Laurel Mountain is winning the mindshare game when everytime I think of driving to Snowshoe I think “but Laurel is 2hrs closer, less crowded, and more challenging.” I might end up with a season pass there next year instead of the shoe..

5 months ago

I might have talked to you in front of the fireplace yesterday, my wife was working on the fire. we quit around noon

going up this afternoon drift hunting

5 months ago

oddballstocks wrote:

I have a season pass to Snowshoe, but I’d say Laurel Mountain is winning the mindshare game when everytime I think of driving to Snowshoe I think “but Laurel is 2hrs closer, less crowded, and more challenging.” I might end up with a season pass there next year instead of the shoe..

Funny you said that.  I’m considering foregoing a Western trip in 2019 and buying a Highlands Pass to compliment my SS pass.  I work four 10s so I have Fri - Sun off.  That 4.5 hr SS drive (for me) is a pain.  And I could do A LOT of day trips to 7S HV LM including holidays.

 

5 months ago

you both can’t come that would cause a crowd. weekdays a crowd is seeing someone in the lift line!!

5 months ago

I talked with someone by the fire around 2pm. I was wearing an orange coat with black pants.  I sat at the bar at lunch and talked to someone about skiing Utah.

 

5 months ago

I’m so happy you enjoyed your private day at Laurel. You have discovered what too few people have discovered. That is Laurel may be small acreage-wise but there is challenge and the vertical is good for PA ski resorts. Laurel will really shine if mother nature provides a season long snow pack like it did in the 1980s.  

5 months ago

I hope they sold enough season passes and they get enough walk ups to make the resort financially viable. While it is great to ski at an uncrowded ski resort, they also need to make money.  That said, it has been so cold that some people just don’t want to ski when it is that cold, except us diehards.

5 months ago

Laurel needs visitors or it will go away again. Laurel needs more snowmaking to cover the rest of the trails but it is the classic chicken and egg story….Catch 22. Let’s hope the weather breaks enough to make it bearable outside but not melt away what natural snow is left. I hope to clear more glades next off season. I hope dedicated skiers find Laurel and give it a try a few times at least. especially if they are at Seven Springs or Hidden Valley for the weekend. It is a bit of a drive but I think it is well worth it. Ligonier is a real town, nice restaurants and shops, bowling alley with a good restaurant and nice selection of brews, movie theater on weekends, nice town square. It may not be Stowe but sure is nice.

5 months ago

I spoke with a few employees and a patroller about this.  Here’s what I heard:

1) Last year was a mess.  They had no idea what they were doing and there were a lot of growing pains

2) Seven Springs is trying to re-negotiate their lease. There is another company trying to edge them out. PA said they have too much invested, they want something to operate it.

3) So far the numbers for this year seem alright.  Everyone seemed to think this year was on much better footing.  Someone said the bar on Friday nights pays for most of the weekend.

I did a few back of the envelope calculations.  A walk-up ticket is $44, I spent another $20 on food, beer, so $65 for the day.  If there are 20 paying customers there we’re talking $1200 gross per day.

The patroller said there was only one paid patroller on staff.  There was a single person behind the desk, another two in the lodge and the bar tender.  There might have been a person in the kitchen, let’s say five total.  There were three lift operators, so eight people at the resort?  If they each make $15/hour that’s $960 for eight hours of labor.  That gives them $300 to pay for the electricity for the lift, lights in the lodge.

I found an estimate that a single lift uses about 120 KW of electricity per day.  West Penn power charges $.0641 per kwh, so $7.69 per hour to operate a lift.  For eight hours it’s $61 in electricity usage.  Let’s toss in another $10 for the lodge’s electric and heat per day.  So $71 per day.

All-in we’re looking at $1031 in operating costs for eight hours on a skeleton crew.  And that’s covered by 23 ticket sales per day.

This is total back of the envelope, but seeing how thin they run it seems like they can cover the costs of a meager day with just a few people. Granted I left out insurance, and snow making, and the start-up, shut-down expense.  But as an ongoing entity I don’t think operating costs are crazy.

Where resorts get killed is they have to save a lot of their revenue for large capex items, groomers, lifts, new snow guns. That’s what takes a lot of money.  But on a day to day I think Laurel is feasible with even a small number of walk-ups if they get a bump on weekends.  A few hundred tickets sold per weekend gives them more than enough to operate empty throughout the week.

