Mount Porte Crayon a bad Idea
November 30, 2003
The area cannot sustain a third/fourth ski area. They are on a tight budget as is. Why do you think they don't upgrade lifts at Timberline.Why do you thing they built a cement tomb for a new lodge at Canaan? The moneys is not there.If a new resort were added it would kill one if not all three.
People talk about how great a 2k foot vertical would be. But what we have already between wisp canaan, Timberline and Snowshoe. is great. If you need more you can drive to NE in 8 hours. What we need to do is support what we have so that they stay profitable and can continue to expand and improve. The pie is only so big and the best way to make it bigger is by making what we have better.
I don't see anyone from outside the area (within 3-4 hours drive) going to Mt. Porte Canyon or whatever reguardless of the vertical. And you are left with weekend / holiday corwds and slim picking during the week. Mid-atlantic resorts need full snow making. It seems unrealistic to me.
[This message has been edited by tromano (edited 11-05-2003).]
Snowshoe has 1500ft of vertical. An extra 500ft is not going to make much differance. Realistically you are only talking about a maybe another 30 seconds to a minute of descent time. I agre with Tromano. Make what we have better. Improve lifts so we can get uphill faster for more descents. Work on snowmaking so we can open earlier and close later. Improve the resort so its somewhere to go for a weekend rather than just skipping in and out in a day. There are only 2 resorts in the area that fit those criteria as I see it the Shoe obviously and 7 Springs. even though its a bit of a haul for a day trip I love 7 Springs. Wide open slopes. The six pack chair is great. The lodge is lots of fun with plenty of amenities. Look at places like Laurel and Blue Knob. I havent had a chance to try them yet but from what I hear they are good mountains but with a stack of financial issues. Im prove what we have then expand.
That is an invalid conclusion about decent time: Wisp is 650ish vertical - unless you go straight down that one slope (something alley or expressway or whatever) you are not making down the mountain in 40ish seconds.
(OT: I am no fan of Wisp.)
Myrto - they just upgraded lifts at TLine I thought, but your are pretty much right I think.
Blue Knob is a fun ski that is located in the midst of mining and logging.
My two cents worth - hey 500 vert more = at least 5-30 turns more (30 if you like SL or 5 if you are like me and like SG turns) so it is meaningful. But it is true ... financially it is better to have increased snowmaking (and use it!) and a good lodge. Yeah 7 Springs was my fav PA resort; the back side (like Giant Steps) is nice and wide open and fun to wail down. Also all the nooky tree-runs are good stuff when there is cover.
The thing that is annoying about the MPC rumor is that it is one of the most enviornmentally sensitve points in the state... why build there? Why create such a ruckus and controversy which is going to all but doom the hill? If it is economically feasible, there are other areas to build that could provide substantial verticals (greater than or equal to Snowshoe's) down a consistent fall line. If you're not worried about natural snow skiing, you could even build further east and closer to the metro region, making the commute much easier for east coast residents. There are peaks that straddle the WV/VA border at or over 4,000 feet with potential descents of up to 2,000 feet. Although some of the spots would be tough to get approved, none of them would create nearly the uproar that MPC would.
The last I heard there were water use limits in CV which restrict the amount of housing that can be built there as well as snowmaking systems on the main resorts. If true, that would obviously hamper terrain expansion, unfortunately...
"There are peaks that straddle the WV/VA border at or over 4,000 feet with potential descents of up to 2,000 feet."
Those mountains are east of the Allegheny Front, the major snow line in the Mid-Atlantic. MPC is west of the front and therefore 3-10 degrees cooler.
No developer wants to build a mountain east of that front. Snowshoe, Timberline, Canaan Valley, Wisp, and 7 Springs are all west of the front and that's why their seasons typically run from Mid Dec. to April.
I found a pic of flatrock run which is right around the corner of porte crayon. this pic shows snow on the mtn on MAY 19th! you will never see that east of the line.This north facing slope could be the 3rd place bieng looked at for "almost heaven" www.jonathanjessup.com & link on to the wilderness tour.
I know Jonathan Jessup. If you want a nice photo of WV, he's the guy to order from. I asked him about that particular photo a few months ago and he explained that it is not the Bonner Slope (possible site of Almost Heaven). This picture shows part of the Flatrock and Roaring Plains--i.e. forest service land that would probably not be developed if a new resort comes into the area. According to the Forest Service HQ in Elkins, there have been no applications to use this land for ski slopes.
[This message has been edited by johnfmh (edited 11-10-2003).]
