DCSki Exclusive Interview: Jim Kettler, Owner of Hidden Valley Resort 15
Author thumbnail By M. Scott Smith, DCSki Editor

The Hidden Valley Resort community is a 1,500-acre, master planned, four season resort located in the Laurel Highlands of western Pennsylvania. The master plan includes 3,000 homes, with amenities such as a ski area, golf course, pools, lakes, and trails. 1,200 homes are currently located at the resort, and a golf course has been completed. Hidden Valley plans one additional major ski area expansion in the next few years, which will add six additional slopes.

Over the past year, there have been various media reports and rumors swirling about Hidden Valley Resort changing ownership. DCSki recently contacted Jim Kettler, owner of Hidden Valley Resort, and Mr. Kettler agreed to be interviewed by DCSki.


DCSki: What are the challenges of running a ski area in the Mid-Atlantic today?

Jim Kettler: Operating a ski area in the Mid-Atlantic area is as challenging today as it was 10, 20 and 30 years ago. A major factor in operating a ski area in the Mid-Atlantic is the weather. The ski business is a lot like farming, very dependent on proper weather conditions for a successful year. The challenge is to be able to adapt to ever-changing weather conditions while providing a pleasant environment on and off the slopes. And the ability to make snow, which is one thing management cannot control. We have invested heavily in a snow making system that can produce mountains of snow every night, given the proper conditions. We have not figured out how to make snow above 32 degrees.

DCSki: What trends have you noticed?

Kettler: Hidden Valley is a family-oriented resort, dedicated to teaching the thrill of skiing and snowboarding in a friendly relaxed environment. Although we are the fourth largest ski area in Pennsylvania, we are primarily a “day” ski area versus a “destination” area. A major trend we have noticed over the past 10 years is the “competition” we have with other organized sports. High school and middle school sports programs, along with many private sports groups, are requiring students to participate in winter training and clinics, and therefore pulling a large percentage of our demographic group off the slopes. Another trend over the past 10 years is the growth of “alternative” ways to slide down the hill. Snowboarding was thought to be “just a fad,” but has developed into a major sport on its own. Tubing has allowed those to visit the Resort, without the cost and skills needed to ski or snowboard. Resorts like Hidden Valley will continue to offer alternative activities for winter fun on the slopes or off.

DCSki: There have been various rumors and reports about Hidden Valley Resort changing ownership, but a year after these rumors started, that hasn’t happened. What is the current status of this - are you currently exploring selling all or part of the resort? If you are unable to find an appropriate buyer, will you continue to operate and invest in the resort and its ski operations?

Kettler: Last year I decided to explore the possibility of selling the Resort. Aside from Hidden Valley Resort, I also own and manage a development and homebuilding business in the Washington metropolitan area, to include Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, and southern Pennsylvania. Consolidation of my business activities seems to make some sense at this time in my career. Our neighbor, Seven Springs had been on the market for the past 6 years and was going after a slots parlor license. Laurel Mountain ski area had opened and closed again, and is currently on the market. With all this attention to the area, it seemed an opportune time to market the Resort to larger players who are looking for opportunities in the area. Over the past year, we have had many conversations with a variety of businesses from around the country, but to date have not found a buyer for the entire Resort. I cannot comment on any specifics of any discussions with any groups, due to confidentiality agreements. However, the sale of the Resort was not expected to happen quickly, and it is our intention to continue to run and operate Hidden Valley with a view toward improving the quality of the experience for the homeowner and guest. It is a complex transaction requiring the right company with the right vision to move Hidden Valley forward. If I wanted to get out for a quick buck, and did not care about the future of the Resort, I could have been out of here long ago. If we do not find a buyer that meets our criteria, then we will continue with our plans for the growth of Hidden Valley.

DCSki: If I recall correctly, the last major trail expansion at Hidden Valley was made during the summer of 2001, when three additional slopes were cut. Are there tentative plans to cut a few new runs to the left of the North Summit Slopes?

