Land sales are obviously public record, but it seems a low-key approach until all possible land is acquired for the area is the best strategy to minimize acquisition costs. Prior to the recent Wash Times article (non-committal about location and timing), has a low-key approach been adopted by Bill Bright?
Maybe it's the fact I live inside the Beltway, or maybe it's the fact that real estate development now seems to dominate and there have been several past failed attempts to build a West Virginia ski area, but I am curious about the back-drop of this story.
[This message has been edited by JohnL (edited 10-14-2003).]
The other side of that mountain is perfect for skiing. There is already a resort, and a big ol' lake to drink from.
The altitude is problematic, and I am unsure how far the park extends up that mountain (I think that is Evitt's Mountain.
A member of the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy who lives on Bonner Mt. Road. That person interviewed the five major landowners on MPC, three of whom told that person that they had signed land options with Mr. Bright.
A ski industry insider who met with Mr. Bright recently to discuss financing options for the new resort.
Mr. Bright has to secure options with two additional landholders (including Mr. Teter, who owns the Bonner slope) before anything can happen.
As for Tory, rumor has it that one landholder there has essentially refused to sell until he/she dies. In my opinion, that may be why so much attention is focused on Mount Porte Crayon this year.
Even if Mr. Bright secures all the options he needs to build the mountain, he will have many other hurdles to face:
1) Financing to build lifts, clear and contour slopes, build residences, a possible village, etc..
2) Permits to draw water from Red Creek and Big Run (EPA protected tier 2.5 trout streams).
3) An agreement with the state to improve access to the mountain--perhaps including a new ridge road that would connect 33 with a mountaintop village. The base of MPC is small and does not hold snow very well. Hence, it is more desirable from a skiing perspective to build an upside down mountain here similar to Snowshoe.
4) Permits with the power company to draw power for snowmaking.
5) Negotiations with environmentalists and gvt. officials over endangered species that live in the area: Cheat Mountain Salamander, WV Flying Squirrel, Saw Whet Owls.
[This message has been edited by johnfmh (edited 10-15-2003).]
I'm still questioning whether this is first and foremost a ski area project or, rather, a real estate project using a *possible* ski area as leverage to increase property value.
It's very hard in the current economic climate to separate real estate development from ski resort development. Knowledgeable sources claim there are only two ways to fund a resort with over 1500 feet of vertical in this climate:
1. Build a resort similar to Snowshoe with a village and lots of ski properties.
2. Create a private ski resort similar to the Yellowstone club. Members would pay $40,000 to join and then $5,000-$10,000 a year in club dues. More money would be raised through selling houses and other properties to members. A Yellowstone Club would be low impact and satisfy most of the demands of environmentalists but skiers (like me) who could not afford the price of admission would be very jealous. The idea of "private powder" sort of violates the basic spirit of the sport.
Unfortunately, WV does not get the 400 inches of dry powder that a place like Silverton, CO, gets. As a consequence, the idea of a bare bones resort like MRG is kind of a fantasy. Pardon the cliche, but in this climate "it takes a village" to finance the massive snowmaking that a resort needs to cover major vertical with white stuff.
[This message has been edited by johnfmh (edited 10-15-2003).]
I'm not arguing the point that some development is needed to support an area. Never mentioned that in this thread.
I'm more concerned about the worst case scenario where we get the real estate development (in anticipation of the ski area), the ski area falls through, and the end result is a lot of new condos with no ski area.
There is a big difference between needing some real estate development to help support a ski area versus using a ski area as a justification to develop in the first place. If the ski area justification doesn't work out, then move on to reason B, then reason C, etc.
I've never heard of Bill Bright before this story came out. I'm curious about his real goals and motivations (versus public persona.) Not judging him yet because I don't have enough info, but I am treating the situation with a healthy dose of skepticism.
Here are some highlights of his resume:
1. He's the second richest man in the state.
2. He chairs of the board of the West Virginia Tourist Division.
3. He owns Winterplace, and Glade Springs.
4. He owns a mineral extraction business.
5. He co-chaired the Bush campaign in WV in 2000, and helped deliver a critical swing state to Bush during that very close election.