Then again, consider the fact that the Canaan Valley burned completely to the ground around the turn of the century (maybe earlier) peat and all... then the ashes eroded away leaving bedrock and sterile soil and looked pretty much like the surface of the moon fo decades.
The CCC carried millions of bushel baskets of topsoil BY HAND back into the Valley to restore it.
In light of that, a ski resort isn't all that bad.
I know about the Allegheny Front, and it has much to do with precipitation and little to do with temperature on a comparative elevation basis. Check the stats on Big Meadow at 3500 in Shenandoah versus Davis; they're almost the same (www.ohwy.com),if memory serves Big Meadow is a shade cooler in Jan but drier. I mentioned the snow decrease but most skiers around here aren't hardcore natural snow bums anyway. As far as whether people want to build resorts east of the front-- Whitetail, Cherokee, and the recent expansion at Massanutten all come to mind. Two of the three are doing well-- one's closed but being west of the Allegheny Front is no panacea against that-- and don't have nearly the elevation to be a major destination.
Given a 1500-2000 foot vertical (hypothetically) just west of the Shenandoah Valley or driving another three hours across several mountain passes just to ski a smaller hill at Snowshoe, I doubt that a new resort would have a hard time attracting customers, Allegheny Front or not. All that said, there are also viable alternatives to MPC west of the Allegheny Front as well, including but not limited to Tory. There are plenty of alternatives to MPC, and almost none of them would generate the controversy that hill would.
You are absolutely right: precipitation is as significant as temperature with respect to the Allegheny Front, and that's why Bright is only looking at sites on the west side of the front. Weather is clearly a key concern for him. That's why he's been monitoring weather at each of his possible sites for the past few years. He needs to open a resort than can stay open from early December to mid April, and only locations west of the front allow for such long seasons. I've skied Timberline, 7 Springs, and Snowshoe many times both early and late in the season when no resorts east of the front have been open. The longer seasons offered by a west of the front locales were a key reason why I bought a condo at Timberline. Don't get me wrong. I have had wonderful ski days at Whitetail in December--just not as many as I have had at Timberline or Snowshoe.
Chip Chase's original location for White Grass was east of the front, and he nearly went under at that location. He's doing well now that he's west of the line. Here are some stats from his web site:
"45 trails over 50 km
1196 vertical: 3240'-4436'
Annual precipitation: 53", an inch per week
Average Snowfall: 150", over 12 1/2 feet
Mean Annual Temperature: 44 degrees F
Average January Temperature: 23 degrees F
Coldest Temperature: -24 degrees F
Warmest Temperature Ever: 95 degrees F
Average Skiable Days on the shady side at 4000' -- 95
Best Skiing: mid January - early March...it can be 50 or 20 below on any given day in winter here."
One key issue to keep in mind with respect to Chip's operation is that he has no trails below 3240 feet. For an MPC resort to capitalize on the full extent of its vertical, it would have to dip well below that altitude. Those lower slopes are going to get very mushy on warm days. That's a fact of life and altitude. Chip can bag 95 natural snow ski days on shady slopes at 4,000 feet, but that number declines precipitously the lower you get. In this sense, West Virginia is a lot like the Alps: skiing below 1,000 meters (3200 feet) is more myth than reality, even with excellent snowmaking.
[This message has been edited by johnfmh (edited 11-10-2003).]
On nov 10th canaan vly at 3200' had a low of 14 & a high the day before of 40.At burkes gar,va at 3200' the low was 23 & the high the day before of 44.Tweek that a little for latitude & wv still is colder.+ these are temps when things are settled weatherwise.When the storms start rolling up the east coast things change dramaticaly!It is always colder & snowier on the WEST side of the storms.Not only are the ski seasons longer in wv or western pa, but when you are at winter green(3800')during the season & it is raining there is a good bet it is snowing at 2800' in the western areas.
I took a hard look at three locations last night: Monterey, Virgina; Big Meadows, Virginia; Davis, West Virginia. The latitude spread between Monterey and Davis is 50 miles and the elevation diff is about 300 feet to Davis' favor. A good rule of thumb is you lose a degree of temperature for every fifty nautical miles further north and every 300-400 feet gain in elevation, so I expected to see about a 2 degree cooler temperature difference between Davis and Monterey. It was 2.8 degrees. Between that and doing some similar comparisons with Big Meadows (higher but even further east), it would appear that there is between one half and one and a half degree differences in temperature at a similar elevation between the east side and west side of the Allegheny Front. I think if you dug into the record highs and lows, you'd probably find there was greater variability in temperature east of the AF as well.
