New WV Ski area
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(Anonymous)
January 22, 2004

Gentlemen,

While searching the Web recently for information on the old proposed Tory Mtn. ski resort, I came across a nearly two year old thread with some fantastic info your members were discussing.

I am curious if anyone has heard anything else in the last year or two about Tory, Briar Patch, or any of the other possible sites that have been rumoured.

Bill Bright of Winterplace has supposedly been buying property in the Red Creek area close to Canaan Valley for the past year or two. The whispers are that completion of Corridor H will dictate the plans.

Last year I found and hiked Tory to where the base lodge would have been. To say it is a magnificant place is an understatement. This project was further along than many are aware. Trails had been cut, concrete footers for lift poles had been poored and a nice metal building for the pumphouse had been erected. Nearly twenty years later the building is still in great shape. So remote a location that there are no grafitti or broken windows. The mountain however, would truly have been breathtaking to those of us who are ski crazy.

At one time I had the old promotional brochure for Tory, but now it has been misplaced.

Anyone know who owns or controls the property?

Scott - DCSki Editor
January 22, 2004
Member since 10/10/1999 🔗
1,139 posts
Be sure you check out the following article (and voluminous amounts of reader comments at the end) that was published on DCSki this past Fall:

http://www.dcski.com/news/2003/09_30_2003/porte.php3

- Scott

gatkinso
January 22, 2004
Member since 01/25/2002 🔗
316 posts
I agree with you - Tory is a magnificent site. While it doesn't have the vertical of Porte Crayon, it has more visual impact IMO, and it still is has a good 1500 vert if I recall.

I found a sat pic og Tory on terraserver - it is SSE of Canaan oh I'd say 8 or so miles.

Well, like I said before, if I win the MegaMillions I promise to build Tory AND Almost Heaven, and connect them with bus and gondola service.

So keep your fingers crossed.

(Anonymous)
January 22, 2004
Tory must have moved along well into the development process. I even have an old WVA state road map that shows Tory Mt. ski area. I wonder what derailed it and why?
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(Anonymous)
January 22, 2004
I would love to know the detatils of Tory's demise myself.

Just guessing, but was'nt that right about the same time frame as the savings and loan scams of the 80's, when numerous scam real eastate ventures cost us all millions?

Thanks to those who linked me to the most recent thread on this facinating subject. There were several conflicting reports where Tory was concerned. My visit was in late February of 2001. At Dry Creek, (Elev. 2533') my hunting partner and I found about one inch of new snowfall from the previous evening. By the time we reached the meadow where the base facilities would have been (Elev. 3546), we were wading in 8 inches of powder. The road up from Dry Creek is a two mile hike and we were too pooped to assult the mountain looking for grouse.

In the previous thread, several people commented about speaking with individuals who had "actually skied" at Tory in the mid 80's. The commentary was that it was "nothing to get excited about". I would love to know what the perceived shortcomings were.

As to those stating that it can be skied now by hiking to the top...let me say first-hand that would be impossible. The slopes were cut nearly eighteen years ago and have not been touched since. Briars, brush and medium-sized trees have returned with gusto. Now, with a little good old fashioned elbo-grease.....Just dreaming.

Roger Z
January 22, 2004
Member since 01/16/2004 🔗
2,181 posts
I heard that the builders of Tory ran out of money. They were probably over budget and investors balked at lending them additional money. What I'm curious about is a) how much of the work done is recoverable and b) if the ski area facilities could be relocated downhill a little for a bigger vertical. The two questions are most likely mutually exclusive.

I used to have an old West Virginia ski magazine (from 1985) that showed the phased build-out of Tory's ski facilities. There were two more phases to be built to the east with similar 1000 foot verticals.

JR
January 22, 2004
Member since 01/1/2003 🔗
276 posts
I remember reading something about Tory here from a Tory developer that was either with Snowshoe now or was with them before the Tory project. I think he revealed the reasons but I can't remember. Anyone remember this?
(Anonymous)
January 23, 2004
I would surmise that that what sunk Tory Mountain is the same think that limits the success of Canaan and Timberline, the lack of an adequate water supply for snow making. The only place that "Almost Heaven" will ever happen is in the imagination of all you West Virginia dreamers. Considering the number of ski resorts that we have to ski in the Mid-Atlantic, we should be satisfied with what we have and support those resorts so they can continue to make improvements.
(Anonymous)
January 23, 2004
Snowsmith....I bet you always see the glass half empty.

Water would not be Tory's downfall. In fact, an impoundment to hold snowmaking would be relatively easy there. A creek feeding into Dry Creek could easily be backed up. The pump house is already standing in the correct appropriate spot.

Tory's slopes will need dozer work, but the major investment of a road to the base facilities is already completed, and in great shape after 18 years. Two lane, gently climbing and accessing tremendous scenic real estate. Somebody really screwed up.

Roger Z
January 23, 2004
Member since 01/16/2004 🔗
2,181 posts
Water supply doesn't appear to be the big issue at T-line and CV-- capital investment is the main problem. And any water problems that they have there are a direct result of the Valley and the Blackwater River, two issues that would have no impact at all on MPC, Tory, or what not.
(Anonymous)
January 23, 2004
How do you get 1500 vert with a base of 3500+??the mtn is just shy of 4500'.The base area would have to be a 3rd of the way up the mtn.
gatkinso
January 23, 2004
Member since 01/25/2002 🔗
316 posts
i dont know I have read elsewhere that the cut trails at tory have a 1500 vertical, but then again I am not about to go out there with a tape measure!
bawalker
March 11, 2004
Member since 12/1/2003 🔗
1,547 posts
I was reading the other thread with the terra server sat pics of the resorts and I was amazed at Tory Mountain. I went back and found this thread and got to wondering, has anyone hiked it and taken digital photos of the cut trails, the mountain etc? In fact do any pictures of it exsist? Also how would one go about driving/biking/hiking from the main highway upto it?
Roger Z
March 11, 2004
Member since 01/16/2004 🔗
2,181 posts
The best view I've seen of Tory Mountain is in a private development just off Route 33. Can't remember the name-- it's Thunder Run or something. There's a sign for it about 2/3 the way down to Harman. If you take a right into the neighborhood (play dumb and say you were looking at a lot for sale if anyone asks) and follow the (very narrow and gravelly good for 4WD) roads up to the top of the mountain, you get an absolutely incredible view of the surrounding valleys and over the ridge to Tory Mountain. The top of the development sits right under the face of MPC as well, and you can see how spectacular the vegetation and summit terrain is quite clearly.