Kettler: The master plan does show one more major slope expansion in an area known as the “Outback.” We have started in this area by locating our tubing center at the base of the future slope expansion. We have also begun the development of a secondary base area, with a restaurant, bar, cross country ski center and lounges. The Outback slope expansion is planned to occur within the next five years, conditions permitting.

DCSki: Why did the Conference Center shut down this past summer? Do you expect it to re-open in the future?

Kettler: This past spring, it was decided to close the Conference Center. The primary reason for this was the lack of conferences at the Resort. The Conference Center at Hidden Valley was originally designed in 1980 as an executive conference center, catering to the large number of corporate headquarters in Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh used to have the largest concentration of corporate headquarters in the U.S. Unfortunately, in the 1990’s, with the rise of mergers and acquisition in the corporate world, most of those corporate headquarters moved out of the area. Anyone who lives and works in Pittsburgh understands this tidal change. Then after 9-11, corporations shied away from traveling to conferences, and started exploiting technologies to meet without leaving the office. At the same time, a lot of local and state governments used tax dollars to build conference centers for local economic development - think Rocky Gap, Bedford Conference Center, etc. At this time we are exploring options for this facility, but have decided to keep it closed for the time being.

DCSki: What activities have been scaled back at Hidden Valley Resort, and why?

Kettler: No activities have been scaled back at Hidden Valley. The perception of a few individuals stems from the fact that we now limit some operations of the Resort during low periods of business. Similar to beach towns off season, the lack of traffic dictates limiting some operations, and reopening in the summer. Instead of one restaurant open year round at Hidden Valley, we now offer various venues based on the season. Mulligans is open at the golf course in the summer, while the base lodge and the Outback are open in the winter. The Somerset area has added a lot of restaurants in the past 10 year, that we think it compliments the dining options for those who live in or visit Hidden Valley.

DCSki: Several DCSki readers have described Hidden Valley Resort as a “diamond in the rough” with a lot of untapped potential. Do you agree?

Kettler: “Diamond in the Rough” is a term we use for Hidden Valley as it relates to the geographic area we are in. The Laurel Mountains is part of Appalachia, and has a background as a coal producing area with very low wages. The median income for the Somerset area is $25,000 for a family of four versus a median of $125,000 for the DC metro area. If you visit the area you will see that Hidden Valley is truly a “diamond in the rough,” a real jewel. We are in a “rough” area, however Hidden Valley is by far the most creative, attractive, and superior quality community in all of Somerset County, if not the entire Laurel Highlands!

DCSki: Laurel Mountain Ski Resort, which is not far from Hidden Valley and Seven Springs, has had a rough go these past few years, and it sounds like it will remain closed for the 2006-2007 winter season. After re-opening in 1999, Laurel suffered from some warm winters and other misfortunes. Do you believe the Laurel Highlands area of Pennsylvania can attract enough skier visits to support three ski areas?

Kettler: We are concerned that Laurel Mountain has not reopened. We think it is a major asset to the area and offers a variety of skiing that no other areas can offer. We absolutely think the Laurel Highlands can support three ski areas, however, Laurel Mountain has some unique challenges that make it hard for any operator. Unfortunately, we had the same poor winters that they had when they opened, and the winters since they closed have been no better. Global warming, El Nino, the alignment of the moon… call it what you want, but the past seven years of Mid-Atlantic winters have been some of the “worst” on record. This will continue to be one of our biggest challenges, one we cannot control. The good news is that our location allows Hidden Valley to get more natural snow than most (due to lake effect snows) and at 3,000 feet, we have 50% more snow making opportunities than other ski areas to the east.

DCSki: Do you see any potential in the future for some kind of shared lift pass between Hidden Valley Resort and Seven Springs, similar to the “Ski the Valley” partnership that Canaan Valley and Timberline Resorts once had?

