How would you fix Blue Knob?
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superguy
10 months ago
Member since 03/8/2018 🔗
375 posts

Since another thread started to veer off course with discussion about fixing Blue Knob, I agree with the others that said this deserves a thread of its own.

Not much has changed over the years. I was up there last season and it literally looked like nothing changed in nearly 30 years.

We know BK has a lot of unrealized potential, and sadly, it'll likely remain unrealized under the current ownership due to a lack of capital.

So with limited funds, where would you start?

And similarly, if someone came in and had the money to put into it, what would b you suggest?

Thefirewarde
10 months ago
Member since 09/17/2015 🔗
85 posts

Thanks for making the split happen! First off, there are some things that have already been done - there's two large pumps with somewhere around 3000 GPM, plus assorted transfer pumps. There's a big new air compressor making at least 5000 CFM. (An old school HKD uses ~50 CFM, a Larchmont more like 600.) There are several modern automatic fans on trailers, and more manual fans. The lodge is habitable and there's at least two working cats. The lifts have been recently repainted.

As I understand it, the low E towers now are mostly set up for high flow in cold weather - 30+ gpm but only below 20 degrees wetbulb. This means a lot of early season snowmaking is maybe a handful of low E guns but 4500 CFM dedicated to Larchmont guns, running 25:1 to 15:1 air to water ratio. That means best case 300 GPM from the Larchmonts at 24 degrees, plus another 50-100 GPM from the handful of low E guns and 450 GPM from the fans up top for an estimated 800 GPM.

45 new low energy guns ought to cost ~$250,000. That gets me fifteen guns each on Stembogan, Lower Mambo, and Jackrabbit. I probably need another $10k worth of hoses to go with them. They've been buying SMI Grizzlies but HKD SV14 are close enough to be comparable math-wise. 10 GPM for 30 CFM on startup means that all 15 new guns on Mambo use less air than one Larchmont. If I have more than two guys making snow, I can start just the new guns on Jackrabbit while I try and lean on Lower Mambo with portable guns - there's more than enough water for that unless it's dead cold. Obviously with a bigger budget, more guns get replaced (Terrain Park, Runout, Expressway with short guns, more density on high priority trails). A Grizzly flows 10 GPM at startup, 20 around 24 wetbulb, 30 at 20, and 40 at 16 - from memory, at 400 psi water.

Between adjusting the old towers to make less snow but at warmer temperatures and adding modern guns with valves, the three core trails should each be able to run 600 GPM @24 degrees, 150 gpm at startup, and 900 GPM wide open while leaving 3/4 of the compressor available to run, say, another core trail or for air-water guns to fill in the gaps. (Stembogan Bowl is one of those gaps.) 2500 CFM at a reasonable 15 Air to Water ratio is an additional 166 gpm for trouble spots. The fan guns at 24 degrees should be around 30 GPM each, that's another 450 GPM for the summit and Upper Mambo. ~1800 GPM at 24 degrees isn't a bad figure, even if it's only viable when certain trails run. From that kind of foundation it's a lot easier to justify focusing on pipe moving forward.

snowsmith - DCSki Supporter 
10 months ago
Member since 03/15/2004 🔗
1,447 posts

Fireward - impressive. You seem to have some first hand knowledge about snow making equipment. I am guessing you're an engineer. BK needs more than just snow making. I think they need to bring back Peter Graves idea. BK is an isolated place but then again, so is Snowshoe. I think to build that critical mass of resort customers, they need to build as base village. Of course that would ruin part of the unique character. But they need more of a steady customer base, perhaps make some profits off the real estate. This in turn will provide them some capital to invest in the skiing. That to me is their chief problem....lack of capital. They need a deep-pocketed investor to provide capital and allow them to get larger line of credit.

I went to Snowshoe for the first time a few years ago and I was amazed at:

- How isolated they are. I took me 5.5 hours to drive there from Baltimore area. At one point, I swear I did not see another car for a 1/2 hour.

Once you get there, it is a different world, an alternative universe compared to the surrounding area. And the place was packed. 

Similarly, BK is also isolated but it can offer a ski product similar to the Snowshoe with the 1,000+ feet vertical. Maybe it doesn't get the same amount of snowfall, but skiing in this era is all about snow making, anyway. 

I guess my point is, despite their isolation, if they can create a ski village similar to Snowshoe, they can then reach that critical mass of skiers that will in turn provide the operating capital to invest into the resort infrastructure.