Bright, in short, has the critical combination of talents necessary to develop a major ski resort: political connections, money, and business talent. If anyone can pull this off, he can.
The exact reason I started this thread. Maybe news stories really do feed on themselves...
1." ... the entire Blackwaters/Dolly Sods area declared a pristine nature site. That, however, has no chance of happening"
Actually, before Bush II was elected, there was a powerful campaign to create a National Park in this area. Had the election gone the other way,I think it would have happened. And Bush II will not be with us forever,Thank God.
2. He is overly impressed with the importance of the "Baltimore/DC/Richmond
Metropolitan area" in influencing economic development in the WV highlands Also, that area is not one of the "nations meccas for attracting young, active, outdoors minded
people" as he says
The largest group of folks patronizing the "Blackwater/Dolly Sods" area and
owning 2d homes there area are those
from the West Virginia cities, particulary Charleston. West Virginians are
very fond of West Virginia. Most DCers
are only dimly aware that such a place exists, and many believe the
stereotypes about ignorant hillbillies living on possum meat in their trailers and shacks. Of course there are exceptions,
but the numbers of those folks are not huge.
It is a mecca for the young and ambitious, but not the outdoors-minded, if
they are not idiots. This is because
it now takes hours of travel through gridlock and noxious fumes to get
anywhere where serious outdoor recreation
is possible. And that situation will get worse for a long, long time before
it gets better.
BTW, I've been around DC area for 60 years and the Highlands for 30.
May as well protect what little remains.
While one part of me would be very happy to have a big mountain to ski, another part would be sad to see it happen. I am by no means an ardent ecofreak, but must we chop, landscape, and pave every square inch?
If Bright were serious about opening a big viable ski resort he would do it where the snow was better. While the snow in the part of WV is by no means trvial let's be honest: last years great winter is average in NY and VT.
Tory would make a great third resort, if/when a third resort was economically viable. MPC is nothing but speculation and a rumor getting way too far ahead of itself right now. For that matter, the entire discussion of a third resort is mere speculation. There have been too many failed ventures in WV to get too worked up about this resort at this point.
Finally, I'd like to kindly ask to keep the national politics to a minimum here. Different people who have different views about the national scene can still come to similar conclusions at the local level-- turning this into partisan politics is unnecessary and missing the mark a bit. Bill Bright would still be checking out potential sites for a ski resort no matter who was in office; Corridor H would still be being built; new subdivisions would still be on their way. There are plenty of other websites to complain about Bush at... use them.
As a property owner in Snowshoe, I want to ensure a) my property value, b) the enjoyment and expansion of the resort, and c) the natural setting that drew me to the place in the beginning. However, as Intrawest has endeavored to expand the skiable terrain, the Forest Service has been at best, intransigent. That's the worst they could do for their image and I would vote for any politician who campaigned on a platform of taking the forest service to task.
1. Hardy, Grant, Hampshire, Pendleton, Pocahontas, and Morgan counties are the Liebensraum for the Baltimore/DC/Richmond Metropolitan area. (Berkeley and Jefferson counties are already part of DC metro and even have MARC trains). The real estate values in these counties has skyrocketed as the vacational real estate for DC has moved from the roughly Middleburg and Culpepper areas to West of the Shennandoah Valley. Whether we like it or not, thousands of new vacation home owners will purchase and subdivide land in these counties.
2. The DC metro area is one of the nation's meccas for attracting young, active, outdoors minded people. More and more people and young families will be looking at leisure activities that include skiing and West Virginia is within hand's reach.
3. The construction of the new Corridor H will undoubtedly pour new people looking for amusement into the area and that also will likely include businesses and permanent residents.
4. Anywhere you find large numbers of people and vacation homes, you will see these new techno-savy people post their land as no hunting.
4. If there is a customer base for a new ski area, you can bet someone will do the appropriate surveys and if they can make money out of it, it will happen.
The environmental movement can become a partner in ensuring the protection of the ecological treasure of the area while allowing limited and sustainable development or it will be sidelined. And once the window of opportunity to participate closes, it takes a revolution to open it again.
Additionally it is much colder, it rains less, the snow they do get doesn't melt nearly as fast, and they can blow much more snow than down in these parts.