Kettler: One of the most frequently asked questions of me is why does Hidden Valley not offer a “dual” ticket that includes Seven Springs. We tried for years to make this a possibility, however the reality is that Seven Springs is much larger and had the mindset that there was no benefit to them to offer a “dual” ticket. So to solve this dilemma, Hidden Valley was able to make this happen by being the first ski area in the region to offer a $200 season pass. If you noticed, the year after we introduced a $200 season pass, Seven Springs responded by offering their season pass for under $300. At that point, a homeowner who wanted to ski both resorts could buy both season passes for less than one resort season pass in previous years. One major deterrent to skiing is the cost, especially for the family. A family of four used to need over $2,000 for season passes, and now they can get the season for under $1,000. We think this is a great opportunity for families and part of our strategy to attract the family to ski at Hidden Valley.

Another major strategy for the less expensive season pass was to reduce the “peak” periods at the ski area. All ski operators deal with the problem of “peaks and valleys” and I’m not talking terrain. The weeks are slow and the weekends are busy. We used to have a crush of people between noon and 2 p.m. on Saturday. The less expensive season pass allows many to ski off peak to avoid the crush. It also offers a better experience for our visitors and allows for better customer service. This has worked out very well for the Resort and its customers.

DCSki: Do you view Seven Springs as a competitor?

Kettler: Obviously Seven Springs is a major competitor, but it is also a major asset in the area. Just as a shopping mall has “anchor” stores to drive traffic, Seven Springs and Hidden Valley feed off of each other to bring more skiers to the region. As the ski industry matures, the competition we see is not from a specific resort, but from ski “regions” that are trying to attract our customers. This is also the case for golf and general resort attractions. The Laurel Highland Bureau was created a few years ago to promote the area for year-round enjoyment… ski in the winter… rivers, rails to trails, etc in the summer. We are very excited about the new ownership at Seven Springs and know that with this new ownership will introduce major improvements to attract more people to the area.

DCSki: This past summer, Seven Springs Resort was sold to the Nutting family. What impact do you believe that will have on Seven Springs, and the Laurel Highlands region?

Kettler: The sale of Seven Springs is great news for the Laurel Highlands region. The previous owners of Seven Springs had developed a real nice master plan for their growth, and the new owners have the ability to make this plan a reality. Obviously, at Hidden Valley, we are watching to see what they do, and then work our plans accordingly. Now that slots have been removed from Seven Springs, we understand that the Nuttings will focus on attracting families to their resort. This is good news for Hidden Valley and the homeowners, who can live and play at Hidden Valley, and can also enjoy the amenities just 15 minutes away.

DCSki: Homeowners at Hidden Valley are, not surprisingly, some of the most vocal critics and the most vocal supporters of the resort. Some have reported feeling increasingly disconnected from the operations of the resort, and growing unease over the uncertainty of Hidden Valley’s ownership. What message would you give them, and what opportunities are available for homeowners to “stay in the loop” if they’re feeling disconnected?

Kettler: Hidden Valley is maturing into a full time resort community. Our goal over the past five years has been to move away from secondary home to providing homes that attract full time residences, those working in the area, or retirees. We think this is working well. We now have over 100 full time residents, and many more “seasonal” residents. I am not aware of any other resort in the region that has this amount of full time residents, or is designed to attract full time residents. Most resorts are designed for “transient” guests. We see Hidden Valley as a full time community, with all the pros and cons that brings. People are very emotional about where they live, and many are concerned about anything that happens in “their” community. As we grow and adapt to market conditions at Hidden Valley, homeowners will become more vocal and interested in the community’s growth and direction. This is good news! With a geographically diverse community, communication with homeowners is a challenge. We have our web site to keep everyone up to date on activities at the Resort, and the Homeowners Association has a web site to help keep homeowners informed.

DCSki: If you could fast forward ten years into the future, what would you expect Hidden Valley Resort to look like?

Kettler: We expect to grow Hidden Valley per the master plan. By then we will have a new golf village being developed around the existing club house. We expect to have the final ski expansions complete, and will be embarking on a new ski community around the “Outback” area. As the community grows, we will introduce new community amenities, like additional pools, tennis courts and other “active” and “passive” recreational facilities.