 

snowsmith - DCSki Supporter 
10 months ago
Member since 03/15/2004 🔗
1,447 posts

Fireward - impressive. You seem to have some first hand knowledge about snow making equipment. I am guessing you're an engineer. BK needs more than just snow making. I think they need to bring back Peter Graves idea. BK is an isolated place but then again, so is Snowshoe. I think to build that critical mass of resort customers, they need to build as base village. Of course that would ruin part of the unique character. But they need more of a steady customer base, perhaps make some profits off the real estate. This in turn will provide them some capital to invest in the skiing. That to me is their chief problem....lack of capital. They need a deep-pocketed investor to provide capital and allow them to get larger line of credit.

I went to Snowshoe for the first time a few years ago and I was amazed at:

- How isolated they are. I took me 5.5 hours to drive there from Baltimore area. At one point, I swear I did not see another car for a 1/2 hour.

Once you get there, it is a different world, an alternative universe compared to the surrounding area. And the place was packed. 

Similarly, BK is also isolated but it can offer a ski product similar to the Snowshoe with the 1,000+ feet vertical. Maybe it doesn't get the same amount of snowfall, but skiing in this era is all about snow making, anyway. 

I guess my point is, despite their isolation, if they can create a ski village similar to Snowshoe, they can then reach that critical mass of skiers that will in turn provide the operating capital to invest into the resort infrastructure.

 

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Thefirewarde
10 months ago
Member since 09/17/2015 🔗
85 posts

I may have some personal experience with snowmaking, but not with Blue Knob's setup.

They already have a good bit of lodging on property. The issue is there's no lift or ski access, there's already not enough snowmaking to tie it in if lifts were there, and it's too far away from the summit facilities to be Snowshoe North as is. The summit doesn't have tons of room (plus, State Park Problems) and a lot of their developable land already is developed. I think the best we could hope for is a shuttle service until they can claw their way up to considering a connector trail to link in the lodging complex. They did formerly have lift service to the big condo complex - but I doubt reinstalling a 3000'+ chairlift to serve one trail is a good use of funds when they already can't make snow on it fast enough and they can't get lifties for the lifts they do have.


superguy
10 months ago
Member since 03/8/2018 🔗
375 posts

I heard BK has about 1200 acres of land that they could develop, pretty much going up the ridge behind Expressway and also past Stembogan. Most of the resort is actually private land, including the clubhouse and condos. Most of the summit and the old condo trail on state park land. As such, I don't know how much veto power the state has, but I don't think as much as they do at Laurel. I think there's a lot of room for development, at least site.

I'm thinking down around the clubhouse could eventually be built up with a lodge, hotel, and bars and restaurants. Trails could be cut past Stembogan to get to the base, and a bi-directional chair could be put on the old Condo Trail for summit access. Doesn't have to be skiable trail.

Summit lodge could be rebuilt as well, providing either another entrance point or just a place to take a break.

I-99 is fairly close and you have Claysburg right there that would have plenty of space for development. In the meantime,, there's access to lodging and restaurants in Altoona or Bedford, or even Johnstown. All of those are within 30 minutes. 99 provides some good and b easy highway access.

I think the land and elements are there to turn it into a full-fledged resort. If the enough money is spent and put in the right places, I think it could rival or even surpass 7S as the regional skiing powerhouse.

One thing that a company could do is potentially pick up HV and maybe even LM. Nutting doesn't seem like putting much money into either and would probably be willing to let them go. The state may be willing to work with a company willing to invest a bit in LM.

Thefirewarde
10 months ago
Member since 09/17/2015 🔗
85 posts

I'm skeptical of any plan that requires "build a lift" money until the current infrastructure on core trails is replaced or repaired. A lift costs more than my hypothetical 45 snowguns or 2000' of pipe and adds minimum two attendants plus some power and maintenance overhead on top of probably $500k installation and who knows how much to buy and move and rebuild whatever bargain basement lift they find.

I agree the land for future development is present, but the current owners don't have the money to kick that development off quickly. I'd love to see another pod building off Stembogan with an access trail to the new lodge continuing off the Bowl rim, with Runout dropping another 300' vertical down the valley to a new chairlift, where BK claims "most vertical in the Poconos" by 280' over the other Blue. Getting there from "it's an open question if Mambo will open for Christmas" is the issue.

I also don't trust a conglomerate with a local monopoly to break up their monopoly - though if the Perfect family wants to grab Laurel Mountain or Blue Knob, I enthusiastically support that decision. Timberline, shockingly, was in worse shape than Blue Knob before they took over.

Laurel Hill Crazie - DCSki Supporter 
10 months ago
Member since 08/16/2004 🔗
1,944 posts

I don't see Laurel being "sold off" or Bob Nutting buying BK. I doubt the state will subsidize a lot when they are already offering $12 million for an experienced concessioner to invest and operate Denton Hill in north-central PA. There have been no takers for this "can't get there from here" rustic 700-foot tall ski area.  The Perfects have a lot on their plate and haven't even begun to pay down Timberline's cost, but regardless of where the capital would come from, I must ask, can the snowsport market support such an investment? The industry is in the consolidation phase, merging and streamlining operations doing what the industry really does, make a buck. The pandemic may be a double-edged sword, and it could continue to drive outdoor recreation while failing to attract labor to serve the need.