For balance I will list some cons: it is wicked cold up there and it gets much more icy up there.
I am not dissing the WV snow - for its latitude it is quite incredible and is suprisingly plentiful - but latitude and favorable weather patterns can only go so far this far south, esp when a big ol' rain storm comes popping out of Dixie.
Average Snowfall in Southern VT:
Stratton: 180 inches
Mt. Snow: 163
Average Snowfall in WV:
Northern VT, however, blows WV away:
As to your assertion that the DC area does not contribute wholesale to the significant rise in real estate purchases, I reesearched and bought this article from the Charleston WV Gazette which also appeared in the Washington Post... I wasn't able to load the entire doc due to space limitations...
Publication: THE SUNDAY GAZETTE-MAIL
Headline: HEADING FOR THE HILLS WEST VIRGINIA, FAR FROM THE BIG CITY, DRAWS BUYERS OF SECOND HOMES
Byline: SANDRA FLEISHMAN THE WASHINGTON POST
A year ago, as they set off for their annual vacation in the woods, Lee Whitehurst turned to his wife, Debbie, and declared: "I'm sick of having to load half the house into the car." So instead of camping, they went hunting for land.
The couple eventually discovered eight acres in a tranquil corner of the world far removed from their house in bustling Alexandria. They hope to complete a log-home retreat in a secluded community by September.
But in their search for solitude they have joined a different kind of bustle, a veritable land rush by Baby Boomers contending for second homes within a few hours' drive of megalopolis. The Whitehursts and a parade of fellow property prospectors are turning the rugged vistas and leafy lots of West Virginia hotter than the baths at Berkeley Springs.
How hot is West Virginia?
So hot that a 3,200-acre development of 20-acre and bigger parcels just west of Front Royal sold out in 11 months last year, and a big-sister development of 10,000 acres farther west is going fast.
So hot that land prices have doubled and even tripled in the past couple of years in the two West Virginia counties west of Front Royal and Winchester. That is true not only in traditional recreational areas, but also for farmland and very remote acreage. Land prices are not as dear as they are at the shore, or in Lake Anna in Virginia or Deep Creek Lake in Western Maryland, but at $3,000 to $5,000 an acre for some lots, they are starting to raise eyebrows.
From 1990 to 2000, West Virginia had the second-biggest jump in the nation in the share of its housing considered "seasonal," according to a West Virginia University analysis of recent census data. The state trailed only Hawaii. The Mountain State also was the sixth-fastest-growing state for second homes in the last decade, behind Hawaii, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky and Georgia, said Randy Childs, a West Virginia University economist.
In parts of the Mountain State just over the Virginia line from where I-66 and I-81 hook up in Strasburg, demand from buyers is intensifying. The names of Lost River, Wardensville and Moorefield, tiny hamlets in Hardy and Hampshire counties with spectacular ridges and exceptional views of the George Washington National Forest, state parklands and mountains, may grow to be as familiar to D.C. escapees as Rehoboth Beach or the Shenandoah Valley.
The developer of the two huge parcels spurring the market in the two counties advertises heavily on Washington area radio stations and in The Washington Post to tap into what he believes is an eager audience.
"The bulk of our buyers are from the Virginia line to Philadelphia," including the Washington-Baltimore corridor, said L. Hunter Wilson, owner of Hunter Co. of West Virginia.
"They're all people that want a little bit of space, want the peace and quiet and have the money to buy," he said. "And people see the value out here. If you look at the price of a 10-acre tract in Loudoun County, it's over a quarter of a million dollars."....
Real estate agents working around Wilson's new developments, as well as in the trendy Lost River area to the sPouth and in areas closer to the popular Canaan Valley ski resort, are beginning to offer access to their properties through the Washington area's multiple-listing service, Metropolitan Regional Information Services Inc. Some agents say city folk like to check out listings by themselves via the Internet rather than flip through listing books at small-town realty agencies.
That idea still strikes some old-time West Virginia agents as unnecessary or impersonal. But those who offer MRIS listings suggest that the pace is quickening in hill country and that longtimers could lose their grip on the market if they do not keep up.
