Why is "Almost Heaven" Ski Area Story Public?
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JohnL
October 14, 2003
Member since 01/6/2000 🔗
3,518 posts
Looking at the possible development of an "Almost Heaven" ski area by Bill Bright at Mount Porte Crayon or another location, how did this story get in the public eye? John Sherwood, how did you first hear about this to write your article? Seems like there have been development rumors for years, but this story has recently developed traction. Why?

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).]

gatkinso
October 14, 2003
Member since 01/25/2002 🔗
316 posts
I dunno where else in WV - but in Maryland Rocky Gap State Park would be an awesome location for a ski resort.

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.

johnfmh - DCSki Columnist
October 15, 2003
Member since 07/18/2001 🔗
1,927 posts
My sources for that story were:

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).]

JohnL
October 15, 2003
Member since 01/6/2000 🔗
3,518 posts
Thanks for the added info, John.

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.

DCSki Sponsor: Seven Springs Resort
johnfmh - DCSki Columnist
October 15, 2003
Member since 07/18/2001 🔗
1,927 posts
JohnL:

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).]

JohnL
October 15, 2003
Member since 01/6/2000 🔗
3,518 posts
John,

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.

johnfmh - DCSki Columnist
October 15, 2003
Member since 07/18/2001 🔗
1,927 posts
Bill Bright is an extremely credible developer. If anyone can overcome the challenges inherent in this project, he can. If he goes forward with the project, it will be a ski resort first and a second property development second.

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.

(Anonymous)
October 15, 2003
He'll have a hell of a time delivering West Virginia to Bush in 2004, he's done nothing but lost jobs in Appalachia and West Virginia in particular.
(Anonymous)
October 17, 2003
Several years ago I inquired about the possiblility of building a ski resort at Rocky and was told by a State Legislature member that it was not possible since much of the land has been designated as "wild land" thus precluding any such development.
(Anonymous)
October 17, 2003
hey chip 1 the new ski area will get new jobs in the area
Rich
October 20, 2003
Member since 11/30/2000 🔗
194 posts
Chip1...ha-ha...he'll have a hard time delivering ANYONE to Bush 2004. After the Iraq debacle, Bush's big-business buds didn't get what they were promised...so unless he discovers oil in them there w. Virginie hills...
(Anonymous)
November 3, 2003
I think the notion of destroying more wilderness for another resort in this area is ridiculous. Like someone else mentioned, Timberline/Canaan are under-utilized. I think the emphasis should be on expanding/enhancing existing areas rather than developing in the few remaining wilderness areas left relatively untouched in this country. Why don't winter sports enthusiasts have a conservation ethic like most responsible hunters/fishermen?
johnfmh - DCSki Columnist
November 3, 2003
Member since 07/18/2001 🔗
1,927 posts
There's a new story on Almost Heaven in today's Intermountain:

http://theintermountain.com/

JohnL
November 4, 2003
Member since 01/6/2000 🔗
3,518 posts
>> Speculation on entrepreneur Bill Bright's plans to develop a new ski resort near Blackwater Falls and Canaan Valley has been part of recent news stories, but the developer said he is not sure why.
"I have no more news than I had a year ago," Bright told The Inter-Mountain last week.

The exact reason I started this thread. Maybe news stories really do feed on themselves...

(Anonymous)
November 4, 2003
lbotta is wrong about 2 things:

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.

gatkinso
November 4, 2003
Member since 01/25/2002 🔗
316 posts
One thing is for sure: there aren't too many large expanses of wilderness left - and lets face it the area in question really isn't very big.

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.

(Anonymous)
November 4, 2003
Ibotta Is up to date & petger is living in the old school of thought.Gatkinso is a little off.Last years wv snow was ave in northern vt but above ave in southern vt. There is a diff.& killington measures there snow from the summit where as canaan measures from the valley floor+ killington lies a little! Read the stats the balt,dc area is in the top 10 in the country for attracting educated, young & active people open the h factor with a little marketing & you would have a flood of people. As for hunters send them to the cities. There are more deer being hit than ever.Lets support the best mtn wv has to offer do it right & turn the rest into a nat park.
Roger Z
November 4, 2003
Member since 01/16/2004 🔗
2,181 posts
I don't consider myself a big environmentalist, but I do agree with pretty much everything Ibatso had to say. I would like to see a larger wilderness type area in the Canaan Valley region-- with a few more land acquisitions it could stretch from the northern rim of the valley near Canaan Heights to Haystack Knob and Long Run just south of the Roaring Plains, and encompass over 40,000 acres (with only one fire road bifurcating the entire area). I'd like to emphasize *mixed use* however, because I don't want to see people who live out there be hurt by otherwise well-meaning preservation efforts. Open space that allows for multi-use in many areas (such as hunting and fishing) and is largely unused for commercial purposes right now is one way to balance quality-of-life with conservation needs. Based on travels out west, I believe that National Parks create too much controversy over land use and would best be left out of the WV picture.