On a sunny day it's worth the little jaunt up there. I'd love to buy some land up there someday.
andy
March 11, 2004
Member since 03/6/2004 🔗
175 posts
Thats called high mtn rogerz.Almost bought one of those lots but got scared off by the reports of 70 below windchills & 18 foot snowdrifts!~
Roger Z
March 11, 2004
Member since 01/16/2004 🔗
2,181 posts
Thanks Andy! Yes High Mtn. you are right. I like that 70 below and 18 feet of snow... that would quickly satisfy the occasional pang I get to move to Alaska. [Wink]
gatkinso
March 12, 2004
Member since 01/25/2002 🔗
316 posts
the fact that the slopes are barely visible (if at all) from Rt 32 says everything you need to know about the overgrowth.

the work is all recoverable: just go out and clear it again. I don't know about the footers or the codition of the road but it is much easier than starting from scratch.
bawalker
March 12, 2004
Member since 12/1/2003 🔗
1,547 posts
At what point on 32 can I look off and attempt to see it or where is the turn off road to go up to it?
bawalker
March 13, 2004
Member since 12/1/2003 🔗
1,547 posts
I traced down the road to Tory Mountain and it appears one has to drive past Harman towards Elkins and at the base of the mountain bear left onto the smaller road for half a mile where the road to Tory Mountain begins. TerraServer seems to show this as an unpaved, unmaintaned road. Does anyone know of this is open to the public, or if not, open to mountain bike upto the the place were the resort would be at? What about property, who currently owns that land now?
gatkinso
March 13, 2004
Member since 01/25/2002 🔗
316 posts
BRING ON ALMOST HEAVEN!
canaanman
March 14, 2004
Member since 03/5/2004 🔗
358 posts
Rumors from this weekend speak of trail cutting on MPC this summer and the selling of property (most of which is owned by relatives of Timberline workers) in the area to allow for a possible opening in 3-5 years.
Norsk
March 14, 2004
Member since 05/13/2003 🔗
315 posts
Curious rumors. Why would they cut trails 3-5 year before opening? Trail cutting is expensive. Out West one might think snowcat skiing, but that's hardly likely in WV. Doesn't sound plausible. Any further intel?
Roger Z
March 14, 2004
Member since 01/16/2004 🔗
2,181 posts
This message board probably somehow got the rumor inadvertently started! It's amazing, having seen office rumors take flight, how even the most innocuous comments can get transformed. Anyway... wouldn't there have been some type of permit process they'd need to go through to cut the trails? Given the vigilance of some of the highland conservation groups, wouldn't they know something about the trail cutting if it was being permitted and have made some noise in public about it by now?

If you can cut trails in WV without a permit-- maybe we should all get some hacksaws and get busy this summer! [Smile]
WP_Employee
March 15, 2004
Member since 03/7/2004 🔗
83 posts
I don't think cutting trails will be a problem.

In a state that grants huge strip mining permits -- I am almost glad to see MPC "saved" by being a resort instead of "ruined" by being another flattened mountain.

It is amazing to me how dead the enviromental movement really is in WV. A new 1800 acre mine was just permitted in Raleigh County (home to part of Winterplace) and barely anyone showed up at the meeting except those who were going to have their lives interrupted by the strip mining operation.

While I am by no means an environmentalist myself, I definetely do not like to see entire mountain tops removed just to get coal. I don't like that Gov. Cecil Underwood assigned a coal execute to be the head of the state EPA under his term. But it is WV, and I became use to such nonsense.

So in the end -- I don't think getting any type of permit will be a problem for Bright.
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Roger Z
March 15, 2004
Member since 01/16/2004 🔗
2,181 posts
I'm not much of an environmentalist either but the strip mining is really over-the-top, particularly when they fill in the creek bottoms with the debris. Amazing given how stringently some businesses are regulated that companies still get away with this with barely a yawn from the gov.

Jonathon Jessup (our Ansel Adams) would probably be up on this stuff though, wouldn't you think?
andy
March 15, 2004
Member since 03/6/2004 🔗
175 posts
Just got back from the valley & i will start off by saying sking yesterday up till 130pm up at canaan vly was SWEET.After 130 the strong sun started to soften the snow a little.There was about 15" of nat snow cover back in the red spruce at 4200'.After sking at vail,beaver creek 3 weeks ago i thought i was in for a crash,but i am more exited about this part of the country than i have ever been!The rumers were flying,& the ones coming from the timberline people were that we are not talking just a pretty big new resort but one that is HUGE!1 person even told me he has seen the blueprints of a ski area the likes of sunday river maine or like beaver cr,co,the way they have connected arrowhead,bach gulch & beaver cr itself + some more.In other words we are not just talking Mount porte crayon but the whole side of that huge mtn range.The developers if the rumers are right are not messing around, they want the whole enchalada or nothing.Its on again or off again weather or not the teter owner will sell.He seems to be the last holdout & the talk is that he is asking a rediculus amount of mullah.The west va highlands will be getting 7 to 9" of snow the next couple of days!!!
johnfmh - DCSki Columnist
March 16, 2004
Member since 07/18/2001 🔗
1,926 posts
Andy:

I heard the rumors this weekend as well. One rumor is that the project is being held up over a land swap that Bright is trying to negotiate with the Forest Service. According to sources in Forest Service, this is pure BS. Bright has not approached the Forest Service recently.

I guess the moral of the story is don't believe everything you hear just because you want to hear it.
RyanC
March 16, 2004
Member since 11/28/2003 🔗
160 posts
Wow, all these rumors! I thought the idea of another ski area, MPC, Almost Heaven, Tory, or whatever, was dead after Bright couldn't get funding. The real question is: Does anybody have any RELIABLE information, other than pie-in-the-sky rumors about what is going on up there? I've heard almost every theory from many people (not just on this board, but from perfect strangers in CV, even a few people in DCL and Oakland) about the prospects of another resort, including:
a) There are absolutely no plans for another resort, as there isn't a market (I find this hard to believe)
b) There are secret plans underway inolving the development of a resort bigger and better, and more upscale than Snowshoe. Things are underway, but everything is being kept hush-hush. (This is how the land acq. process for Columbia, MD went in the 1960s, long before my time, but I read this in an article in The Sun a few years back)
c) There are no plans for another resort, but some kind of competitor to Intrawest will buy Timberline and compete directly w/ Snowshoe.
d) Refer to a), and all of the above theories are simply rumors to drive RE speculation.

I'm confused on who/what to believe [Confused]

My opinion, I have absolutely no idea what's going on, as I am relatively new to CV, and slightlyless 'in the loop' on local affairs as others, but nonetheless, this is an interesting subject to read about, if nothing else. Or better yet, CV will become the 'Aspen of the East' in 10 years and I'll be an automatic real estate millionaire [Wink]
bawalker
March 16, 2004
Member since 12/1/2003 🔗
1,547 posts
Since there are tons of rumors and almost no facts about this, Scott should assign someone to investigate and actually talk to the forest service, or interview Mr. Bright himself to at least set the record straight on some of the rumors and get a possible timeline.