Laurel has taught me that "build it and they will come" often leads to low crowds of mostly season pass holders whose money was spent getting snow on the hill, bull wheels turning, hamburgers on the grill and drinks flowing. Build it right, of course, but will even "building it right" actually pay for itself. Where is the market in a mature industry?

I agree that the foundation of the sport is snowmaking. The more, the better, the cheaper it is made, the better. If you hope to make a small fortune in the ski industry in the banana belt, take your large fortune and buy snow.

Thefirewarde
10 months ago
Member since 09/17/2015 🔗
85 posts

Blue Knob is more accessable (shocker!) than Denton, and has four season activities and a bed base. Whether any of those advantages are in play currently, they are reasons an investor might consider BK over Denton.

That said, the Perfects - or really whomever - are at best a pipe dream both because they're busy spending money elsewhere and because the current owners don't appear to be looking for an exit. I was indulging in some what-ifism and not seriously considering anything beyond, say, a new faceless managing partner joining the ownership group.

superguy
10 months ago
Member since 03/8/2018 🔗
375 posts

I totally agree that snowmaking needs to come first. No snow means no product and therefore no money. I was mainly saying that there is land and space for both terrain expansion and base/real estate expansion.

I don't think LM's a fair comparison for the failurw of "if they build if build it, they will come." Nutting neglects his other 2 resorts, and LM is dead last when it comes to investment. IIRC, the quad was installed before 7S got the lease.

LM has a nice new lodge, but overall, it's running with one hand tied behind its back. Half of the terrain is natural snow only. There's basically two ways down the hill: either down Wildcat or down Deer Path. Dream Highway is another way, but it's rarely open.

Snowmaking is a big problem there. It only covers half of the mountain, and much of the needed infrastructure (compressors and pumps) are rented ever year.  That equipment tends to come late and leave early, so some serious snowmaking opportunities are lost if the weather cooperates early or late season. At best, it ends to half open.

I think if BK gets the investment, it would have a much better shot at growth.

I think the best partner for taking BK to the next level would be Boyne. Vail seems to ruin everything it touches out here as it doesn't understand eastern skiing. I don't think they fit as much with Alterra, but they could have the tie in like they did with the other resorts. Boyne's done well with resort building in the past and had the experience and money to do it. BK would also fit in more with the vibe they offer too.

Laurel Hill Crazie - DCSki Supporter 
10 months ago
Member since 08/16/2004 🔗
1,944 posts
Yeah, I get it, and talks like this are interesting and could serve a purpose if the right people are listening. I like your insights into snowmaking.
Thefirewarde
10 months ago
Member since 09/17/2015 🔗
85 posts

Peaks would have been my pick five years ago - they actually rebuilt some fixer-uppers. Nobody besides the two and three mountain groups recently have been doing much besides grabbing the local gems in good shape.

Apart from "have Magic Money Fairy sprinkle us with cash and snow" what concrete steps forward on a limited budget are possible? Which is better to focus on as The Blue Trail, Expressway or Jackrabbit? Should the terrain park get new guns before Runout (and before you answer that, Runout has the best pressure of any trail and the older guns are at their best, where the terrain park sees 600' less head pressure). Is it worth replacing old Larchmont guns with Ratniks as portable/steep/warm weather tools? Should portable low E guns come before towers?

wfyurasko - DCSki Supporter 
10 months ago
Member since 07/27/2014 🔗
288 posts
Based on my 2012 visit -- tear out the gas fireplace in the log and go back to wood. Both fireplaces should be wood!

That and more snowmaking, followed by lift improvements. If I could improve any place within a 4-hour drive of DC, it'd be Blue Knob. I'd have taken that over T-line.
itdoesntmatter
10 months ago
Member since 01/17/2007 🔗
144 posts
Better snowmaking and grooming.  Too many of the slopes are left to moguls. The last time I was there years ago only one advanced slope was groomed.  Some folks said they are too steep to groom.  If Whitetail can groom Bold Decision, then Blue Knob could groom more slopes.  
Thefirewarde
10 months ago
Member since 09/17/2015 🔗
85 posts

Extrovert and the Stembogan bowl need a lot of snow (there's a theme here...) on the lip so the snowcat can follow the break over without 1. Stressing the tracks and suspension, and 2. Picking the tiller up off the snow. Extrovert is legitimately steep and I would be hesitant to put a cat on it in icy conditions when it needs grooming most. Even in good conditions any cat without a winch will struggle to push uphill on steeps and this will tend to deplete the snow as it accumulates below the headwall. So there are operational challenges involved beyond making different choices of where and when to groom.