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.

myrto
November 4, 2003
Member since 10/4/2001 🔗
259 posts
Communism in its' true form would allow us all to share the mountain
lbotta - DCSki Supporter
November 5, 2003
Member since 10/18/1999 🔗
1,527 posts
Toby, I am an ardent conservationist. However, we have to face reality. There's nothing more I would love to have than the entire Blackwaters/Dolly Sods area declared a pristine nature site. That, however, has no chance of happening, and unless we become part of the solution, we risk being sidelined as part of the problem. As far as the hunters, their area of operation is becoming increasingly limited even today as more and more land gets posted in that area.

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.

Reality check:

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.

gatkinso
November 5, 2003
Member since 01/25/2002 🔗
316 posts
That is true about Killington, this is why one should take their snow reports with a grain of salt - but it still snows much more up there.

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.

johnfmh - DCSki Columnist
November 5, 2003
Member since 07/18/2001 🔗
1,927 posts
Southern VT and WV are fairly even in terms of snowfall amounts. Here's some stats from www.ski-guide.com:

Average Snowfall in Southern VT:

Stratton: 180 inches
Mt. Snow: 163
Bromley: 155

Average Snowfall in WV:

Timberline: 150
Snowshoe: 180

Northern VT, however, blows WV away:

Stowe: 260
Smugglers': 284
Jay: 351

lbotta - DCSki Supporter
November 5, 2003
Member since 10/18/1999 🔗
1,527 posts
Petger, I just want us to face reality and our need to balance conservation with the inevitability that more and more people are going to pour into West Virginia.

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...
Read on.....

Publication: THE SUNDAY GAZETTE-MAIL
Published: 04/27/2003
Page: 1D
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.


Shorter drive


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).]

finsoutoc
November 5, 2003
Member since 09/30/2003 🔗
172 posts
aside from the environmental issues which i don't subscribe to, a big point missed here is competition. You can say 'economically viable' but the fact is that these resorts may be struggling because they aren't giving the customer what they want. bringing in a new player will either force them to adapt or perish. A classic esample of this is snowtime. Pre-whitetail, snowtime was the only game in town and they knew it. as a result, you had high prices and poor customer service. when whitetail opened, it forced liberty and roundtop to be more customer oriented and at least try to keep a lid on prices. liberty did a good job with expansion, customer focus accross all areas (beginner,intermediate and advanced). Now that they own whitetail we have seen a return to the monopolistic attitudes of the past. However, we are seeing a different trend of multi-use areas like golf courses adding snow parks, tubing and halfpipe, and snowtime (roundtop in particular) is geting nervous. with the advent of the more extreme elements of skiing and snowboarding (pipe and parks)there really isn't a need for major vertical for this stuff so the trend is towards more specialty use areas of much smaller scale and cost. there is one already in york and that will impact on roudntop's business for sure.
finsoutoc
November 5, 2003
Member since 09/30/2003 🔗
172 posts
actually my whole response was regarding competition. with the advent of the small, low cost specialty areas more competition will be introduced into the mix which will equal survival for those areas that step it up, and death to those that don't. by adding new resorts/ski areas, the existing folks need to look at their own business practices and change to keep that limited customer base. as an example: take Roundtop for instance. They tend to put the vast majority of their focus on the beginner. Because the intermediate and advanced users (esp pipe and park users)have no place else to go without lots of travel, they can get away with neglecting these folks. what typically happens is that as people become more advanced, they either move on or quit from lack of challenges. with more and more focus, especially with younger users, on pipes and parks, small mid-atlantic mountains can keep those people around if they put some focus on that, which RT hasn't been doing. Now, we have a small, pipe park-only area opening very close to roundtop. as a result, RT will either step up and take care of those people or suffer the loss of business. same thing with this issue. there are 2 existing resorts in WV. Say the third one becomes reality. Those 2 will need to step it up. As customers, we all benefit from that. we get better rates (the best way to compete is thru lower lift ticket prices), better service and better facilities. if one or 2 can't, they get bought by someone who can or go under. but even if they do, whatever is left should be much better for you.
(Anonymous)
November 5, 2003
Responding again to lbotta, re impact of dc recreationists on the wv highlands:

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.

gatkinso
November 5, 2003
Member since 01/25/2002 🔗
316 posts
john

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.

johnfmh - DCSki Columnist
November 5, 2003
Member since 07/18/2001 🔗
1,927 posts
I've experienced a lot of rain in January and February in Vermont. Admittedly, the weather is colder there than in WV but the differences decrease dramatically if you compare Southern VT to Snowshoe/Canaan Valley.

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...

Roger Z
November 5, 2003
Member since 01/16/2004 🔗
2,181 posts
First I apologize Ibotta for misspelling your name last night.

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.

lbotta - DCSki Supporter
November 5, 2003
Member since 10/18/1999 🔗
1,527 posts
Peter, note please that all these areas have had exponential rise in real estate values as is. Just wait until Elkins is a mere two and a half hours away from DC, wich is what will be once Corridor H is built... In addition, I can see real estate agency data to be suspect, but for personal eperience, my own condo at Snowshoe has experienced a 50 percent rist in value and if you note the Intrawest resort sales, their properties are 60-75 percent sold out on announcement day...

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).]

(Anonymous)
November 6, 2003
finsoutoc: You seem to be saying that we don't need the big mountain because of the new age of skiing/snowboarding will be terrain parks, snow tubing, etc. Then why do we need Porte Crayon or another ski mountain.Due to the poor job that the industry has done in marketing skiing, there has only been a small marginall increase in the number of skiers/snowboarders since the 1970's. Thus, as in other industries where you expand to meet growing demand, the demand for ski areas is not increasing. Hundreds have closed over the past decade. There simply aren't enough skiers to justify another resort. The economics simply do not work especially considering the water and infrastructure issues that a new resort must face. This ain't the north country where natural snow lingers because its cold outside. The demand for water to make snow for such a large resort would be enormous. I do however agree that competition from Whitetail definitely forced Snowtime to improve Roundtop and Liberty.
snowcone
November 6, 2003
Member since 09/27/2002 🔗
589 posts
As late as last year we were considering buying a condo at Snowshoe .. then we went to Heavenly. Vive la difference! We intend to buy one of the 2 bedroom, 1.5 bath townhouses right off Ski Run Drive in the 150k to 200k range, season passes are $299, RT air in the $280 range. There's a huge Safeway in South Lake where the prices are -low- (for home cookin'), gambling /entertainment /good booze dens if you want, and, of course, easy transport from Reno airport. Admittedly it takes a couple of hours longer to get there but the additional bang for the buck is undeniable. When you compare this to Snowshoe's equivalent higher-end condo sales of 350k plus for 2 bedroom, season pass in the $600 range (if I remember right), 5-6 hour drive in, what are usually, really crappy conditions, high prices and overcrowding for dining and food stuffs, ... well it makes the decision easy.

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?

DWW
November 6, 2003
Member since 03/11/2004 🔗
144 posts
SS is still a 2-3 day weekend resort. It truely sells out Friday & Saturdays. You can still get in some good uncrowded runs if you get them in before 11 am. Weekdays there are truely "Almost Heaven" and pricing is very fair then. I appreciate the cost comparisons, but there is still nothing comparable to throwing your skiis on the rack, your cooler in the back - and just going. Even though it takes me 6+ hours from Cincy, I don't underestimate the hassle involved with flying out west (the last time I went to Whistler it took two days to get my luggage and skis). You can still buy one bedroom ski in/out condos at Mountain lodge for $75,000 (two for $150,000). The new condos are definately pricey - but its a supply/demand thing. SS Village is the equivalent of one of many developments/neibhorhoods that you find at a western resort - and the one with the best location. I might buy the cost case when comparing a one-week vacation, but who is going to buy a season ticket out west and fly out every weekend (for thousands of dollars).


gatkinso
November 6, 2003
Member since 01/25/2002 🔗
316 posts
I find flying west is about comparable to driving to Vermont time wise when all is factored in.