 

5 months ago

Do you have any idea how many season passes were sold.  I think ticket sales are depressed by the very cold weather. This includes HV and 7s. 

I think Ligonier is a great town. Table 105 is a great restaurant and there are many others.

I seem to remember the study done by the Jack Johnson Company mentioned something about break even being about 100k skier visits per year.

 

5 months ago

the Jack Johnson report used 7 springs 2004-5 numbers for starting and expected an increase of about 3%

for their projections. 20,000-21,000 was  their expectation. This would be a loss after paying for the repairs needed at this time.

eliminating the loss in the tubing park would be a break even.

(yes I have the report in front of me)

 

5 months ago

there are 4 lift ops + suprvisor

2 paid patrollers

staff is bigger than your guess but not by much.

I am not an employee of Laurel or 7 springs just around a lot

5 months ago

Question - why did their trail count go DOWN from 18, then 17 and now 15 today?  My guess is natural only areas are skied out by now.

I’ve been holding out for them to be 100% open.  I really want my first impression to be a good one.   It’s the shortest drive for me and all the talk leads me to believe it’s a special gem that I could call my “second” home mountain. 

 

 

5 months ago

oddballstocks wrote:

I spoke with a few employees and a patroller about this.  Here’s what I heard:

1) Last year was a mess.  They had no idea what they were doing and there were a lot of growing pains

2) Seven Springs is trying to re-negotiate their lease. There is another company trying to edge them out. PA said they have too much invested, they want something to operate it.

3) So far the numbers for this year seem alright.  Everyone seemed to think this year was on much better footing.  Someone said the bar on Friday nights pays for most of the weekend.

I did a few back of the envelope calculations.  A walk-up ticket is $44, I spent another $20 on food, beer, so $65 for the day.  If there are 20 paying customers there we’re talking $1200 gross per day.

The patroller said there was only one paid patroller on staff.  There was a single person behind the desk, another two in the lodge and the bar tender.  There might have been a person in the kitchen, let’s say five total.  There were three lift operators, so eight people at the resort?  If they each make $15/hour that’s $960 for eight hours of labor.  That gives them $300 to pay for the electricity for the lift, lights in the lodge.

I found an estimate that a single lift uses about 120 KW of electricity per day.  West Penn power charges $.0641 per kwh, so $7.69 per hour to operate a lift.  For eight hours it’s $61 in electricity usage.  Let’s toss in another $10 for the lodge’s electric and heat per day.  So $71 per day.

All-in we’re looking at $1031 in operating costs for eight hours on a skeleton crew.  And that’s covered by 23 ticket sales per day.

This is total back of the envelope, but seeing how thin they run it seems like they can cover the costs of a meager day with just a few people. Granted I left out insurance, and snow making, and the start-up, shut-down expense.  But as an ongoing entity I don’t think operating costs are crazy.

Where resorts get killed is they have to save a lot of their revenue for large capex items, groomers, lifts, new snow guns. That’s what takes a lot of money.  But on a day to day I think Laurel is feasible with even a small number of walk-ups if they get a bump on weekends.  A few hundred tickets sold per weekend gives them more than enough to operate empty throughout the week.

 

Well, you did leave out the most expensive items, insurance and snowmaking and the approximately $3 million that Seven Springs invested including purchase price (private assets not owned by the state). I’m not privy to their finances so I’m guessing too. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your political bent, the $6.5 million the state invested does not have to be recouped but yes, the state wants this up and running given the money that is coming out of the state park budget and the $6.5 that came out of the state’s capital improvements budget. It would seem reasonable to assume that there is another credible operator waiting in the wings but I have my doubts. When George Mowl operated Laurel in the early 2000 he built the current lodge, upgraded the snowmaking and installed a second quad, although used and slower than the triples at Timberline (lift was removed, there was a reason it ran slow). When he couldn’t make a go of it there were no credible investor/operators that showed interest in what was a turn key operating. Seven Springs (when Dupre still own it) gave a go for one season then said, no thanks. Perhaps the most important revenue generator for modern ski resorts are forbidden by agreement with the state and the Mellon Foundation, Mellon gave the operation to the state. That is, no real estate development and no summer operation.

I would not be so sure about the state’s willingness to continue to support this operation.  I am still surprised, given the political climate, that tax money was used at all. Depending on the political winds, Laurel can still be blown away, used a an example of government overreach and wasteful spending. Forgive my alarmist point of view but if Bob Nutting can’t figure out how to at least break even then I doubt another less experienced operator could do better.