I can't say how experienced their operators are generally nor whether the issues I've heard about are down to shortcuts being taken, limited time, limited experience, limited depth, etc. I have heard there are issues, and I believe there are two relatively new cats bought under current management so apart from headwalls on diamond trails you can't really blame the machines.

Personally I like the Magic Mtn approach where on secondary trails a two or three cat wide swath gets groomed daily but one side is allowed to develop natural bumps. Of course critical trails like Mambo, Runout, Upper 66 should be fully groomed every night conditions permit apart from select wide spots (tilling in the rain destroys snow depth, leave as much natural alone as possible, etc) and in freeze thaw events or otherwise crap snow conditions or after snowmaking, any trail should get graded flat and re tilled. If BK is fully open, I don't think two cats is quite enough to fully grade and till everything every night. That's not a problem they have very often, unfortunately.

Laurel Hill Crazie - DCSki Supporter 
10 months ago
Member since 08/16/2004 🔗
1,944 posts

The High Hopes double with mid-stations was rebuilt in the last five years. BK has enough lift capacity for now. Yes, snowmaking, snowmaking. Is there water? Lots of water? Lower Extrovert was groomed in the last decade. I thought getting Lower Ex, accessed from Lower Hiigh, with the old HKDs open would be a doable option to get groom-able expert terrain available. I've never known Upper Ex to be groomed but that's the character of Ex, bumps carved on whales, and steep drops at the intersections, icy fun!

I was surprised BK bought air compressors. I thought most ski resorts leased them as needed. 

superguy
10 months ago (edited 10 months ago)
Member since 03/8/2018 🔗
375 posts

HH lift was rebuilt in the last 5 years? It sure didn't look that way last season. It looked like it hadn't been running in ages, especially with all the ice hanging off of it.

I'm guessing they use 66 more due to the midstation.

I thought BK had a rather unlimited water supply as they could pull from the field creeks are the bottom.

What about replacing some of the older guns with TechnoAlpin sticks and fans? I've been pretty impressed with the quality and amount of snow they can throw out. And how did they compare to the newer HKDs?

I agree that BK's lift capacity is sufficient for now, but if it got turned around that wouldn't last long. Maybe start upgrading lifts one at a time a few years down the road, starting with HH. That would be a good candidate for a detachable quad. Eventually put a triple to where midstation is now and go fixed grip quad on Expressway.

As far as blues to focus on, I'd go  Expressway, Deer Run, then Jackrabbit. The former two are seriously good runs and are the bread and butter. Jackrabbit's fun but an easier blue to get noobs more comfortable skiing blues.

One thing that's always bugged me about BK is all the upper/lower names on the map. It's just a way to pad the trail count to look bigger. Unless there's a difficulty change, it gets one name and counts a one trail. Expressway is one run, as is Mambo and Extrovert. Upper and lower on the twins makes sense due to the difficulty chance. Stembogan with it's "3 trails" is particularly annoying. It's all one run, starting at the traverse, IMO. It's not you can run the field without running the bowl and trail (Edgeset's not open enough to count IMO).

One last comment - is there a legitimate need to have a triple in the beginner area? Seems like a waste, and something that could be easily handled by a Poma lift, T-bar or carpet.

Laurel Hill Crazie - DCSki Supporter 
10 months ago
Member since 08/16/2004 🔗
1,944 posts
I confused HH lift with the 66 lift. The double with the mid-station was rebuilt.
GGNagy
10 months ago
Member since 01/5/2006 🔗
470 posts

How would I fix BK?

1. Better promotions/marketing. Find ways to get out the word that your terrain is better. The majority of SW PA skiers only know of 7 Springs. The majority DC area skiers only know of the Snowtimes (sic) or Wisp. Blue Knob (along with TM/CV) need to overcome the name recognition head start and get out of the "where are they now" category. (Insert scene from 'This is Spinal Tap' where they hear themselves playing on the radio)

2.  If route 66 lift truly is rebuilt and reliable enough, get rid of HH. I think that the sketchy history of both lifts operation scares people off. Promote the historic nature and feel of a hall double, but that it has reliable modern underpinnings. This goes back to item 1. 

3.  Bite the bullet on some of the modern snowmaking equipment. Others here obviously know the details of what is needed, where, but I would think a few new and fancy towers in high visibility/high traffic areas would allow a trickledown effect for equipment on the rest of the mountain. 

4. The main road up and down the mountain needs a major rethink and reworking. Even just the bit between the lodges and the summit could benefit from a proper regrading and paving.  