DCSki: Do you have any other comments you would like to share with DCSki readers?

Kettler: Hidden Valley is one of the finest resorts in the region! I have a very dedicated management and group of employees who work tirelessly to make Hidden Valley better every day. We are always looking for new ways improve one’s “experience” at the Resort, and will continue on this path. We hope that some of your readers will check us out this winter, and experience the Resort for themselves.

One more thing… remember… THINK SNOW.

DCSki: Thanks for taking the time to chat with DCSki.

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About M. Scott Smith

M. Scott Smith is the founder and Editor of DCSki. Scott loves outdoor activities such as camping, hiking, kayaking, skiing, and mountain biking. He is an avid photographer and writer.

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Reader Comments

Frederick
November 8, 2006
A big thanks to Jim Kettler and Scott. This article went a long way in a good direction for Hidden Valley. Mr. Kettler, it is great to see your enthusiasm still remains for this beautiful place. Just knowing you're on board for the success of the place goes a long way. Please continue to keep feeding us the scoop...whether it is in advertisements...radio...or DCSki..we want to be a part of this place. People will always be faithful if they know things are moving in the right direction.
Iwan F Fuchs
November 13, 2006
Thank you Jim for the wonderful insight of HV. The only concern for me is your strategy for taking the peak time approach. peaks and valleys are allways here and wont go away as long as we have a 5 day work week. HV needs a better system for offering different price structures. You want to make money during the peak time. What happened now is you buy the season pass for about 200$ but still go on peak times because its cheaper. HV Price structure needs to change to max profit. Snowpass or a chip system could take care of different price structures.
pfk
December 13, 2006
As someone who has spent a majority of his youth growing up in Hidden Valley as a full time resident, I was really hoping that Mr. M. Scott Smith would take Mr. Kettler to task on the consistently deteriorating conditions of the resort and the constant bungling and inept management that he thoughtlessly continues to hire. Anybody who spent any time at Hidden Valley on the weekends during the 90's can remember what a great place the resort was for so many. Lift lines were long, restaurants were packed while actually serving half-decent fare, bars were hopping and the local entertainment wasn't half bad. There were events like winter carnivals, live bands, outdoor cookouts and regular Sunday ski races that really got people excited. These days? Locals are wondering if their fair resort will even be opening for the winter, let alone live up to the level of service that now seems but a fleeting memory. Mr. Kettler talks self-righteously about..."requiring the right company with the right vision to move Hidden Valley forward." He says, "If I wanted to get out for a quick buck, and did not care about the future of the Resort, I could have been out of here long ago." Save your shameless self-promotion as an owner with a heart for some other saps because you are insulting the readers Mr. Kettler. If you care one iota about your resort, you would have stepped up to the plate and hired a competent firm to manage the resort that you have so clearly forsaken in favor of your other ventures. While Hidden Valley continues on its downward spiral of decreasing revenues, crumbling assets and increasingly pathetic image you talk about growth, master plans and finding new ways to improve the experience. When the year-long residents have for years been begging for the resort to be sold, you should finally realize that you are coming up far short of your self-declared goal to be "one of the finest resorts in the region."
DCSki Reader
December 13, 2006
Some seem to think that selling Hidden Valley Resort would be a panacea and solve all existing problems. But there has to be a buyer that is willing to make the changes and investments you all talk about. Have you considered that there simply might not have been an appropriate buyer yet? Some buyers might not be interested in running the ski area at all. Or there may simply be no buyers in the current market. It's easy to say "sell," hoping that would fix problems, but if there isn't a buyer, you can't sell. And what would keep homeowners from organizing events such as winter carnivals, etc.? It seems like the homeowners are more empowered than they might think. It is your community. Also, with skier visits down, it might be difficult for Hidden Valley to make substantial improvements. You can argue that it takes investments to attract skiers, but there are nearby resorts with much deeper pockets to compete with. To me, part of HIdden Valley's charm is that it is a smaller area that is less crowded and less commercialized.
HV Lifer
December 13, 2006
''Hidden Valley is one of the finest resorts in the region! I have a very dedicated management and group of employees who work tirelessly to make Hidden Valley better every day. We are always looking for new ways improve ones 'experience' at the Resort, and will continue on this path.''