The skiing is unarguably better west of the Allegheny Front, especially from a natural snow perspective. I wouldn't expect a new resort east of the AF to have much, if any, natural snow terrain; it'd be almost all man-made, with cross country terrain largely confined to the ridgelines. But, let's face it, that's the mid-Atlantic for you. It would be a more costly operation because you'd have to make more snow, but that would be offset by proximity to the metro regions. My only point is that it's not illogical to consider a 4000 foot peak east of the AF, particularly with the advancements in snowmaking technology.
Add that to the fact that there is no skiing in Virginia anywhere close to 4000 feet. Virginia resorts are severely underutilizing their altitude. If there was a resort developer with a commitment to Virginia like Bill Bright has a commitment to West Virginia, there are plenty of possibilities to build a great resort east of the Front.
Andy the average high in Burkes Garden-- well over a hundred miles south of Davis-- is 38 in January, low 0f 18. That's a four degree spread. Two and a half to three degrees of that is latitude, one to one and a half degrees is being east of the Front.
mr kennedy with your money we could dump enough dirt on timberline to raise the elevation a couple of thousand feet! Hey mr Z where do you get the davis temp from? There will be another mtn dev east of the front its just a matter of time.One prob is getting the land. The best mtn is prob in the shan. park.Ther are some potential spots up 33 west of harrissonburg.But like i say at the top of a 4200' mtn there with only manmade snow on the slope & these leafless sticks to look at. you will find yourself looking out west & seeing the white tops of WV.I have seen those snowcovered tops on many occasions from a dry Route 33 at the crest before it drops down to gods country.
Maybe we have found a use for all that Mountain Top Removal waste that is being thrown into the valleys? We could glue it together with the black goo that is filling the rivers.
My main point is that the region already has difficulty supporting what is there. We have difficulty supporting what is there. If they opened a new resort would you spend twice as much time skiing? No, you would split your skiing budget by an extra cut thereby running what we have further into debt.
There is not enough interest to support it.
The resorts we have, Even including the incredibly funded snowshoe machine cannot stay open longer than march even though we have skiable terrain well into april. There is just not enough interest in skiing in the Mid-Atlantic. There is by us, but I still doubt that people will choose to ski more just so all the resorts make equal money.
What we really need is amassive snow dome with controlled interior climate. Now before everyone gets all upset and starts shooting it down, I know it will never happen but think of the advantages.
Build it anywhere you want because weather patterns dont affect your location. Keep it open all year round (imagine cutting turns mid august)
Keep it reasonably close to the metro area so you could day trip it regularly.
Lots of stores, lodging bars entertainment.
Downside the sheer cost of building something good enough the handle the huge crowds of people. Honestly take what it would cost to cultivate and actually ski slope and add the cost of enclosing it completely and add the cost of the air handlers required to keep it temperature regulated. Factor in running expenses. Still it would be nice.
I have to disagree with you. The right ski area in WV could increase the size of the skiing expenditure pie, instead of simply moving the dollars spent from one ski area to another. From personal experience, I and numerous skiing friends (numbering in the 10's) are underspending on local skiing because of the quality of the local skiing experience compared to what we can get elsewhere or on other recreational activities. We span a pretty broad demographic range; single, single with children, married with no children, married with children.
First of all, if certain local areas are struggling, it's primarily because they are not providing what the market wants. (They may also be struggling because of poor financial structuring of their operation, i.e., they weren't too smart about about how they bought or are running their ski area. A bad business person can take a healthy business and weaken it pretty quickly.)
Second of all, the majority of ski areas in the US close in the spring not due to lack of snow, but due to lack of skiers/boarders. This is not something unique to the Mid-Atlantic ski market. When the weather turns nice in April, most skiers nationwide turn to other activities. That's one reason why many ski resorts are building up year-round activites to supplement skiing. Golf, mountain biking, hiking, fly fishing, etc.
I would definitely support a new ski area in West Virginia if it had say 1500 feet of quality vertical, was under four hours from DC, and was in the snow belt (150-200 annual inches). Hopefully this new area would be chosen in a location that would minimize environmental damage.
Even 1500 feet of *quality* vertical is a rare commodity in the East, much less the Mid-Atlantic. (I believe 1500 feet is probably more realistic than 2000 feet, especially when quality is considered.) Only two trails in the Mid-Atlantic have anything near that amount (Cupp and Shay's), and they are a 5.5 hour drive away. 1500 feet would be two and a half Liberty's or Roundtops stacked on top of each other, aproximately double the North Face at Seven Springs or the Basin Side at Snowshoe, and 50 percent more than Timberline. I can't understand why people would pooh-pooh the extra vertical of a new resort; I guess they must not think much of the existing terrain.