Those things should get the place stabilized. Pie in the sky would be lift and trails to skiers right of Stembogen (we know those plans exist) 

oddballstocks
10 months ago
Member since 02/11/2017 🔗
89 posts


 This is a great reply.  As a Western PA person (who has passes at the Nutting complex) the majority of our skiing friends don't even know Blue Knob exists.  The resort isn't too far either.  These same people will drive out 22 for a Penn State game without thinking, it's the same trip to Blue Knob.

I love the resort when it's open after a big storm.  But they can't even get it reliably open with a base where it's worth going after 8-10in.  They need to focus 100% on getting things open.  I've wanted to take my kids there the last few years, we just end up in WV for the "advanced" trip because BK is such a crapshoot.

I think they have the most untapped potential.  It's very easy to get to outside of the access road.  There is already lodging, they need a way to connect it to the resort.

The entire place reminds me of when I started skiing in the early 1990s.  I'm half surprised they aren't handing out 220 K2's in the rental shop.  Everything just looks dated, the hotel, the lifts, the lodge.  This is probably the cheapest and easiest set of upgrades, simple facelifts on buildings and interiors reworked.

If they do own 1200 acres there is a lot of room for expansion.  What's great is given their setup I think they could cut new trails that would all feed to the same lift base.  There are a lot of unofficial trails off Stembogen that lead down to the base area.

GGNagy wrote:

How would I fix BK?

1. Better promotions/marketing. Find ways to get out the word that your terrain is better. The majority of SW PA skiers only know of 7 Springs. The majority DC area skiers only know of the Snowtimes (sic) or Wisp. Blue Knob (along with TM/CV) need to overcome the name recognition head start and get out of the "where are they now" category. (Insert scene from 'This is Spinal Tap' where they hear themselves playing on the radio)

2.  If route 66 lift truly is rebuilt and reliable enough, get rid of HH. I think that the sketchy history of both lifts operation scares people off. Promote the historic nature and feel of a hall double, but that it has reliable modern underpinnings. This goes back to item 1. 

3.  Bite the bullet on some of the modern snowmaking equipment. Others here obviously know the details of what is needed, where, but I would think a few new and fancy towers in high visibility/high traffic areas would allow a trickledown effect for equipment on the rest of the mountain. 

4. The main road up and down the mountain needs a major rethink and reworking. Even just the bit between the lodges and the summit could benefit from a proper regrading and paving.  

Those things should get the place stabilized. Pie in the sky would be lift and trails to skiers right of Stembogen (we know those plans exist) 

abeski
10 months ago (edited 10 months ago)
Member since 12/8/2021 🔗
21 posts
So I guess, if I had the means and the money:
  1. Invest everything into snowmaking to be reliably 75%+ ish open between MLK and Presdient's day
  2. Cut a trail from the condo down to stembogan to restore ski in-ski out lodging
  3. Replace High Hopes with a carpet loading fixed quad, ensuring that it goes either 10ft above or below the current lift in order to reclaim tallest vert from Blue Mountain's stupid valley runout, for advertising purpose and clout.
After that, further improvements in snowmaking, facilities, lodging, and terrain expansion, and restore a lift to the condo base.

Agree that location should be ideal, if not for day trips, for overnights.  It is a straight shot down the turnpike or interstate for so many people.  Why did they shorten the beginner/condo triple & trail years ago?  I would think ski in-ski out at the condo would be a pretty major selling point, and necessary, for not really being day-tripable for some people.  This would add parking below the summit and provide yet another of the longest? green runs and lifts in the state.

I know the Laurels get the most natural snow in the state, how much does that compare to Blue Knob?  And there is currently no other competition in central PA proper, other than little Sawmill and Tussey.

Disagree with removing a functional lift that is backup to a somewhat better but also suspect lift.  They need that uphill capacity to be profitable, especially if one of the other lifts has problems.  Also the maintenance costs on detach lifts have put several ski areas out of business after taking that gamble.

Blue Knob could be the tallest AND highest (and coldest?/snowiest?) mountain in PA


RodneyBD - DCSki Supporter 
10 months ago (edited 10 months ago)
Member since 12/21/2004 🔗
227 posts

Apparently one of the 6 partners is retired and has taken on Managing Member duties.  He likely has a long list of "wants" but a very small budget.

So the relevant question is: what small and incremental improvements can be made on an ongoing basis to improve the product and experience and in theory sell more tickets/passes for the four months the ski resort is open?

Doubtful the Perfect's, Boyne, Pacific Resorts or anyone else is interested in buying a money losing resort with significant capital improvement needs,  unless the current owners are bankrupt and sell at a discount; or the state ponies up a massive grant for new ownership to access.

I vote snow making and grooming.  It can be done. Crossing fingers.

edit - Vail purchase of 7S a wildcard.  Would Alterra be interested to add a resort and fill in the gap between Windham and Snowshoe?