I laughed so hard my stomach hurt and then I began to weep for my lost resort. Get a grip Mr. Kettler, The fact that you think todays Hidden Valley is in any position to compete with the likes of Seven Springs and Nemacolin is laughable.
HV Lifer
December 13, 2006
Hidden Valley needs to be sold. There is nothing attractive and quaint about a near forgotten resort that is run by someone willing to develop every square inch of possible real estate. As someone who spent the majority of my formative years in and around Hidden Valley it sickens me to see the smallest tracts of land in the resort have had McTownhoses thrown up all over them. Driving around the resort today, you can almost hear the developers screaming for more profit by putting characterless units on all but the smallest plots. Gone is the cozy feeling of a close-knit mountain community and here to stay is the growing feeling that despite driving for a few hours, you have never left the suburbs.

Now the Conference Center is the latest on a long list of casualties that have fallen victim to the lack of interest and drive by the management of Hidden Valley. Remember the Bi-annual Mountain Bike Races held on the long forgotten miles of single-track? Rental boats and canoes? Where are the tennis clinics and kids nights on the lake and all the other family events held in the racquet club? How about just taking a walk? Even the trails are all but gone due to almost no upkeep and care. The next time you have a chance, take Gardener Rd out of the resort past the golf course. Go down the hill a ways and pull into the maintenance area on your right hand side. Now walk back onto the Golf Course and take a good look around you. Thats right. The TREES are GONE. Admittedly, I do not have all the facts; but common sense tells me that the ownership would have to have a hand in allowing the Hidden Valley Gold Course to be LOGGED! Shame on whoever allowed that, I hope you made a lot of money in the deal.

Sure some amenities still exist but Hidden Valleys luster has been lost. Mr. Kettler, how can you look us in the eye and say that you care even a little bit about the quality of life in Hidden Valley? Your record has shown little or no growth in the amenities of our resort and you dare to tell us that you and your staff are ''working tirelessy'' to improve it? If you did care, you would have scaled back the high-profit overdevelopment just a bit. The fact that you would dare say you care is sickening.

Please sell our resort, Mr Kettler. You will not be missed.
Frederick
December 13, 2006
DC Ski Reader,

Sorry to be frank but you are missing the point. Would you buy Hidden Valley in the state it is in? I would venture to say no. Example, if I were to sell my home, I would make every attempt to increase the value and the selling potential, painting, cleaning, good advertising, etc. Hidden Valley has done nothing. They have actually made the resort value decrease by not maintaining facilities, by not maintaining skier visits, by not advertising..all these things decrease buyers interest. We are talking pennines here to fix these issues. These are not big investments. These are minimal improvements. Are you telling me the the owner doesn't have a set of labors from his home building buisness that he can't send up for two weeks to paint the facilites, fix the road railings, and other general maintenance etc. Don't make excuses. If I were manager, all its takes is a group of family members for the weekend to spruce up some of these issues. The process to sell the place may take some time but you shouldn't cut yourself short and expect the worse from Hidden Valley management and the owner in the meantime. People aren't asking for a circus atmosphere here, they just want the place to be taken care of and a sense of success. If I wanted to organize my own neighborhood events, I can do that in my first home community. People buy homes in a resort for the four seasons resort. Without the resort you just have a typical home in the country. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for HV foundation events and community gatherings but not in order for my neighbor (Hidden Valley owner) to paint his lodge. Thats why you have a good management team to make budget calls and decisions. You can't attract skiers when you don't want too. Please feel free to look and compare Hidden Valley's website to other ski resorts. It is a mess and never updated.
dc ski reader
December 13, 2006
the comment/excuse about organized sports strikes me as off the mark...the popularity of aftershool activities should not be an excuse or a disclaimer to why customer are lacking or a even a challenge...instead it should be a great opportunity to develope programs and marketing to make skiing and snowboarding a popular afterschool activity...having said that I am unsure of HV's approximity to residential areas(day trip or destination).
Scott (Editor)
December 14, 2006
Please note that your comment was deleted as it was completely inappropriate for DCSki and against this site's posting policy. DCSki cannot be used to make personal attacks against private individuals. You would be well advised to read up on slander law and be aware that you are 100% responsible for anything you post to the site. If you have questions, contact DCSki's editor by clicking on "About DCSki"; you will find contact information there. If you make another post similar to the one deleted, you will be permanently banned from the site.