Snowsmith, I do not have the figures to answer your question and I hate to report unsubstantiated information but I heard  that Laurel’s revenues last season were half of what was needed to break even. 

My only point is this, it is up to the consumer to make a business successful, that’s a no brainer. I’m just asking serious skiers/boarders to give Laurel a try especially if you’ve never done so. What is not to like about long trails, steep challenge and near empty slopes?

Also, I am not an employee, just a season pass holder.

 

5 months ago

Blue Don 1982 wrote:

Question - why did their trail count go DOWN from 18, then 17 and now 15 today?  My guess is natural only areas are skied out by now.

I’ve been holding out for them to be 100% open.  I really want my first impression to be a good one.   It’s the shortest drive for me and all the talk leads me to believe it’s a special gem that I could call my “second” home mountain. 

 

 

Natural snow trails are getting tracked out and bare. You’ve got to get it when it’s there, this is the mid-Atlantic after all.

5 months ago

I would go when Wildcat, Laurel Run, and Upper Broadway are open.  That’s all you need.  Don’t wait, get out there!

Blue Don 1982 wrote:

Question - why did their trail count go DOWN from 18, then 17 and now 15 today?  My guess is natural only areas are skied out by now.

I’ve been holding out for them to be 100% open.  I really want my first impression to be a good one.   It’s the shortest drive for me and all the talk leads me to believe it’s a special gem that I could call my “second” home mountain. 

 

 

 

5 months ago

Laurel Hill Crazie wrote:

oddballstocks wrote:

I spoke with a few employees and a patroller about this.  Here’s what I heard:

1) Last year was a mess.  They had no idea what they were doing and there were a lot of growing pains

2) Seven Springs is trying to re-negotiate their lease. There is another company trying to edge them out. PA said they have too much invested, they want something to operate it.

3) So far the numbers for this year seem alright.  Everyone seemed to think this year was on much better footing.  Someone said the bar on Friday nights pays for most of the weekend.

I did a few back of the envelope calculations.  A walk-up ticket is $44, I spent another $20 on food, beer, so $65 for the day.  If there are 20 paying customers there we’re talking $1200 gross per day.

The patroller said there was only one paid patroller on staff.  There was a single person behind the desk, another two in the lodge and the bar tender.  There might have been a person in the kitchen, let’s say five total.  There were three lift operators, so eight people at the resort?  If they each make $15/hour that’s $960 for eight hours of labor.  That gives them $300 to pay for the electricity for the lift, lights in the lodge.

I found an estimate that a single lift uses about 120 KW of electricity per day.  West Penn power charges $.0641 per kwh, so $7.69 per hour to operate a lift.  For eight hours it’s $61 in electricity usage.  Let’s toss in another $10 for the lodge’s electric and heat per day.  So $71 per day.

All-in we’re looking at $1031 in operating costs for eight hours on a skeleton crew.  And that’s covered by 23 ticket sales per day.

This is total back of the envelope, but seeing how thin they run it seems like they can cover the costs of a meager day with just a few people. Granted I left out insurance, and snow making, and the start-up, shut-down expense.  But as an ongoing entity I don’t think operating costs are crazy.

Where resorts get killed is they have to save a lot of their revenue for large capex items, groomers, lifts, new snow guns. That’s what takes a lot of money.  But on a day to day I think Laurel is feasible with even a small number of walk-ups if they get a bump on weekends.  A few hundred tickets sold per weekend gives them more than enough to operate empty throughout the week.

 

Well, you did leave out the most expensive items, insurance and snowmaking and the approximately $3 million that Seven Springs invested including purchase price (private assets not owned by the state). I’m not privy to their finances so I’m guessing too. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your political bent, the $6.5 million the state invested does not have to be recouped but yes, the state wants this up and running given the money that is coming out of the state park budget and the $6.5 that came out of the state’s capital improvements budget. It would seem reasonable to assume that there is another credible operator waiting in the wings but I have my doubts. When George Mowl operated Laurel in the early 2000 he built the current lodge, upgraded the snowmaking and installed a second quad, although used and slower than the triples at Timberline (lift was removed, there was a reason it ran slow). When he couldn’t make a go of it there were no credible investor/operators that showed interest in what was a turn key operating. Seven Springs (when Dupre still own it) gave a go for one season then said, no thanks. Perhaps the most important revenue generator for modern ski resorts are forbidden by agreement with the state and the Mellon Foundation, Mellon gave the operation to the state. That is, no real estate development and no summer operation.