Thefirewarde
10 months ago
Member since 09/17/2015 🔗
85 posts

Strongly against TechnoAlpin. Their sticks aren't as good as HKDs and their fans are complicated and picky and pricey. The current fan fleet is fine - the first priority should be low energy tower guns, as most everyone has said. After fifty or sixty new low E guns go up, a few automated tower fans in key intersections might make sense - but I'd still ask SMI first and HKD second, then Dmac then TA then MND/Sufag.

The beginner triple was shortened because the ski in ski out lodging access trail was a lot of upkeep for not much benefit. That trail would need to be open, lit, and lift served from open to close every day - minimum one more staff member for a mid load lift - and quite a bit of extra snowmaking, grooming, and maintenance for a trail that gets skied once a day per guest. For the current volume of guests, a shuttle bus (on most days, probably a courtesy car on-call) is way more efficient. Eventually bringing back some kind of lift access would be great - just not right now when staffing three lifts seems impossible. And I suspect there'll be skiing down from the condos before there's a lift from the condos up.

Incremental upgrades - obviously every modern snowgun bought will help a bit, and more portable low energy guns would help a lot. Getting some group partnerships going - youth group ski trip packages were a bastion of the old Timberline, and continue to be big business at Wolf Ridge. Both were able to be the bargain option for beginner skiers. There's on site lodging at BK, but the packages have to be marketed well and support like meet up areas and shuttle bus service and breakfast and meal vouchers coordinated.

nickhaas212
10 months ago
Member since 11/13/2019 🔗
58 posts
Vail to buy Blue Knob....lol!
dwm8a
10 months ago
Member since 02/23/2017 🔗
55 posts
Probably the most expeditious way for BK improvements to occur would be...getting acquired by Alterra.
Thefirewarde
10 months ago
Member since 09/17/2015 🔗
85 posts

That's not totally impossible, but Alterra/KSL (Camelback+Blue Mtn) seem to want turnkey operations more than fixer-uppers.

You could build one heck of a four seasons ski golf and adventure resort for what they spent at Camelback, though.

superguy
10 months ago (edited 10 months ago)
Member since 03/8/2018 🔗
375 posts

Laurel Hill Crazie wrote:

I confused HH lift with the 66 lift. The double with the mid-station was rebuilt.

That makes more sense. It was puzzling b to think that HH would get rebuilt due to the lack of a midstation.

superguy
10 months ago (edited 10 months ago)
Member since 03/8/2018 🔗
375 posts

oddballstocks wrote:


 This is a great reply.  As a Western PA person (who has passes at the Nutting complex) the majority of our skiing friends don't even know Blue Knob exists.  The resort isn't too far either.  These same people will drive out 22 for a Penn State game without thinking, it's the same trip to Blue Knob.

I love the resort when it's open after a big storm.  But they can't even get it reliably open with a base where it's worth going after 8-10in.  They need to focus 100% on getting things open.  I've wanted to take my kids there the last few years, we just end up in WV for the "advanced" trip because BK is such a crapshoot.

I think they have the most untapped potential.  It's very easy to get to outside of the access road.  There is already lodging, they need a way to connect it to the resort.

The entire place reminds me of when I started skiing in the early 1990s.  I'm half surprised they aren't handing out 220 K2's in the rental shop.  Everything just looks dated, the hotel, the lifts, the lodge.  This is probably the cheapest and easiest set of upgrades, simple facelifts on buildings and interiors reworked.

If they do own 1200 acres there is a lot of room for expansion.  What's great is given their setup I think they could cut new trails that would all feed to the same lift base.  There are a lot of unofficial trails off Stembogen that lead down to the base area.

GGNagy wrote:

How would I fix BK?

1. Better promotions/marketing. Find ways to get out the word that your terrain is better. The majority of SW PA skiers only know of 7 Springs. The majority DC area skiers only know of the Snowtimes (sic) or Wisp. Blue Knob (along with TM/CV) need to overcome the name recognition head start and get out of the "where are they now" category. (Insert scene from 'This is Spinal Tap' where they hear themselves playing on the radio)

2.  If route 66 lift truly is rebuilt and reliable enough, get rid of HH. I think that the sketchy history of both lifts operation scares people off. Promote the historic nature and feel of a hall double, but that it has reliable modern underpinnings. This goes back to item 1. 

3.  Bite the bullet on some of the modern snowmaking equipment. Others here obviously know the details of what is needed, where, but I would think a few new and fancy towers in high visibility/high traffic areas would allow a trickledown effect for equipment on the rest of the mountain. 

4. The main road up and down the mountain needs a major rethink and reworking. Even just the bit between the lodges and the summit could benefit from a proper regrading and paving.  