To others: I do not wish to babysit the forums or article comments. Spirited, constructive discussion is always welcome, but please remember that making personal attacks and accusations against private individuals is not allowed.
kgk
December 14, 2006
I agree that Hidden Valley is not in 'retail ready' shape by any stretch. Current ownership and management built all of the amenities of the resort to a peak in the late 90s and believed that they had reached a working plateau. Then they turned their attention to developing as much real estate as possible. Over the past several years there has been a very distinct downfall of the resort itself. It started slowly but gained speed until the ending up in the mess it is today. Now it has permeated into the overall low quality and levels of upkeep of the buildings, roads, slopes and other former assets of Hidden Valley.

I spent the majority of my life in Hidden Valley. When I go back there, all I get is a sub development feeling about the whole place. It is a very simple formula, seen in every suburb of every major city. You first develop a draw and then exploit it by developing as much of the surrounding real estate as possible; and then you make money. In some communities, it is a lush public park, in others it's a shopping center. No matter if it's a strip mall or a Ski Resort, it will cause property values to rise. Since a Ski Resort has a higher level of exclusivity, the increase of property values will be more significant. Kettler Bros. has done this with Hidden Valley; only now the resort itself is far behind the Real Estate. Look around you, while the resort struggled and barely stayed open through the winter, the toothpick condos on a postage stamp of land at the top of the triple chair sat vacant with For Sale signs in the windows.

The lopsided comparison of dollars spent on the Resort and the Real Estate is palpable everywhere you look in Hidden Valley. Then Mr. Kettler says they are doing everything they can to make it a great resort. That is a falsity and he knows it. We would have seen SOME form of improvement by now. If you were lucky enough to spend as much time there as my family and I have, then you would agree.
Oppressed
December 14, 2006
Looks like the First Ammendment does not apply in Scott's little cyber-fiefdom. Too bad the author and editor couldn't bring themselves to ask any real hardball questions.
Frederick
December 14, 2006
KGK,

I agree with everything you have said but what doesn't make sense now is the inability to continue that models success with the improvement of the facilities. The owner and management have to understand that the park, mini mall, or resort in your senario need upkeep to sustain the real estate venture. They go hand in hand. If it is about making money, it is confusing that the have begun to build new condos without making an investment to the facilities.
Scott
December 14, 2006
Oppressed: you may wish to review the Constitution. The First Amendment has no bearing whatsoever on private sites such as DCSki, where posting comments is a privilege, not a right. It also does not permit individuals to libel others. Without describing the comment that I deleted, it was the most inappropriate thing I've ever seen posted to DCSKi in the past 10 years, and if I had left it in place the author of the comment almost certainly would have been sued for libel. Since I.P. addresses are logged, no one is really posting anonymously, but I think people might forget that. Posting under pseudonyms doesn't give anyone the right to defame other individuals or act like two year olds. If I can protect people from doing something really, really stupid, I will. I haven't had to do this often and in the past, it's always been a very difficult choice to make, but the comment in question was a no-brainer.
snosnugums
December 14, 2006
Scott - I did not see this fellow's post, but you deleted my post also about this subject. I also agree that you soft tossed the questions to Kettler. 50 Pages of comments summed up the feelings, opinions, concerns, etc. of Hidden Valley residents and patrons. Have you ever seen a subject generate this much passion on your web page? There must be a reason for this. Recently, Kettler and his management guru started logging again at the resort. How many resort have you been to where they logged the golf course!!! And logged right up to the decks of peoples homes. And you gave this guy a free pass because your trying to play lawyer. Scott - I enjoy your website and I realize that the purpose of this website is not to slam local resort owners. Never the less, it is apparent to most people, including Jim Kettler's father, that the current management team at Hidden Vallet has alienated the resort residents and generally run the place into the ground. While doing this, they have not been scrutinized or critized until recently. It is time they started taking responsibility or sell the place to someone who cares. And that's it in a nut shell. You just don't understand the passion that this subject creates.
Scott
December 15, 2006
I hope this is the last I will have to say on this subject.