I would not be so sure about the state’s willingness to continue to support this operation.  I am still surprised, given the political climate, that tax money was used at all. Depending on the political winds, Laurel can still be blown away, used a an example of government overreach and wasteful spending. Forgive my alarmist point of view but if Bob Nutting can’t figure out how to at least break even then I doubt another less experienced operator could do better.

Snowsmith, I do not have the figures to answer your question and I hate to report unsubstantiated information but I heard  that Laurel’s revenues last season were half of what was needed to break even. 

My only point is this, it is up to the consumer to make a business successful, that’s a no brainer. I’m just asking serious skiers/boarders to give Laurel a try especially if you’ve never done so. What is not to like about long trails, steep challenge and near empty slopes?

Also, I am not an employee, just a season pass holder.

 

The patroller said the company wanting to bid on the lease is an operator who owns a number of resorts and specializes in small places.  It might be Peak Resorts, I know they own some in Michigan and Ohio, he mentioned Michigan.  The issue is they want to lock it up for 25 years vs whatever Seven Springs wants.  I guess there’s some back and forth.

I did leave out insurance and snow making.  Insurance shouldn’t be bad.  I have a $1m general liab policy for my company and it’s $35 a month.  Say they need $100m in liability, which is really high, it might be $3500 a month.

In terms of snowmaking I found an article that said costs range from $70 to $2000 per acre foot depending on how new the guns are.  I don’t know how new these guns are, the resort is newer, so maybe they’re efficient?

There are a lot of upfront costs, but those are sunk costs at this point.  Whether they spend $6.5m or not doesn’t matter, all that matters at this point are ongoing operating expenses, unless they financed all of this with debt, but since the state financed it we’ll leave that out.

I think 20,000 visitors makes sense.  If they’re open three months that’s 90 operating days, or 222 visitors per day to hit that.  I think most lifts about about 60-70 chairs, but only half are used at once.  So there’d be uphill capacity of 105 at once.  That means if there’s a line and all of the chairs are filled there are 105 at the resort.

I do hope they stay in business.  They could do a lot to make the place better, but I get the feeling they’re hamstrung by the Mellon’s who have control over the land.  

My goal is to ski it as much as possible because I know for now it’s open.  We’re considering resurrecting the ski club in our district in a few years when my oldest would be able to use it.  If we do that I’d go to Laurel for sure. We helped run the ski club and went to the springs..never again..

5 months ago

oddballstocks, I like your attitude.

5 months ago

Laurel Hill Crazie wrote:

oddballstocks, I like your attitude.

Agreed.  

If Wildcat, Laurel Run, and Upper Broadway are open, get out there!  You’ll find good variety, get a great sense of what LM has to offer, and experience a welcoming, rustic “modernized throwback” vibe both in the lodge and on the slopes.  I spent a fine day at LM last year, accidentally bumping into Laurel Hill Crazie, JimK, and friends and skiing with them the entire time, then getting some behind-the-scenes insights from Imp.

Don’t miss out!

Woody

5 months ago

Blue Don 1982 wrote:

……I’ve been holding out for them to be 100% open.  I really want my first impression to be a good one.   It’s the shortest drive for me and all the talk leads me to believe it’s a special gem that I could call my “second” home mountain. 

Blue Don, this is what you’ve been waiting for, straight from Laurel’s GM posted on the Support Laurel Mountain Facebook page.

Chris Plummer

57 mins

While you are enjoying The Bricks…thanks to our INCREDIBLE Mtn Operations team, Ski Patrol team and Sarah…100% open tomorrow for the first time in a really, really long time.

5 months ago

I did not know they could make snow on Dream Highway? Wish I could be there, damnit! 

 

5 months ago

There is no snowmaking on Dream Highway unless it was pushed from piles. I’ll let you know.

5 months ago

patrol spent hours picking rocks off, as did some pass holders. rocky corner will be rocky. packed with snowmobile

p-tex is cheap!!

5 months ago

Rats- I missed this post and  prepaid via Liftopia on Sat for Wisp on Sunday (today).