Heck I'd go out and write the article and do the interviewing myself. [Smile]
Roger Z
March 16, 2004
Member since 01/16/2004 🔗
2,181 posts
Mr. Bright has been interviewed a couple times and remained noncommital to date-- I think the last time some reporters from WV peppered him, he expressed surprise that there was any info on the market at all. More than likely there are plans floating around; I mean, it's not very hard to overlay some blueprints on a topo map on a computer. Doesn't cost much money to do so. But this is national forest land, as John mentioned, so there would be a pretty big permit process and, even if the environmental movement is weak in WV, someone besides us and some other random folk would certainly hear about it. Especially if they were planning something the size of Sunday River-- multi mountain resorts simply don't go through a federal permit process unnoticed.
bawalker
March 16, 2004
Member since 12/1/2003 🔗
1,547 posts
I'm wondering how far Mr. Bright is willing to potentially negotiate with the forrestry service in order to aquire the top of the mountain to offer the most vertical...? Or rather shall I say how far would the forrestry service go in allowing land leasing to have trails on it like Upper Salamander?
RyanC
March 16, 2004
Member since 11/28/2003 🔗
160 posts
That's a great idea! Some investigative reporting would really be good here. I know there are much bigger issues in the world now (the economy, terrorism, upcoming elections- go Kerry!) but, considering almost half of the posts on this board seem to be in some way Canaan Valley in general, or Timberline related, a report (similar to last spring's RE article) that addresses some of the current rumors about a 3rd ski resort would certainly be more than welcome.

To all of the regular posters and columnists here: Keep up the good work- if it wasn't for this site, I would never even have heard of Canaan Valley. I, like many Baltimore-area residents, have been to DCL many times, but never even heard of CV until I saw this site. Believe it or not, almost NO ONE in Baltimore has even heard of CV, though many have at least been to DCL...
RyanC
March 16, 2004
Member since 11/28/2003 🔗
160 posts
Do you really think the environmental movement is weak in WV? I though it seemed strong, at least along the Corridor H path. There is an incredible amount of, understandable, opposition. In poorer parts of the state, I'm sure it's weak, but it seems strong along the Wardensville to Elkins stretch, probably becuase of the area's incredible natural beauty, and the fact that while the towns along the way are certaily not Towson or Bethesda, overall, they don't seem to be 'poor' areas (of course, they have poor pockets, like every area). Considering the cost of housing in Moorefield and Petersburg, for ex., a family could live just fine with a husband and wife both making $8 to $10 per hour, whereas in DC I think it would be hard for a couple with one child to live on any less than $100k combined (scary, I know).

If I'm not mistaken, the opposition (which I do fully understand and empathize with) is what's holding the planning and construction up, which is why we, along with the residents of that corridor, still have to drive on these dangerous, death-trap roads...

A ski resort would certainly have less negative environmental impact than a coal mine.
Roger Z
March 16, 2004
Member since 01/16/2004 🔗
2,181 posts
I'm just going on what WP_Employee had to say regarding the environmental movement out there. He seems to have a point: Blackwater Canyon is under development threat and I'm willing to bet very few people in the DC Metro area are aware of that (though we are all quite aware of snowmobiling in Yellowstone or drilling for oil in the ANWR). Even Corridor H-- the highway isn't even necessary according to the studies.

Don't get me wrong, like WP I'm not much of an environmentalist but he does seem to have a point about public awareness on environmental issues. It seems like California and West Virginia are on opposite ends of the environmental spectrum: in CA you can't mow your lawn without a protest but in WV a lot happens with nary a glance or shrug of the shoulders. I imagine you can get a little more environmental awareness out there without compromising the economic development a lot of the state needs.
Roger Z
March 16, 2004
Member since 01/16/2004 🔗
2,181 posts
I looked at the topos last night and if MPC stretches across that north facing slope that Andy is talking about, there would be multiple peaks and lifts leading up to a substantial portion of the Flat Rocks/Roaring Plains plateau. Laneville would virtually become the base village. What kind of snowmaking system would it take to cover a mountain that large???

Yes this is probably all speculation but nothing gets the board talking like MPC! [Wink]
johnfmh - DCSki Columnist
March 16, 2004
Member since 07/18/2001 🔗
1,926 posts
Andy:

In all due respect, that's the most ridiculous rumor I have ever heard. The backside of Timberline is the Dolly Sods NATIONAL WILDERNESS AREA--that's untouchable land. It's also flat, flat, flat.

Does your friend mean the land behind Weiss Knob (i.e. CV). If so, that's more plausible, but still very far-fetched.
WP_Employee
March 16, 2004
Member since 03/7/2004 🔗
83 posts
>> The West Virginia Highlands Conservancy has an action committee that is tracking this issue. WVHC is very sensitive to local needs and does not want to come across as anti-business, or anti-development per se.

Not to sound hostile... but of course they can't be anti-business. WV has shown the uncanny ability to disregard all enviromnetal impact when it leads to jobs.

NOW -- I believe resorts are a wonderful way to preserve/ care for the environment (especially when management makes it a focus to care for the environment which provides their business).

As a result -- I fear that in WV -- with one of the slowest growing economies in the US -- no one, NO ONE, would be able to stop the permit process if it gets to that point. I mentioned this before but it is the truth: throughout the past 30 years WV has allowed the coal industry to RAPE and PILLAGE the beauty of my home state. THE EPA ALLOWED ILLEGAL VALLEY FILLS FOR YEARS (which destroy watersheds, entire valleys, etc). [http://www.wvrivers.org/groups_angrily_criticize_bush_pr.htm] (BTW, this is by no means to bring politics into this discussion, so even though Bush made the action, it is the action that is important).

NOW CONSIDER THIS:

In 1999, environmental groups finally won a huge victory against the coal companies. A federal judge ruled that valley fills that affect streams are illegal under the Clean Water Act. Judge Charles Haden's ruling sent the state into turmoil as coal companies threatened massive economic failure and thousands of layoffs while politicians predicted a government budget meltdown. After all of the doom saying, Judge Haden's ruling was overturned on a jurisdictional issue. Nonetheless, he has since ruled on another case involving mountaintop removal in Kentucky. His latest ruling is being appealed, and the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals is set to hear arguments on December 4. Since his ruling, there have been no new mountaintop removal permits issued. Of course, the practice continues at the hundreds of sites already possessing permits.

Just in case Haden's ruling is not overturned, President Bush has approved a definition change in the Clean Water Act to exclude mining waste from the kinds of "fill material" prohibited from being dumped into streams. Senator Shays from Connecticut and Senator Pallone from New Jersey have introduced legislation to reverse Bush's proposed gutting of the Clean Water Act.