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.

(Anonymous)
November 6, 2003
You cant compare wv to the western & northern ski areas until wv's BEST is built! How many people get altitude sickness?Ive heard that a lot of people do.I had to put off my trip to stowe last year 3 times because of -0 weather.Walking thru davis at nite with a lite snow falling Or up at the village at the shoe Brings a beautifull feeling to me knowing I;m home!!I grew up in the dc area & rooted for the redskins The ones out there always talkin about the greener(or whiter)grass im sure were or are cowboy fans.Im sure many of you all agree the snow sure looks prettier when you know its yours & you are home than at sombody elses house.there are people that will get this & some will never understand.I feel sorry for the others.
gatkinso
November 6, 2003
Member since 01/25/2002 🔗
316 posts
Home is where the heart is my friend, and mine is squarley in WV (I claim quasi-citizenship since my mom moved from Cumberland to Ridgely which even if it is right across the river it is in WV).

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!

gatkinso
November 6, 2003
Member since 01/25/2002 🔗
316 posts
And what is this 'skins crap?

Ravens.

But this is *DC*ski I s'pose....

johnfmh - DCSki Columnist
November 7, 2003
Member since 07/18/2001 🔗
1,927 posts
An off-season weekend (December or March) at a resort in the West can rival the cost of a weekend at Snowshoe during a HOLIDAY WEEKEND, but it's not cheaper than skiing Snowshoe on a standard weekend and certainly not cheaper than skiing there as a condo owner. Also, the convenience of being able to throw all your stuff, including children and animals, in a vehicle and drive to Snowshoe can't be beat. That's why Snowshoe's number continues to go up. PEOPLE DETEST FLYING! They want somewhere they can drive to: snow and vertical are secondary. Almost Heaven wants to tap into this same market, and I think demographics support such a move. We're not just talking about DC; we're talking about every major city on the East Coast from Miami to Philadelphia. That's a big market. Believe it or not folks, people drive 14 hours from Florida to ski in WV and we get more and more of those people every year. Why do those people choose Snowshoe over Vail? SIMPLE: THEY DO NOT WANT TO FLY! Across the board, the demographics for the ski industry are not good but WV may be able to buck the trend because it taps so heavily into the NEW SOUTH. This area may be able to attract additional skiers because people from Charlotte, Atlanta, and Norfolk want to ski but do not want to fly.

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:
http://www.nsaa.org/nsaa2002/_growth_model.asp?item=1

[This message has been edited by johnfmh (edited 11-06-2003).]

johnfmh - DCSki Columnist
November 7, 2003
Member since 07/18/2001 🔗
1,927 posts
One point I forgot to make is that many of the fears and concerns people have about flying are completely unwarranted. It's still a much safer means of travel than driving.

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).]

gatkinso
November 7, 2003
Member since 01/25/2002 🔗
316 posts
When I was a wild bachelor yeah, flying was the bomb (bad choice of words!).

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.

snowcone
November 7, 2003
Member since 09/27/2002 🔗
589 posts
Just a comment about altitude sickness and flying out west:

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.

Roger Z
November 7, 2003
Member since 01/16/2004 🔗
2,181 posts
I didn't want to denigrate WV skiing. My parents and I love skiing CV and I try to get out there at least once a season still. I agree 100% that there is nothing-- nothing-- like seeing the Weather Channel call for a three foot blizzard and just hopping in your car, getting out there, and getting stranded at the Canaan lodge for a weekend because the place hardly ever sells out and skiing in "MINE ALL MINE" powder all weekend, closed roads and all. I've done it twice-- it's wonderful. You can't do that with flying, no doubt.

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...

johnfmh - DCSki Columnist
November 7, 2003
Member since 07/18/2001 🔗
1,927 posts
Roger:

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).]

(Anonymous)
November 7, 2003
The reason why this story became public is to see what kind of reaction the ski area would get.If i where bill bright i would be encoureged bt the comments.Even some of the negative comments will spur him on if he is the red blooded american i think he is.I bet he will take all the enviormental concerns & cherish the challenge. This will work people & when the lines are so big at the lifts I'll help you load your bags on your flt to nirvana!!
finsoutoc
November 8, 2003
Member since 09/30/2003 🔗
172 posts
snowcone i have one word for you....xanax. take one of those babies and you wouldn't care if the plane crashed.
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