Those things should get the place stabilized. Pie in the sky would be lift and trails to skiers right of Stembogen (we know those plans exist) 

 You're right that little had changed. The last time I had skied BK before last season was 1994 and I was hardpressed to find anything that looked different. It's literally like stepping back into the 70s. The only think patrol could point out was there was a new roof on the lodge they had to replace due to leaks. Other than that, it was mostly incremental repairs and upgrades that most people wouldn't notice.

Which access road are you thinking? There are two ways in: from I-99 and from PA-869 that goes thru the park.The state usually does a pretty good job of maintaining 869 and park roads. I've never come in the other way so I can't testify to that.

superguy
10 months ago
Member since 03/8/2018 🔗
375 posts

Thefirewarde wrote:

That's not totally impossible, but Alterra/KSL (Camelback+Blue Mtn) seem to want turnkey operations more than fixer-uppers.

You could build one heck of a four seasons ski golf and adventure resort for what they spent at Camelback, though.

That's why I think Boyne would be the better choice. They have the experience and resources to turn a resort around. It would also give a tie-in with Ikon.

And we see that it can be worth it. T-line had some severe problems and was arguably worse off than BK. The Perfects came in and invested some money and resort's really turning around. I think they have their hands full with T-Line. I don't see them taking on another big project like BK.

Side note: why isn't Camelback on Ikon if Alterra owns them?

abeski
10 months ago
Member since 12/8/2021 🔗
21 posts

Camelback and Blue are already over capacity and sell passes that are already more expensive than Ikon, which they cap and sell out of.  They don't really need the additional traffic.

Also Blue was just bought this year and Camelback a year or two.  This year they are cross honoring employee passes - so we will probably see a CamelBlue pass in the future but I'm not sure about Ikon.

Thefirewarde
10 months ago
Member since 09/17/2015 🔗
85 posts
Camelback and Blue Mtn are KSL Resorts, not directly Alterra. KSL is a part owner of Alterra. It's weird, but not as weird as a lumber company owning Killington.
superguy
10 months ago
Member since 03/8/2018 🔗
375 posts

Thefirewarde wrote:

Camelback and Blue Mtn are KSL Resorts, not directly Alterra. KSL is a part owner of Alterra. It's weird, but not as weird as a lumber company owning Killington.

Kinda weird, but does make sense. Clearing timber for a ski can be profitable on more than one front for them. Timber's gotta go somewhere.

Thefirewarde
10 months ago
Member since 09/17/2015 🔗
85 posts
Fair point about the timber, but Weyerhaeuser helped pay for the tram at Jay Peak too. For all I know Microsoft could buy Blue Knob as a marketing tie in with Azure Cloud.

http://www.albaadventures.com/superskimom/northeast-kingdoms-jay-peak/

1639011979_urpunxbhyftm.jpg

marzNC - DCSki Supporter 
10 months ago
Member since 12/10/2008 🔗
2,825 posts

superguy wrote:

One thing that's always bugged me about BK is all the upper/lower names on the map. It's just a way to pad the trail count to look bigger. Unless there's a difficulty change, it gets one name and counts a one trail. Expressway is one run, as is Mambo and Extrovert. Upper and lower on the twins makes sense due to the difficulty chance. Stembogan with it's "3 trails" is particularly annoying. It's all one run, starting at the traverse, IMO. It's not you can run the field without running the bowl and trail (Edgeset's not open enough to count IMO).

One last comment - is there a legitimate need to have a triple in the beginner area? Seems like a waste, and something that could be easily handled by a Poma lift, T-bar or carpet.

 As for splitting out trail names, I remember when Snowbird did that all over that big mountain.  That's certainly nothing unique to BK.

If you are an adult with a couple kids, it's really nice to be able ride with both of them at the same time.  A double is a problem if even the older kid is not old enough to ride solo.  Massanutten replaced an original double on Geronimo with a quad.  It's short and runs slowly but definitely makes it easier for parents and instructors dealing with several kids when the kids outnumber the adults.

Have you tried to ride a T-bar with a little kid?  I rode T-bar as a petite teen with tall adults.  It wasn't easy for either of us.

superguy
10 months ago
Member since 03/8/2018 🔗
375 posts

marzNC wrote:

superguy wrote:

One thing that's always bugged me about BK is all the upper/lower names on the map. It's just a way to pad the trail count to look bigger. Unless there's a difficulty change, it gets one name and counts a one trail. Expressway is one run, as is Mambo and Extrovert. Upper and lower on the twins makes sense due to the difficulty chance. Stembogan with it's "3 trails" is particularly annoying. It's all one run, starting at the traverse, IMO. It's not you can run the field without running the bowl and trail (Edgeset's not open enough to count IMO).

One last comment - is there a legitimate need to have a triple in the beginner area? Seems like a waste, and something that could be easily handled by a Poma lift, T-bar or carpet.