One more:

http://www.inthesetimes.com/issue/26/10/news2.shtml


---

That's all I have to say. MPC will be a reality if the money comes through.
Yellowdog24
March 16, 2004
Member since 03/16/2004 🔗
4 posts
FYI. I bought a place in Timberline a couple of months back. The real estate agent told me as an aside that B. Bright had just completed the purchase of 2500 or 2800 acres towards "Almost Heaven." He went on to say the scuttlebutt was that the resort was 3-5 years from coming online.
bawalker
March 16, 2004
Member since 12/1/2003 🔗
1,547 posts
WP_Employee - A quick question for you that I had been meaning to ask for some time now. What is the job situation like at the ski resort? Not nessecarily a ski patrol job on the mountain or a ticket window attendant, but rather working in the management area/IT area of things? I have experience working in an international corporate information systems department and was wondering if those types of jobs are needed or even worried about in various resorts. If they are I would love to get in on one of them.
johnfmh - DCSki Columnist
March 16, 2004
Member since 07/18/2001 🔗
1,926 posts
I know that realtor and I like him, but he's incorrect. Interviews with major property owners in the area suggest that Bright has sold some options, but that's different from purchasing land outright. Also, evidence suggests that one of the biggest landowners in the area may not want to sell. [Wink]

PS One thing the realtor is correct on is the build-out period. Once the stars are aligned properly and Mr. Bright's ducks are all lined up, this thing is going to go up QUICKLY. Just go back through the DCSki articles and note how quickly Whitetail was built once the financing came through.
andy
March 16, 2004
Member since 03/6/2004 🔗
175 posts
Johnf if you go to the top of timberline & hike due south you will enter the sods like you say...but as you continue south you will eventually drop down off the sods to basically lanesville,thus as a matter of local speaking it is the backside of timberline. & then you can climb up to a place that i have been staring at for years as a possible ski area.Snow will be up there when you cannot find it anywhere.Improve the allready existing road across the sods That can be linked from corr H & BINGO..Makes to much sense..2 & a half hour drive from DC? come on That just would be to good to be true(or would it??!!)
WP_Employee
March 16, 2004
Member since 03/7/2004 🔗
83 posts
We have one IT guy at Winterplace... the smaller resorts have a tight market. However, here is a neat fact about Winterplace.

The company that supplies Winterplace w/ Ticketing software (for Group Sales/ Individuals) also supplies Squaw Valley, Winterpark... and some other large resorts. What is interesting is that Winterplace has I believe the 1st or 2nd largest deployment of their software (which is based on Netware).

In any case -- the IT market at larger resorts is much better -- but still incredibly tight. The more lodging partners there are the more "need" there is for IT (since most larger resorts use a VPN between their lodging partners that sell tickets).

I am more on the software side of IT -- I do a lot of consulting work. I am looking very seriously at developing software targetted at the snow industry... but I don't like to talk too much about what I am going to do publicly [Wink] .

Now management on the other hand -- management jobs appear all over the US. I was on the SAM website the other day looking @ some postings... quite a few in Montana/ Upper Northwest (but not surprisingly, none in our region).
Roger Z
March 16, 2004
Member since 01/16/2004 🔗
2,181 posts
Bawalker: my experience in the ski business, limited though it was, is that you have to grunt your way up the ladder. May not be the case if you want to do IT but if you want a management job, they generally promote people either from within or who already are managers at other resorts.

Real estate agents always talk up the bright side of buying homes in a region, and sometimes go beyond optimism and straight into unbelievability. When I first got my new job, I was looking to move and was told straight-faced by a real estate agent that a drive from Thurmont, MD to Bethesda would be an hour tops at rush hour. [Roll Eyes] I stopped talking to her shortly after that conversation.

Finally, I'm not convinced the permit process would be so quick, even in WV. Coal companies are well connected at the federal level and have an influence on policy that other industries don't (though not as much as some industries, like steel or sugar growers). Ski resorts-- particularly local ski resort owners-- don't have that type of clout. Coal companies create lots of full time jobs and often have union employment, so both the left and right can find something positive to say (as well as negative of course). Many (not all) jobs at ski resorts, by contrast, are minimum wage and seasonal. Network effect jobs (such as the IT company WP_Employee was talking about) are almost never recognized in public policy fights. So ski resorts simply aren't as immune to political challenges as coal companies.

Additionally, and most importantly, this ski resort would not be built on a random mountain in WV, but one bordering on one of the most environmentally coveted areas of the state. If Bill Bright wants the summit of MPC, this isn't going to be cut and dry. And if he yields the top 200-500 feet of MPC for wilderness, the question becomes why build there as opposed to Tory or whatever his other two locations are?

That second question is probably one of many going through their minds right now. It probably stands to reason that if they decide they want to build on MPC, it's because they want the summit-- it becomes an all-or-nothing play in other words--and that raises the stakes substantially for all parties involved.
WP_Employee
March 16, 2004
Member since 03/7/2004 🔗
83 posts
>> Ski resorts-- particularly local ski resort owners-- don't have that type of clout

If I do remember correctly, Bright is the wealthiest man in WV, and is also heavily connected to the Republican party (our previous Gov. was a Repub).

I mentioned this before -- but Bright's connections with the state have done nothing but grow. His golf resort Glade Springs has went from a small, 18 hole golf course/ resort to a (and yes, it is being built now) 600 home, 3 18-hole golf course development.

That alone brought a myriad of jobs to the Beckley/ Daniels area [Which is about 6 miles from Winterplace].

...
"Bill Phillips of Elkins and Bill Bright of Summersville, Bush's West Virginia co-campaign managers"
DWW
March 17, 2004
Member since 03/11/2004 🔗
144 posts
This stuff is all pure speculation. If a new resort of any size can get funding (were are talking billion not million), can prove that it has a successful and sustainable business model (which would require a massive real estate development effort), can provide jobs to the area, has the patience to jump through the environmental hoops - then its a go. But that takes someone the size of Intrawest, a billion dollar public company, to pull off. I know nothing about Mr. Bright and his financial resources - but I think it would be nearly impossible to pull off - successfully. Not that he are someone won't still try. The worst thing though would be a massive failure.
johnfmh - DCSki Columnist
March 17, 2004
Member since 07/18/2001 🔗
1,926 posts
The West Virginia Highlands Conservancy has an action committee that is tracking this issue. WVHC is very sensitive to local needs and does not want to come across as anti-business, or anti-development per se. It simply wants to work with any potential developer to be sure that some of its concerns are addressed. In short, this is a mainstream, centrist group of concerned citizens.

http://www.wvhighlands.org/
dmh
March 17, 2004
Member since 12/11/2003 🔗
127 posts
I have only owed a house in CV for two years but have been visiting for 15. There is a strong environmental movement in that part of WV. People understandably want to protect the incredibly beautiful and relatively unspoiled environment from destructive development. But this mostly gets translated into things like cutting timber and building condos in the Black Water canyon, cutting off mountain tops and dumping them into streams and CH. I don't get the sense that most people view ski development in the same light. It seems to be considered more benign and to offered long-term employment. So I am not so certain there would be a big hue and cry over a ski development.