While Census trackers confirm that there has been big interest in the state, agents and locals think demand will explode when a planned new federal highway opens.
The 100-mile, four-lane interstate, which will connect mountain recreational areas to I-79 to the west and to I-81, I-66 and Virginia to the east, is moving ahead after years of controversy and debate.
Known as Corridor H or the Robert C. Byrd Appalachian Highway System, in honor of the senior senator from West Virginia, the highway is already built from I-79 at Weston to Kerens, just north of Elkins. Nine miles of road in the Hardy/Hampshire area are also complete, and construction is speeding along on the Moorefield to Wardensville section.
Once the interstate is finished, driving time from the Beltway to Ashton Woods, which is right off the Moorefield exit, and to other nearby land will be cut dramatically.
Jim Davis, an enthusiastic real estate entrepreneur who just opened an office in Baker, at the crossroads to Lost River, Wardensville and Moorefield, can't wait.
Davis neatly summarizes the categories of people who look for vacation land and the way the highway will widen their horizons.
"You've got the two-hour people, the three-hour people and the four-hour people," he said. "The two-hour people now say they only want to go as far as Wardensville, the three-hour people are going to Moorefield, and the four-hour people are going to Canaan Valley and the other side [of the state]. Once this road is in, Wardensville will still be about an hour and 45 minutes from Washington, but Moorefield will be about two hours and the Canaan Valley will be only three hours away."
[This message has been edited by lbotta (edited 11-05-2003).]
I saw the article he brought in. Note that the area discussed is the eastern edge of the state, eastern Hardy and Hampshire counties-- Lost City, Mathias, Wardensville-- area. This is quite close to I81 & I66, and reached with relative ease by folks from say Fairfax County. However, this is still a long way from the Mon. Nat'l Forest area that we are considered about.
Should be noted also that the predictive part of that story was based on discussions with real estate agents, folks who can be counted on to hype the market no matter what.
Simple snowfall is not the whole story.
Throw in the number of thaws, the number of rain days, and the number of suitable snowmaking days/nights... THEN compare southern VT with WV.
WV compares favorably, this is true: I am amazed at the quality of snow down here - but we are still at a disadvantage.
According to Weather.com, the mean temperature for Davis in January is 24.
By comparison, the mean temp in Brattleboro in January is 21.
That's ony a 3 degree difference. The differences are not as dramatic as you might think.
Another plus for skiing in the Mid-Atlantic is light--we get more of it down here...
Finsoutoc you raise a really interesting point about resort specialization. I'd argue that another reason skiing has had sluggish growth numbers is that it is simply getting to be too expensive to be a family sport. When I was growing up in upstate New York, we paid four dollars a lift ticket on weekends. We skied twice a weekend, every weekend, from early January to late March. I'm not sure the local ski hills made much in the way of profit, but it made me a ski bum so I'm now pretty oblivious to paying big cash to ski. But what does a 46 dollar ticket at Whitetail do to attract new skiers? Yes there are discounts for beginners but a) the introductory lessons at the Snowtime resorts and other local hills, for want of a better word, SUCK and b) the price goes up awfully quick after your first couple of times out.
Ski areas and resorts are usually in rural areas with unfavorable local economics. As prices continue to rise it gets harder and harder to generate return customers that are the core of your profits. Moreover it's only a three month sport around here. People want to do things in the summer, too, and the prices for summertime activities aren't going down either. Somewhere families have to save money and for a lot of people, the idea of spending 200 dollars on the family for a single day of standing outside in winter cold is not that appealing.
Now, I know that there are a lot of positive changes and a lot of negative changes that are driving the costs of skiing, and there are cost saving opportunities available. But the real kick in the pants is, it is almost cheaper to fly west and spend a week at a resort in Utah or Montana than it is to spend a week skiing in West Virginia. And there is no comparison in terms of quality. A lot of times the only price difference between skiing out west and spending a week locally is the air fare, and even that is not always the case. On top of that, it's even cheaper to spend a week skiing in Europe than it is in the Rockies. Now, if you only have a thousand dollars per person in the family for winter vacation, and you want to ski for a week, where would you rather be: Snowshoe, Park City, or Davos? I love West Virginia, but not that much.