[This message has been edited by JohnL (edited 11-12-2003).]
I remenber sking snowshoe on t-giving with decent cond. & then driving up to canaan to see what was going on.On the way I could look up at mpc & surrounding mtns & see snow up top even more than the shoe, but both canaan & timberline were bare! CV & t-line are spoiled by thier nat snow & dont put the effort that the lowland areas put in. T-line ops to be the last kid on the block open instead of the 1st kid on the block because its easier.Bring on the compo!!
1500 feet of quality skiing in the snowbelt still leaves at least three mountains to consider-- MPC, Brier Patch, and Job Knob. The last is probably closer to 1400 feet but would be consistent across almost all the terrain (that is, possibly more than four or five runs total covering that vertical). The latter two top at 4450, but there's a reasonable chance that a buildout on MPC may not go above 4500 or 4600 feet, which leaves virtually no elevation difference (like Stowe- under but not on top of the mountain).
Brier Patch has a north-northeast exposure, which of the three would provide the best shielding from the stronger northwest breezes. Job already has part of the Tory buildout on it. MPC has the slightly higher elevation if they can/choose to use it. If not, I really don't see why the environmental controversy would be worth it.
And, finally, as JohnL mentioned, the financial structuring is a gigantic question. It is an unfortunate fact that, like the airline industry, it is difficult to start small, and it is also an unfortunate fact that to start big, you often need a lot of debt. Debt has the curse of knowing no bad season-- you pay X percent or you play Chapter 11 or 7. Ragged Mountain in NH has been reborn because the guys that bought it owned their own construction company, so they did most of the rebuilding themselves. In addition to equity funding, a new resort venture could look at a structure like what Intrawest is doing right now-- selling their cash-heavy projects to an offshoot to develop while maintaining control over less expensive developments. You could even think of outsourcing the base village development and collecting fees on the project. Land swaps for tax breaks might also be helpful. Anything that will free cash flow, provide a steady stream of revenue regardless of weather (fee based), and reduce debt.
andy- Davis WV weather temps courtesy of weather.com and ohwy.com.
Dang Roger, sounds like you've thought about this a bit in the past.
Hey mr z I know you know that those weather obs are from elkins or petersburg so you must be figuring the dif out mathamaticaly.BUT canaan is a bonified micro climate. Check out the hydrolic obs every morn at 8am that will give you snowshoe & everybody else up down & all around.I wish the canaan valley real time weather cam was up.It worked for a while.Did you or anybody ck out that shot of flatrock run with snow on top may 19th?? That is the mid atlantic version of stowe if i have ever seen one! I have been trying to tell every one about this spot but it has fallen on deaf ears.I mean blind eyes!!
John, I think you hit it pretty good about why resorts close. I would argue though that better, more effective, marketing would go a long way in stemming that April rush to the golf courses. I think that also goes with my point about taking care of all segments of of your customer base and not just beginners. Speaking from my roundtop experiences, the more advanced users would love to continue the season but are usually so disgusted with the lack of attention all season they just give up. We've been pushing hard for a second season where RT stays open with a few trails, the park, and pipe and in exchange, season passes would end before that second season began. We've also put forth ideas where as the temps rise, the lift ticket prices come down. someone may not spend 35 bucks for slush, but they may spend 20 dollars. plus you get the benfit of seeing first hand that there is still snow there even though its not in your back yard. It really boils down to creative marketing. Another big problem with RT is they concentrate their marketing at the front of the season which makes no sense to me because at the front end, people are chomping at the bit to get out on the mt. It's at the end where its needed more.
"I would definitely support a new ski area in West Virginia if it had say 1500 foot of quality vertical, was under four hours from DC, and was in the snow belt (150-200 annual inches)."
Here here JohnL! You've hit the nail squarely on the head. MPC satisfies all three of these crtiteria. That's why Bill Bright is so serious about this mountain.
Basically, we have two types of mountains in the Mid-Atlantic: day commuter mountains and weekend (overnight) mountains. Going any place overnight is far more expensive than doing a day commute (food and lodging really add cost to any trip). That's why so many of us do our local skiing at Liberty or Whitetail and save our big cash outlays for trips much further afield (New England or the West).
If on the other hand, we could drive 4 hours to a mountain that offered 4-5 long trails, all covering around 1500 feet of vertical, we might consider spending more money in the Mid-Atlantic and foregoing at least one trip further afield.