On the other hand, if I were a developer I would first consider carefully the extent I could make TL into a better and profitable resort. The mountain is in place so much of the environemntal prep work is done. Not certain about whether you could make it financially viable but seems you ought to be able to with the proper vision and management.
andy
March 17, 2004
Member since 03/6/2004 🔗
175 posts
My sources(007 agent d.C.sk.I.A)have revealed to me that they have allready sold thier land on the backside of timberline to go towards this dev. this info led to the claims of a much larger resort since the backside of timberline is a couple of miles from MPC.I have a hunch that the trade with the forest svc (if one) would make sense.It would involve the north facing flatrock plains area i have mentioned a couple of times,which would make sense out of the buying of south facing land at the base & backside of TL which would be across from the possible slopes.
andy
March 17, 2004
Member since 03/6/2004 🔗
175 posts
The immediate jobs at the resorts themselves pale in comparison to the impact in jobs & financial wellbieng of a large surrounding area.I remember talking to workers at Snowshoe that commuted up to 2hrs to work.Mtns high enough & snowy enough should be dev for low enviremental impact, good ole wholesome outdoor recreation that create jobs & not wellfare cks.Everybody up in the canaan area I talked to (locals) welcomed with enthusiasum the prospect of a new ski area.
andy
March 17, 2004
Member since 03/6/2004 🔗
175 posts
PS.. Roger i'm sure it will be all or nothing.Infact that is why i think there might be something to the rumor that Johnf posted about the poss land swap with the us fish & wildlife. Another rumor at the valley area is that a seperate Co is in the process of getting tory up & running.Time will tell..Hopefully before i have to hang up my skis.
johnfmh - DCSki Columnist
March 17, 2004
Member since 07/18/2001 🔗
1,926 posts
Roger makes some good points about the fight over Wilderness lands. WVHC has fought for years to get the Roaring Plains, the summit of MPC, designated as wilderness. Any swap involving that piece of property would spark an ugly battle. However, Bright has indicated to WVHC that he wants to develop the resort on 100 percent private land. That rules out the summit of MPC.

I also agree with Roger on the points he makes about employment. Most jobs at ski areas are low, level service jobs, and currently there is actually a shortage of those kind of employees in Tucker County. Like Killington, a new resort would have to rely heavily on seasonal workers from the Caribean, Central, and South America.

Finally, there is no hope Andy that any Dolly Sods lands will revert back to plain vanilla forest service land. That's just not going to happen, and furthermore, if too many people start using the Dolly Sods road as a shortcut to CV, expect gates to go up to prevent such behavior. In any event, those dirt roads get a lot of rain and cannot handle a lot of traffic. They'll get potholed and rutted very quickly if this becomes a major trend.
andy
March 17, 2004
Member since 03/6/2004 🔗
175 posts
Rules,rules,rules..we have no hope because the law has been laid down.Something has to be done half..d because of red tape. Even OJ has gotten away with murder because of rules...BS!We got so much wilderness area allready they can't give us one summit?We have good roads crossing the shenandoah nat park but we can't have a short rd thru the sods??Friggin BS to the 3rd degree!!If this project cant go thru I will personally make it my lifes mission to release mountain lions,wolves & elk & even buffalo back up there.There are way to many deer up there they need some predetors.You know what? bs on all that we can have it all.Might take a revolution though!
Yellowdog24
March 17, 2004
Member since 03/16/2004 🔗
4 posts
"Johnfmh"--when you mentioned that a big property owner was not interested in selling, do you mean Westvaco, the paper co? I noticed they have a tree farm in the vicinity.
RyanC
March 17, 2004
Member since 11/28/2003 🔗
160 posts
Congratulations Yellowdog on your purchase of a place in CV. I myself just settled on my condo 2 mos. ago. Locally (in CV) there are, as you know, many different rumors from many different people. I wonder what realtor mentioned about the land already being purchased? I talked to a few different RE companies during my very picky search for condos (I wanted everything about the condo to be PERFECT, meaning I looked at just about every condo on the market in CV!) and interestingly, many RE people in the area seemed like they were holding info. back when I asked about the new ski dev. rumors. However, the broker that I used was helpful and honest about explaining the ins and outs of the local RE market.

It's unfortunate that most ski jobs are so low paying. While a new ski area would of course help the local economy, 'living wages' at new and existing resorts would help the local economy, and of course the workers, even more. We have living wage campaigns in Balt and Wash (successful ones, too), wonder if the movement will ever head to places like WV, considering that the service/tourism economy is the wave of the future there. While I hope the value of my investment incrases, I would hate to see the whole CV area turn into a playground for rich DC/NoVa folks, while everyone who is employed in these resorts can't attain adequate health care, etc. Just some food for thought...
bawalker
March 17, 2004
Member since 12/1/2003 🔗
1,547 posts
I was doing some thinking about this last night and realized for these types of jobs to take root it needs to be more than just a resort. With resorts as CV and TL, they only operate when the weather operates meaning summers are poor income seasons with hardly anyone around other than residents with most part time workers gone for the season.

To make Almost Heaven become a true community leader in providing year round jobs it needs to go from just a ski resort to integration with the town. There would have to be some sort of hotel with conference center that attracted business clientel year round for meetings, board reviews/meetings by various companies. I don't want to say a mall, but maybe a well designed street of shops that provide everything from ski gear to a very nice dining out restraunt. Of course snow definately can't be relied on the most to bring in the income. I certainly believe Mr. Bright has the connections to get regionally or possibly some sort of televised winter sporting events setup there and in the summer have the mountain biking races hosted there. You all get the idea I'm going after. There has to be full advantage taken of the mountain and base area to make it go from a massive ski mountain to a job oriented, get-away resort for lots of people.

Mind you I am just as conservative with the enviornment and hate seeing crude un-asthetic development as the next person which is why Almost Heaven would have to be meticulously designed. I would love to see the top half or 3/4 of the mountain untouched giving it a true feeling of wilderness, back country riding. Not like Wisp when riding the chairlift to the top you are passing condo's and roads which makes me feel like I'm riding a chairlift through leesburg. Rather create the base area to become a small, clean, very well planned town like area that would allow Lanesville to grow in a respectible way. I wouldn't hesitate to say that if Mr. Bright developed MPC into a ski type town area that jobs and businesses that provide jobs would come to that area and stretch all the way up through Rt 32.

Personally if that happened I would expand my business to setup an office in the CV area and offer network, consulting, internet services and hire staff myself.
Roger Z
March 17, 2004
Member since 01/16/2004 🔗
2,181 posts
RyanC labor is probably the most expensive item on a ski resort, oftentimes accounting for as much as 25% of the total resort operation expenses. Considering that living wages are usually close to twice as high as minimum wages, that would be a substantial mark-up in expenses that would really blow out the cost of skiing for us. I suppose that isn't a big deal if skiing is supposed to cater to "the rich", however I'm not one of them and don't want to pay Aspen prices for CV. A living wage would probably do what it does everywhere else-- stifle the total number of jobs created so a select few can benefit.