Given these dilemmas: 1) costs, particularly in terms of the quality offered, are almost a barrier to entry for new skiers to become "sportsmen/women" in this sport; 2) it's almost cheaper to go out west to ski and if the prices keep going the way they are, it soon will be... how are skier visits ever going to rise around here?
Perhaps specialization with one or two "second-home" resorts (aka Snowshoe, Bill Bright's new Mystery Mountain) is the wave of the future around here.
I agree with Roger Z on his assessment of the second home resort. In two or three years, Canaan will be timewise closer to DC than Rehoboth. Yes, I'd rather be at Zermatt than West Virginia, but I don't have to put up with the 9 hour flight, surly Delta ticket agents and TSA agents who make you take your shoes off, and coming back into the US, dealing with Customs Agent who think everyone is a threat to national security. So this year I will spend three weeks at Snowshoe.
And as far as competition with pricing, it works but sort of limited. Look at Stratton, for example. Intrawest there decided to cater to the Mercedes Benz, Beemer and Lexus crowd. So last year Stratton had the most expensive lift ticket in the nation and they even developed a club whereby if you plunked 25K and several other thousands during the year, you could go ahead of the line, had your own dining room, and were kept under "Deer Valley" conditions, with concierge service, etc. Think they would have had an empty resort,eh? Not a chance. You couldn't keep the techno-yups from Stratton if you swatted them with a broom. Stratton built a nice niche in the Boston/NY/CT crowd and it worked handsomely. There is a seriously untapped upscale clientele in the DC area. With people paying 1.3 million for a two-bedroom townhouse in Arlington or Dupont, the demand for upscale recreation in DC is unfilled. Perhaps a relatively near ski area will fill part of that niche...
[This message has been edited by lbotta (edited 11-06-2003).]
[This message has been edited by lbotta (edited 11-06-2003).]
The only reason I mention all this is to illustrate the cost difference between mid-Atlantic destinations (probably applies to northeast too) and the west. Out west the resorts are trying bring in more business with lower prices and regulated crowds, here it seems the prices go up almost yearly as the slopes get more and more congested. I am at a loss to offer any solutions for this as I realize the resorts are in business to make a buck, but there has to be some way to lower the prices while still giving a pleasant skiing experience.
A point I wish to make to lbotta concerning his upscale yuppies is that particular clientele is notoriously fickle, skiing each year at the current 'in' resorts until bored, where upon they move on and the high prices stay.
Additionally, I don't want skiing to devolve into a sport for just the well-off. I agree with Roger Z that there is no way to keep the sport going if the cost is so high that it limits new entrants. For example, my daughter, in her late 20's, has refused to learn to ski because she says that she can't afford the lift passes on her salary. She was a top athlete back home in EU but cannot afford to ski here, a sport she would undoubtedly enjoy and excel at. Kinda tells you something I think.
I have to point out the lone exception to the uber-charging around, Wisp's 'Get On Board' offer for $249 which I think is really smart business .. that takes care of the 1st season but what happens after that?
My only real heartburn with flying, aside from those TSA probers with the cold fingers at the airport, is having to rent a car on the other end. It adds to the price considerably.
Now that I have a little one however I suspect my tolerance for air travel will drop.
However, I covet my neighbors snow... even if Utah isn't exactly a neighbor.
You are dead-on right about one thing - the added competition WOULD light a fire under T-Line's butt about opening. And maybe under Canaan's about leaving half of their terrain closed when it is very skiable!
But this is *DC*ski I s'pose....
As for Snowcone's suggestion of buying property in the West, it's ok if you can put up with the hassles of flying out there 6 times a season. But that takes time and careful planning. I love the serendipity of being able to drive to Timberline at the last minute to catch some powder. I also love having a convenient place to go during the warmer months for hiking and mountain biking. Owning a place locally does not preclude one from flying or driving further afield from time to time to get a taste of bigger vertical and better snow. Finally, there's no way that the DC person who owns a place at Heavenly is going to get more weekend skiing accomplished in a season than a condo owner at Snowshoe: driving (even for 6 hours) is much more convenient than flying to the West. But perhaps quality trumps quantity as far as Snowcone is concerned. I used to have this attitude, but I've changed. I want to ski as many weekends as I can during the season and owning a place at Timberline has been the best way to achieve that goal.