 As for splitting out trail names, I remember when Snowbird did that all over that big mountain.  That's certainly nothing unique to BK.

If you are an adult with a couple kids, it's really nice to be able ride with both of them at the same time.  A double is a problem if even the older kid is not old enough to ride solo.  Massanutten replaced an original double on Geronimo with a quad.  It's short and runs slowly but definitely makes it easier for parents and instructors dealing with several kids when the kids outnumber the adults.

Have you tried to ride a T-bar with a little kid?  I rode T-bar as a petite teen with tall adults.  It wasn't easy for either of us.

 BK isn't a big mountain that has dramatic change in even the character of the trail to be considered a different trail.

Both Expressway and Extrovert go straight down the hill. There's nothing there that warrants a change. Same with Shortway, until it changes to double black at Deer Run.

Back in the day when Mambo ran all the way to the bottom, a case could be made to give it the Lower name. But it changed from upper to lower at some point before that.

A T-bar isn't the only option for a ground lift. Even a handle tow or carpet could work.

Thefirewarde
10 months ago (edited 10 months ago)
Member since 09/17/2015 🔗
85 posts

Upper/Middle/Lower Expressway are separate trails partly to pad the trail count but partly because they close and open separately. You can't honestly call out Expressway as open when only Lower Expressway has snow. Same thing with Stembogan Bowl/Stembogan - if the rim is skiable but the bowl proper is too thin/hasn't had snow made on it, that's an important call-out. I would like to see trail km open as a reported stat in addition to trail count, but splitting up the trails into upper and lower - especially when snowmaking is as limited as it has been - isn't just marketing department ignoring reality.

The beginner area doesn't need a triple's capacity right now, but changing up that area with anything other than a rope tow is going to be too costly to be worthwhile in the near term. A carpet that long is easily $200k+ and still needs to be staffed by someone, and even at today's labor costs that takes a while to be offset by efficiency gains.

Laurel Hill Crazie - DCSki Supporter 
10 months ago
Member since 08/16/2004 🔗
1,944 posts
Often was the case before snowmaking or just slow, limited snowmaking only the upper mountain was skiable early-season or even all-season consistently, so mid-mountain lift load stations became a thing. This made early-season lift-served skiing possible with open trails named "Upper such and such", "Upper whatever", and short trails that mysteriously end at mid-mountain. I think most of the Upper named trails at BK can be loaded from the 66 mid-station. Many sections are Patrol designation for locations on the mountain then get passed into common use, especially by the locals. A lot of trails are named to pad trail count too.
ZARDOG
9 months ago
Member since 10/25/2020 🔗
123 posts

do a survey and use 6 sigma stats.

Most likely will show - More snowmaking, More grooming, and lift upgrade.  All cost $$$. 

Last year and this year will be not a lot of profit to put into the business. 

Zardog  

Thefirewarde
9 months ago
Member since 09/17/2015 🔗
85 posts
Last year had an awesome February, high Indy Pass visitation, and generally high guest turnout for everywhere in the east that wasn't Vermont. This year with an even slower than normal start might hurt, though.
abeski
9 months ago
Member since 12/8/2021 🔗
21 posts

Winter Olympics are this year which usually helps visitation, and Indy Pass sales are up a lot over last year.

Also possible that, even though people are now more busy with other things than last year, people that usually go on big ski trips realized that there are decent places close to home.

We had an unusually good snow year last year though.

Thefirewarde
9 months ago
Member since 09/17/2015 🔗
85 posts
If Upper Mambo isn't open for Christmas, that can't be good for business.
RodneyBD - DCSki Supporter 
14 days ago
Member since 12/21/2004 🔗
227 posts

It is unrealistic but I am still hoping ownership can make some progress with snowmaking this winter.  I have seen zero announcements or PR regarding capital improvements.  I did see this on Facebook, so at least someone at the mountain is trying something:

1663861175_ntosekolwstm.jpg 

superguy
9 days ago
Member since 03/8/2018 🔗
375 posts

Yeah, they've been doing that for a few years now. They expect 40 hours to get the pass, which is about $10 a hour at the preseason rate, which is still to extensive for that place in its current state, IMO.

They at least give your an option of doing it all in one week or you can do it on the weekends.

Thefirewarde
5 days ago
Member since 09/17/2015 🔗
85 posts

They wouldn't have to spend a ton - if they got a snowmaking maintenance guy over the off-season with $50k in maintenance budget (which is not much given how much is worn out or broken) and a helper, they could have Mambo down to the triple running on Day 1 - possibly with Knee Bend too. All from moving guns around and setting them up right. That 50k also gets several repaired fan guns, and better nozzles for a lot of low E towers elsewhere on the mountain.

But to do that you need a small, motivated team that wants to make a lot of good snow. You won't usually find that for what BK pays.

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