The best way to help the region out economically-- using tourism as a foundation-- is to have a quality resort experience that increases the number of visitors to the area and thereby expands the number of businesses and jobs available in the local communities. That means better skiing, whether that is through an upgrade at Tline and CV or a new resort south of the valley.
RyanC
March 17, 2004
Member since 11/28/2003 🔗
160 posts
snowcone, I agree with you 1000%. Just like Wal-Mart, yeah, they provide jobs, as any big-business Republican will tell you, but, what they forget to tell you is that Wal-Mart actually costs taxpayers money given that their wages are so low that their employees rely on welfare for health insurance, food stamps, housing, etc. That's what concerns me about a new, corporate-owned ski area, run by out of towners, and patronized by DC-area yuppies with deep pockets. But, hey, as long as the roads are clear and the lifts are running so the WV Toureg driving yuppies can make it up there and ski, life is good, right? Who cares about the working people in this country. Speaking of IT jobs at ski resorts (mentioned in an earlier post), better watch your back, those jobs are all going overseas!

Before anyone here calls me a commie, I am an investor myself, so I do believe in free enterprise, just not uncontrolled capitalism. There's a BIG difference!

See my earlier posts saying that I love the idea of a 3rd resort, but labor/wages in the 'tourist economy' is definitely an interesting topic, especially for local WV residents. All I want is a living wage for everyone. If a huge resort is well-run, costs to the consumer can be contained, and the business can still be more than profitible, even if FT employees are provided with wages/benefits that they can actually live off of without turning to the gov't for welfare.

Now it's time for me to get off of my soapbox for the day [Wink]
Roger Z
March 17, 2004
Member since 01/16/2004 🔗
2,181 posts
Snowcone: "In other words. it's all right for some people to live on the edge of poverty as long as you can afford to ski cheap? A living wage is not the problem for these resorts, the percentage of profit taking is."

If it's true that these people would not otherwise have jobs but for the ski area, then I'd say yes it is great that I can afford to ski so that they can have at least seasonal work to help them along. The operative word here is "afford." Many people cannot "afford" to ski at a 70 or 80 dollar ticket cost per person, and many others simply wouldn't because it would be less expensive to take themselves or their families elsewhere to ski.

One of the big problems many ski areas are facing is that they have already priced themselves out of the local ski markets, and it's the locals that used to keep a ski area viable. The more ski visits, the more likely we are to move to John's desire to see ski resorts making money on skiing rather than real estate. By decreasing the number of visitors and making the prices even higher for people in the immediate area, skiing becomes even less viable, not more, meaning fewer jobs and fewer recreational opportunities for all.

Also, when you say the percentage of profit taking is the problem, I have to raise an eyebrow in curiosity... are you saying it's not okay for the locals who manage the resorts to make too much money? [Wink] Apart from that, most ski resorts make very little if any profits, and the money they do make comes almost exclusively from real estate. Go check out the financial reports for American Ski Company or Intrawest or even Vail Resorts-- their ROE is embarrassingly low for multi billion dollar corporations and negative in ASC's case. Which ski areas do you know of that make big profits?

Finally-- the main economic benefit that comes from ski resorts is the network jobs that they create, as Andy and Bawalker and I have pointed out indirectly. Every ski area that is unsuccessful or closes causes ripple effects through other local business. Conversely, every successful resort creates dozens or even hundreds of new job opportunities (and small businesses) tangentially.

It's not just the mid-Atlantic ski areas that have bad management though. And I would love to see better incentive programs at ski areas to see them retain key employees for multiple seasons. But the fact is new regulations aren't going to help accomplish that; building successful resorts that profit from their ski facilities would.
JohnL
March 17, 2004
Member since 01/6/2000 🔗
3,518 posts
Johnfmh,

Could you provide some example ticket prices, estimated number of skier visits and estimated lift upgrade costs for one of the European lift upgrade projects? (Detailed info I know, but you seem to have connections in the industry.)

I'm curious as to why the "European" model is working (or at least being tried) in Europe but not in the U.S. You mentioned some government subsidy of the projects (presumably either via grants, guarenteed loans, reduced interest rates, etc.) How much do you think this lowers the actual cost of the lift upgrade to the area owners?

I know snowmaking is a huge expense for Eastern U.S. areas, but it is less so for areas in the West. What is different in the European operations that they can survive on primarily on ticket revenue?

What was the name of the ski industry book that you reviewed a year or two ago? Sounds like it will be good off-season reading for me.
dmh
March 17, 2004
Member since 12/11/2003 🔗
127 posts
This does not have to be zero sum. The resort needs to be profitable but it also can and should find a way to pay its employees decent wages--which by WV standards are not that high--but more importantly provide a minimal package of benefits so the employees don't have to worry about being bankrupted by the first illness or injury. Too many employers don't see a payoff in retaining employees by offering decent wages and benefits but my crude understanding of labor economics tells me that over time the gains in productivity, decreased absenteeism, lower training and recruitment costs, and professionalism make these investments payoff.

One of the ways to do this is to reduce seasonality. Any new resort in CV area, particularly with the opening of CH and the resulting enhancement of the N. Virginia/Maryland Burbs/DC market, needs to be four seasons. Golf, swimming, river sports, hiking, etc. can all help take up the slack in the two and 1/2 seasons when there is no skiing. In fact, I bought my house in CV not so much for the skiing but because we were drawn by the natural beauty, hiking, rafting, etc. Skiing was a bonus. Many others I know in the Valley were similarly motivated. So any new development, if it is to mean anything to the locals, has be provide real economic development and not merely more subsistence level jobs.
WP_Employee
March 17, 2004
Member since 03/7/2004 🔗
83 posts
Well... I know 99% of you don't actually work at a resort... so your opinions are noted, but as one of those "big business republicans" I want to refute a few claims.

#1 -- No one works at a resort expecting to get rich. Everyone (unless you are somehow brain dead) knows that resort work pays practically nothing (and it gets worse, atleast working @ Winterplace I don't have to live at the mountain. Snowshoe charges their employee's rent on their housing).

#2 -- A living wage, as some of you say, would do nothing but decrease jobs and increase prices for you. Want a good way to ensure that prices on everything go up... try making the minimum wage $7.00. I know for a fact Winterplace would become much tighter in their hiring practices, as would many other smaller resorts. WV's business climate is awful as it is (read up on workers comp issues in the state).

#3 -- Benefits? It's seasonal work - and no matter what you do to make a resort four seasons, the fact is less and less people go to resorts (such as ours in WV) when the weather is nice. Snowshoe is the only resort in the state that makes a true effort to keep their lodging filled throughout the year (large bike racing events, a few years ago skiing in May) -- but even that juggernaut cannot keep occupancy at levels seen during Winter.

So... it is a given that during the off season the grooming staff, mechanics that run the groomers, mechanics that manage the pumphouse, snowmakers, ski patrollers, lifties, many food and beverage employee's, and all of the ski school will be out of work. Add on top of that those that manage group skiing (as the staff is greatly reduced, off season is when clients are discovered/ brought in to the resort, which doesn't take much work), rental shop technicians, ski store technicians... there is no way, *no way*, to give resort employee's in the snow industry a year round job, period.