I ski between 25-28 days a year and do two trips out of the area: one to New England and another to Europe. I know some people on this forum do 3 or more trips out West in a season. One of the great joys of skiing is exploring new terrain, so as long as I am skiing I'll probably always make one big trip a year, but if WV had three great ski areas (Snowshoe, Timberline/CV, Almost Heaven), I'd certainly spend more money and time there....
I don't want to see the natural environment in WV destroyed but a ski area is very low impact compared to alternative land uses. Stowe sits on the most beautiful mountain in VT and it is not an eyesore. Also, Mr. Bright might be persuaded to save other natural areas in exchange for MPC (Blackwater Canyon for example or he could give some additional money to the Wildlife Refuge for its expansion plans along A Frame road).
Andy- You're right that CV is a microclimate, but I was quoting the CV averages, not the Elkins ones. Here is Davis: http://www.weather.com/weather/climatology/monthly/USWV0189
This is taken from the Canaan Valley weather station at 3249 feet which has been in operation since 1949. Davis/CV is 34.1 degrees average high to be exact in Jan on average, Elkins is on the high side of 38. The terrain above 4000 in the Highlands averages as much snow as the town of Aspen-- not bad! But not as consistent either, unfortunately. As it says on the Whitegrass website-- if it were 10 degrees colder we'd be in Utah.
JohnL- Thanks! But my ideas on debt structuring could be complete crap. I own stock in Intrawest and work in a debt-laden industry, so financial structuring-- since it has bankrupted the last two companies I have worked for-- is kind of a financial hang-up of mine.
mr Z that aspen stat was interesting!Why does the weather channel not zero in on the highlands if they can acces weather info?What is it about these areas & these times that we cant get any real time weather info? If you look at the radar most of the time it will show nothing,but it will be snowing up there.The weather channel will show a map that shows snow in the highlands & then 2 minutes later will show another map that shows the snow 300 miles north! If it wasn't for the fact that i had friends in davis It would have been years before i knew it snowed as much as it does up there.Snowshoe did not get as much snow as cv last year & this latest lake effect shows cv (at this pt) getting more as i write.The latest weather patterns seemed to have shifted a little.
I was just looking at that radar this morning. Unfortunatley the temps are going to be up above freezing later this week and it may be until december before any in the mid-atlantic is up and running
[This message has been edited by tromano (edited 11-13-2003).]
White Grass does need much snow to open. I wonder if it will try to best Snowshoe again and open based on this latest shot of lake effect.
Andy, if you are up there now, let us know if you see Chip eagerly positioning his fences to catch every inch of the white stuff.....
If WG opens, I'm calling in sick tomorrow...
[This message has been edited by johnfmh (edited 11-13-2003).]
[This message has been edited by johnfmh (edited 11-13-2003).]
Andy is looking at his palm trees blowin in the wind down here in the cape fear region.I moved from the dc area 4 years ago.(wilmington,nc)Wv is still my main ski area!Whitegrass & cv Look like like they are getting a nice feed from the lakes right now.How many times has CV beat out snowshoe in the snow dept?It was unheard of the 1st 10 years that i went up there.Maybe it was just taken for granted the shoe was getting more.
We got a little snow in the valley last night. Maybe an inch or so. It was hard to tell because the wind blew like mad all night long so the snow didn't sit on the railings and such. The ground is all white though and the snow guns were running at Timberline this morning.
As per timberlineresort.com they will be opening 12.11.2003. I have never skiied T-line before and I am looking to try it out early in the season.
Timberline is a great ski, you will love it.
Make sure to leave time to hit Canaan while you are at it. It is a smaller hill, with less advanced terrain, but it is funner.
Thanks Darren for the update.... Is Timberline making snow?
Also, don't forget White Grass. White Grass's extensive Nordic terrain is the best kept secret in the Canaan Valley. You will be richly rewarded if you forego Alpine for a day (or even just an afternoon), free your heel, and enjoy some of the trails at WG.
[This message has been edited by johnfmh (edited 11-14-2003).]
The snow guns were running this morning when I left for work. I'm not sure if it was just to test the system or if they are actually starting to make snow for the year though. My wife stopped by and took a picture. Is there anywhere here to post it?
Can you e-mail it to Scott Smith at his contact address below. If it is good, maybe he will post it on DCSki.
Also, can you shoot me a copy (firstname.lastname@example.org). I'd like to pass it along to Timberline's new webmaster.
Check your email....
I would hope that another Snowshoe type area is never developed in WV especially with 2nd homes. Given the CV/WG/TB vs Snowshoe I'll take the Cannan Valley any day. Given what I've seen in various parts of the country I'd see no lifts and climbing skins only.