PS For more on ski demographics, check out:
[This message has been edited by johnfmh (edited 11-06-2003).]
I fly extensively and while security lines can be annoying, TSA and Customs keep the lines organized even if they are sometimes long. As long as people are not cutting in a line and it is moving, I am happy.
To not ski the West or Europe because of flying hassles is stupid in my opinion. I've skied Europe for the past two years and will go again this year. The flying does not bother me a bit. In exchange for sitting in an airplane for 7 hours, I get to experience an entirely different ski world.
Also, altitude fears should not stop people from giong west or east. Places like Whistler and Big Mountain have moderate altitude. Also, most of the skiing in Europe is between 5,000 and 8,000 feet. More importantly, most lodging is below 5,000.
[This message has been edited by johnfmh (edited 11-07-2003).]
Between my skibag, bootbag, luggage, and such I still would be amazed at how much there was to lug (packing light for a ski trip, yeah right). But I just figured it as a workout for the day (in addition to any sking if I was outbound) and dealt with it, plus ski equipment is a great prop for flirting with chicks in the airport.
Now add wife: multiply by three. Also note that equipment looses ALL of its flirting prop value and simply becomes dead weight. Time to rent a cart.
Now add baby: multiply by six. Time to rent two carts... and maybe get a skycap.
Now add crying baby, and have him squeeze out a steamer 2 minutes before boarding.
You get the picture.
If the kids are big then it becomes easy (esp if they are boys) - make them lug your stuff, and force them to rent.
I have bad asthma, which is acerbated by altitude and humidity, but I don't let that stop me from skiing. Although I haven't tried to ski at Copper (base 9.7k) or Breck (base 9.6k), I do just fine at Squaw, Heavenly, and Deer Valley (bases 6.2k to 6.6k). All I do is take it easy on the first day; maybe do the shops or sleep in, and maybe ski max 2 hrs greenies in the afternoon. By the second day, inhaler in hand, I am ready to rip. Frankly even at Snowshoe at 5k, I always have some trouble on the first day until I get acclimated.
Flying is definitely not fun for me, but when I envision how terrific it feels on that first run down Orion or Dipper on a Bluebird day then its truly worth the sweaty palms and panic attacks.
The only point I was trying to make was from the amateur or vacation skier perspective. If you're doing quality comparisons only (that is, if costs are similar-- and they really are. Four of us did a nine day vacation to Steamboat last year for just over one thousand per person, this year we're going to Utah for just UNDER one thousand per person), where are these families going to put their money? Mid-Atlantic ski resorts, in my opinion, have to realize that cost savings are dropping around here and start factoring that in for vacationing families. Particularly as skiing becomes more and more expensive, people are going to focus more and more on "the trip" (as opposed to several regional trips and one major one to another destination) and skip out on local skiing altogether. And taking only one or two trips a year doesn't build the enthusiast base that most of us on this board belong to, and provide a great source of revenue for the ski areas.
Flying might be a hassle but negotiating the back roads of West Virginia during a blizzard, or driving up I-81 in an ice storm, ain't exactly a walk in the park.
Anyone going to the ski show in Chantilly this weekend? Looking forward to that new Warren Miller film... maybe Bill Bright will have a booth for his Myth Making Almost Heaven Ski-o-Rama...
2d home purchasing trends in WV don't support your assertion. The people buying condos and houses at Timberline and Snowshoe are families. These people have decided to skip the TRIP and instead ski as many weekends and holidays as they can at the local mountain on relatively cheap season pass. The people making big TRIPS are double income, no kid couples, singles with cash to spare, and empty nester types.
Families are much more inclined to buy a 2d property and drive. It's much easier logistically when you have lots of little ones. Also, you can defray a lot of costs associated with 2d home ownership if you put your property on the rental market. Given recent real estate trends, these properties have also been a decent investment--especially for those who were wise enough to buy at Snowshoe, Wisp, or 7 Springs.
[This message has been edited by johnfmh (edited 11-07-2003).]