#4 -- I have worked at Winterplace over 5 years, and one thing that the ski industry DOES do is allow for extremely flexible scheduling. I can work when I want to, how I want to, etc. I absolutely love what I do at the resort... and even though the pay is well below what I make at my real job, there is something about *free skiing anywhere in the state, free skiing @ Winterplace* that makes me work there. Add on top of that the benefits of getting free items at many other resorts in the US (Squaw Valley is especially nice to resort employee's from other states) and I have no complaints.

#5 -- Again, no one works at a ski resort to get rich. Infact -- ski patrollers (at Winterplace) are the some of the higest paid staff on the mountain (this trend does follow at many other US resorts). If you want to make money, and that is your goal, Ski Patrol is about the only place you can work and earn a "decent" wage.

that's all.
JohnL
March 17, 2004
Member since 01/6/2000 🔗
3,518 posts
quote:
Golf, swimming, river sports, hiking, etc. can all help take up the slack in the two and 1/2 seasons when there is no skiing.
This activities already exist in the Canaan Valley or surrounding area. Are these activities currently providing adequate employment for ski area workers during the off-ski seasons?

To boost their revenue streams, a lot of winter resorts are trying to become four-season resorts. Building golf courses and other warm-weather facilities requires more development; more trees need to be cut down, drainage patterns altered, waste disposed of, scenic views changed, etc. You'll get more economic development, but you'll change the surrounding land more.
gatkinso
March 17, 2004
Member since 01/25/2002 🔗
316 posts
Yes indeed it is a warped sense of preservation: oh the mountaintop removal is not so bad: let's stop the ski resort and wind farm! After all the ski resort will bring lot's of Audi's and God forbid that, and the wind farm just may eliminate the need for the coal mine...

Coal is King in WV - never forget it. Should they find coal in MPC... forget the mountain ever existed because it is going down.
RyanC
March 17, 2004
Member since 11/28/2003 🔗
160 posts
As someone with the occasional socialistic views, I agree that a resort cannot guarantee year around work. I never said nor implied that. Many lucky people like WP_Employee are fortunate enough to work at a resort more or less for the fun of it and free skiing. That is great. However, many of those people are also trying to support themselves or families. While a resort cannot (and shouldn't have to) guarantee employees year around work, what about health care, disability insurance if a tree falls down on them while they're operating the lift??? I'm not saying that the resorts should have to provide all employees a cadillac health plan, just that there should be general provisions for AFFORDABLE health ins., disability ins., among other things. This is clearly more of a national issue than an individual ski resort issue, but nonetheless relevant in this case.

What an ideal world we would live in if everyone who works in these kind of jobs did it for spending money and free skiing. While that's all well and good for people who have better paying jobs or teenagers/college students with affluent parents to live off of, there are some people that actually make a living in these jobs (tens of millions, actually).

Just think, if you lost your 'real job' or you business went under and you depended on your $ working at a resort to get by, what would you do?? Good luck, because there's not much of a safety net out there (unless you're very wealthy).
Yellowdog24
March 17, 2004
Member since 03/16/2004 🔗
4 posts
Thanks RyanC. We love the place and CV!

It is interesting to read the thoughtful posts on ski resort economics. During nearly 15 years of going to Vail, I saw many, many changes take place. While all that work and investment certainly makes it one of the premier resorts in the US, I felt Vail was fast pricing itself out of the market (at least for my family--we stopped going 2 years ago). I do not know how long places like Vail can continue to "upgrade" themselves if that means they have to keep raising prices into the stratosphere. It would be interesting to see if all the improvements being made at the top resorts are, in fact, paying their own way or if the resorts are hitting a brick wall in terms of ROI. While there are many criticisms of places like TL for its lack of investment in facilities and personnel training, IMHO Vail tries to do too much.

On the subject of the local impact of ski resorts, I particularly liked the ideas floated that ski resorts (both present and planned) need to become full year destinations to make themselves viable. This eliminates that problem of resort jobs only being seasonal. Once these employees are full time, their wages will increase proportionally. The increased influx of visitors also will mean (as pointed out below) more businesses will be created to cater to their needs which should lead to even more jobs. This will certainly not solve all the region's problems but it could bring the local standard of living to a more acceptable level.
cjanak
March 17, 2004
Member since 01/22/2004 🔗
15 posts
Living Wage

If resorts were forced to pay a living wage (increased salary, limited benefits), I wouldn't be surprised if the result would be a combination of increased prices and employee lay-offs.

A living wage may be a nice idea on the surface, but it's just not that simple. Let's assume Roger Z's correct in saying labor costs make-up about 25% of a typical ski resort's costs. Then, pursuant to achieving a living wage (increased salary and benefits), let's assume effective salaries are doubled. This would result in a 25% increase in the resort's total expenses.

Now, I believe it is true that most resorts are not raking in big bucks. The ski resort industry is a very, very tough business. Just think of how many local resorts have gone bankrupt, of how many have gone bankrupt numerous times. So your average resort is going to have to manage this increase by 1) increasing revenue (raising prices), and/or 2) decreasing expenses (cutting staff, creating more efficient processes, cutting operating hours, etc).

An obvious way to increase prices is to raise ticket prices. So let's say, rather than decrease costs, we increased lift ticket prices by 25% to make up the shortfall. So Timberline's weekend ticket increases from $49 to about $62. Now Timberline's a nice mountain, but it's not one of the closest to major metropolitan areas and it doesn't have a lot of amenities. It does have a nice mountain and it is a great value. But is it still a great value at $62 a day? I'm not so sure it is. I'm thinking there's no way Timberline does enough volume at that price to stay a float... heck, my understanding is that Timberline doesn't do enough volume at current prices to make much money (I think Johnfmh can probably speak more on Timberline's profitability).

Okay, so maybe increasing ticket prices to cover the entire increase in costs isn't feasible. Well, where can we cut costs? Certainly there are many ways to cut costs, but the most obvious place may end up being labor. Increasing the marginal cost of Labor (by enacting a living wage) decreases the relative marginal cost of Capital. Thus, resorts will be encouraged to substitute capital for labor.

So, for example, rather than having people operating the lift chairs, you may end up having one or two people running all the lifts from a central office at the base of the mountain. They sit in front of television screens monitoring the lifts via cameras and turning them on and off accordingly. Lifts are modified, where feasible, to make it easier for riders to board chairs without the assistance of an employee. Etc, etc. So one possible outcome of increasing wages is a decrease in jobs.

Of course, I'm really oversimplifying here, but the point is that a living wage may not be viable and may actually result in fewer jobs. Sometimes well-meaning policies actually do more harm than good.

Taking the seasonality out of the Ski Business

As some people have already pointed out, offering summer activities to offset the seasonality of the ski business is not a new idea. Almost everybody does this. Most local resorts I can think of offer golf, tennis, mtn. biking, alpine sleds, etc to try to get people to come during the summer. It is my belief that very few resorts have been successful drawing sufficient business to keep employing a full staff in the summer time.
johnfmh - DCSki Columnist
March 17, 2004
Member since 07/18/2001 🔗
1,926 posts
JohnL:

I can provide some quick stats on Ischgl. The town of Ischgl in Tirol, Austria, has a permanent population of 1,500, and 10,000 guest beds. The town is located 100 miles west of Innbruck in the Paznaun Valley, one of the snowiest areas of the western Tirol.