I certainly do understand the passion, and I also understand that it is a small (but vocal) minority of DCSki readers who are so passionate about Hidden Valley -- primarily homeowners there. Remember that DCSki is read by thousands of readers, the vast majority of who are "lurkers" who do not participate in forums and perhaps are not interested in hearing homeowners repeat the same complaints over and over. But I try to give everyone a voice, as long as people do not abuse a few simple ground rules (such as not making personal attacks or using profanity). By my estimate there are maybe 5-10 individuals who regularly post about Hidden Valley, and most are probably homeowners there.

I spent hours reviewing every message in the older 50-page post and generated a comprehensive list of questions that I sent to Mr. Kettler. I was thankful that he took the time to answer many of the questions, but it certainly wasn't my place to force him to answer every single one. For example, he could not be expected to answer specific questions about negotiations for the sale of the resort. I disagree that the questions in the final interview are "softball" questions; they are respectful questions that touch on most of the larger issues people have raised. But I realize that it is impossible to satisfy some of the more passionate individuals.

Mr. Kettler has read many of the comments by DCSki readers and understands the concerns that people have raised.

I think the most constructive comments people can offer (and have offered) are suggestions on how to improve Hidden Valley (or any other resort). But there are two sides to every issue and the fact of the matter is that it is difficult to run any ski resort in the mid-Atlantic. What may seem like obvious suggestions are often not feasible. For example, someone questioned why Hidden Valley doesn't still offer paddle boats and canoes. Do you really think the resort would have stopped offering them if they were profitable? Ditto for the conference center. In my discussions with other industry officials, I understand that the conference market is brutal right now. Mr. Kettler touched on some of the reasons; companies have been making cuts for many years now in areas such as conferences, flying employees business class, etc. Many are using videoconferencing. I know some might think that you can attract companies to your conference center with more effective marketing, but it's not that simple. This region is oversaturated with conference facilities right now, given current demand, and you need a full-time staff to successfully run a conference center. If you can't attract the business, you can't maintain the full-time staff and there's simply no way to make money.

There's a bit of a "chicken and egg" problem. For example, I'm sure that Hidden Valley Resort would attract more visitors if it installed a high-speed lift. But without more visitors, there isn't money to do it. Many of the suggestions I've seen fall into this category, but there are also suggestions people have made that would be relatively inexpensive with much to gain.

It is not at all surprising that homeowners are very passionate about Hidden Valley. And they have certainly had a voice on DCSki. But I am also sensitive to the fact that most DCSki readers are probably not that interested in hearing continued harping on this subject (and some have even written me privately to express this concern), and that homeowners would be well served by setting up their own forum for discussions. As I've said before, no one has a right to post on DCSki -- it isn't the public square. DCSki covers over 30 resorts, and it's a constant struggle to balance the coverage.

In terms of the comment I most recently deleted, there is no question but that it was entirely inappropriate. Not only was it a textbook example of libel, but it was something that has no place on a family site like DCSki.

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