We have plans to hit Laurel in 2 weeks

5 months ago

Rats- I missed this post and  prepaid via Liftopia on Sat for Wisp on Sunday (today).

We have plans to hit Laurel in 2 weeks

5 months ago

All trails were indeed open today although Dream Highway, the very last run out at the bottom, was more like Rocky Road but one could still pick your way. The public demanded it be open and management accommodated. Laurel Run was beautiful natural packed powder. Lincoln Highway is becoming a real favorite, Laurel’s all natural terrain park. Doc’s Forest still had freshies, believe it or not. It is pretty thin in there too but very skiable. All the machine made snow trails were buffed to perfection. If you are a bump fan you would be disappointed, only little bumps in a narrow line on skier’s right on Lower. Old Snow Bowl, under the chair at the top, had heavy drift, barely tracked. I was going easy today, didn’t want risk injury because my son and I are headed to Sugarbush.

I’ll try to post some video from my son’s go pro.

 

5 months ago

imp wrote:

patrol spent hours picking rocks off, as did some pass holders. rocky corner will be rocky. packed with snowmobile

p-tex is cheap!!

Right there is more than enough reason to love Laurel. And like oddball said, ski it as much I can while it’s open.

And LHC’s day, wow, just perfect.  natural packed powder. Lincoln Highway ….natural terrain park. Doc’s Forest … freshies, etc.

Hoping i can get away from HV next weekend for a few hours there.

 

5 months ago

Kind of shocked to hear about someone else looking into leasing Laurel. I was under the impression, maybe mistakenly, that Nutting exended the lease by another 10 years to 2028.

5 months ago

LHC,

Will you be at LM most weekends? Will try to arrange a day there this season and would love to meet up for some turns.

 

5 months ago

I am tentatively hoping to ski with LHC at LM on Feb 18 and 19.  I’m figuring it will be one of the best places for modest crowds on Prez Weekend.

5 months ago

JimK wrote:

I am tentatively hoping to ski with LHC at LM on Feb 18 and 19.  I’m figuring it will be one of the best places for modest crowds on Prez Weekend.

I went to LM last year for my 2nd time on Prez Day when it was about 50+ degrees and slow and sunny. The person at the ticket desk gave me a discount for a day pass. I told her it’s a big holiday, you’re doing this wrong - charge more. Good chance I’ll be there again over Prez weekend

marzNC - DCSki Supporter
5 months ago

Sounds like a DC gathering over Pres. Day weekend is brewing. :-)

I was hoping to check out Laurel this week, starting from Massanutten, but have got stuff I needed to do at home in between Massanutten ski weekends.

5 months ago

wgo wrote:

LHC,

Will you be at LM most weekends? Will try to arrange a day there this season and would love to meet up for some turns.

 

It has become difficult to plan ahead too far. My wife has a fractured tibia plateau and cannot put weight on her leg as yet so I’m her slave… I mean loving helper. She is insisting that my son and I go to Vermont this week for a previously planned vacation but I imagine I’ll be busy when I return. She will stay home and focus on rehab. She hopes to salvage the big March Utah Gathering. Just post here or send me a message and if I can get away I’ll meet you or anybody else if I can.

5 months ago

camp wrote:

JimK wrote:

I am tentatively hoping to ski with LHC at LM on Feb 18 and 19.  I’m figuring it will be one of the best places for modest crowds on Prez Weekend.

I went to LM last year for my 2nd time on Prez Day when it was about 50+ degrees and slow and sunny. The person at the ticket desk gave me a discount for a day pass. I told her it’s a big holiday, you’re doing this wrong - charge more. Good chance I’ll be there again over Prez weekend

Jim, word is getting out. I had to actually wait in line for 6 people to load the chair. Seriously, the parking lot was full. Nearly every chair carried at least two people but the trails were still near empty even though the lodge was full. That quad moves along for a fixed grip and the hill, though small acreage wise, spreads them out.

Camp, you won’t find better customer service. Sarah, Chris, and the mountain crew really try to keep folks happy.

We are getting a few inches of heavy snow here in the western lowlands. Hopefully more in the mountains. It is just the type of snow that will make a good base. Now if it will survive the pending thaw later this week the entire mountain should remain open.

 

5 months ago

marzNC wrote:

Sounds like a DC gathering over Pres. Day weekend is brewing. :-)

I’d be interested to attend the gathering if it will be over the Pres.day weekend.  

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