The resort has invested 100,000,000 euros in new, high-speed lifts and other infrastructure improvements in the past five years. Although the town itself lies at a respectable 1,400 meters, 90 percent of the resort's 205 Kilometers of marked trails are above 2,000 meters, making this a very snow sure resort. An extensive snowmaking system guarantees skiing back to the village for most of the season, which runs from mid November through the end of May.

A one day ski pass costs 38.5 euros ($47). A six day pass is 168.5 euros ($206).

The first cable car was installed in 1963, and now the resort has 3 gondolas, 2 trams, and 20 chairlifts, including a new high-speed, detachable 8 pack with a loader and a bubble canopy.

If you combined Vail, Aspen, and Snowmass into one giant, interconnected resort, you would have an Ischgl, and I hate to say it but Ischgl is going to grow by about a third in the next five years because of all the incredible expansion terrain they have on the Swiss side of the resort.

Finally, you can buy a ski pass good not only at Ischgl but three other resorts in the region including the venerable Galtur just up the road.

Have I sold you yet?
[Big Grin]

If not check this out:

 -

DISCLAIMER: Andy, this is not a picture of Almost Heaven. [Wink]
andy
March 17, 2004
Member since 03/6/2004 🔗
175 posts
Economics..there is more interset in this subject than the fact that this is a ski web site that should be more worried about getting a 1st class ski resort dev in your own backyard!You all are letting a 1000 jobs get in the way of hundreds of thousounds of happy skiers.We have to think positive & see this thru.In NC the govt cares more about the 200 commercial netters than the millions of rec fisherman.You will have a poor family that saves up all year for thier 1 week at the beach & one of the main things they do is to surf fish.Because the netters have killed & wasted a whole lot of fish they can't catch anything all week.The next year they try again & so on.They deserve a better experience!So do the mid atlantic skiers.You all need to quit bieng so smart with your economics & get behind this project.You have Mell gibson Make more money from this countrys moviegoers than he or his family or grandkids could ever spend yet we have to endure slow lifts at TL.Have the govt put in the ski area if we have to.Why should a ton of people suffer because of economics?If the people want it, as great as we are we should have it.
gatkinso
March 17, 2004
Member since 01/25/2002 🔗
316 posts
Why argue the point at all? Resorts are run by transient labor who have NO INTENTION AT ALL of sticking around. Ski bums working their way to Europe, college dropouts sick of finals, South American's on their way elsewhere, that sort of thing.

True there will be some management positions and other year round gigs but the industry depends on that cheap labor churn every year.

However they still spend their money in local restaurants, gas stations, and super markets while they are there so it all evens out in the end even if at the level of the individual the economics seem sketchy.

And they sure as hell don't need Blue Cross and Blue Shield to sell lift tickets. Get real.

BRING ON ALMOST HEAVEN!
johnfmh - DCSki Columnist
March 18, 2004
Member since 07/18/2001 🔗
1,926 posts
In all these discussions, what really irks me the most is that the American model of a ski resort is real estate development first and a ski resort second. The ski resort is just an amenity designed to sell real estate. What a stupid model. But we can't blame Mr. Bright for following it. If he wants to build a great ski resort (something most of us want), he has to build lots of housing lots also to finance the thing--i.e. follow the American model. This is not a new theme to the forum so I won't belabor the point.

But I will point out that I am very impressed with the resort developments taking place in Europe right now. There's a concerted effort to limit the number of hotel developments in ski towns and continue to reduce lines by installing more high-speed lifts. The Arlberg and Ischgl/Samnaun areas in Austria are two good examples but there are many others in France as well (Les Arcs, Trois Vallees, Val D'Isere, etc).

Even poor ski countries Slovakia are beefing up many of its resorts with new uphill transportation. Donovaly, a resort not much bigger than Timberline in a poor region of the country, is installing 3 more high-speeds this summer (they already have one high-speed lift in place).

Now some of this is thanks to good old fashion European socialism: generous government loans and grants. But some of the money is also coming from private investment. Most ski centers in Europe make 90 percent of their revenue through lift ticket sales. Hard to believe but true.

Imagine this: if WV invested a fraction of the funds they are dumping into Corridor H into upgraded lift facilities at the major resorts , governor Wise's dream of a Vermont in the Mid-Atlantic might come to fruition. However, public assistance through loans or grants to tourist centers like ski resorts probably is an unrealistic and utopian pipe dream. One day, however, some forward thinking governor not only will figure out that such an idea makes good economic sense (the state wins in the long run via increased tax revenues), but more importantly, will figure out how to sell the idea to a reluctant local citizenry.
snowcone
March 18, 2004
Member since 09/27/2002 🔗
589 posts
My 2 cents worth on resort labor in WV:

[mounting soapbox]

Basically I think the labor policies of resorts in mid-Atlantic s_ck. I wont mention names or resorts but over the years we have made friends with several local employees of a large Mid-Atlantic ski resort. The locals hold menial jobs that are low paying and temporary. Managerial types are not local and receive substantially better salaries and benefits. When the winter resort facilities close for the summer the local employees have to go on welfare to survive. Every season there is the distinct possibility that the local's job will be given to imported labor (read: college kids from the southern hemisphere who work cheap) and the job will disappear from the local market. Most of the employees live off the mountain and have a daily 20-40 mile commute in often dangerous weather conditions.

Roger Z: "Considering that living wages are usually close to twice as high as minimum wages, that would be a substantial mark-up in expenses that would really blow out the cost of skiing for us. "

In other words. it's all right for some people to live on the edge of poverty as long as you can afford to ski cheap? A living wage is not the problem for these resorts, the percentage of profit taking is.

As far as subsidizing the resorts, that's all ready being done thru state welfare. Just because the money doesn't go directly to the resort doesn't mean the resort is not benefiting from cheap seasonal labor.

I know many of these people would not have jobs if it weren't for the resort's existence, but that doesn't excuse the fact that they are paid subsistence wages and far less job security that the average beltway bandit. I don't know what the answers are, but 'outsourcing' local jobs to Chilean and Aussie college kids just to keep wages down isn't one of them, in my estimation.

[getting down off of soap box]
andy
March 18, 2004
Member since 03/6/2004 🔗
175 posts
YOU GO GAT!!!
jimmy
March 18, 2004
Member since 03/5/2004 🔗
2,650 posts
WOW!! You guys (gals?) have been busy while i've been gone. Spent the 12th thru the 16th in CV with a day trip to Snowshoe on the 15th. This thread has it all, politics, economics, rural developement, socialists slamming capitalists...this is fun to watch [Cool] .

My two cents worth may not be worth two cents but here it is.

I've changed my mind about TL not needing a high speed quad after our first trip to Whitetail and seeing how well their's works on a mountain that to me seemed similar to TL. Improve it and they will come; if the Great State of WV needs to be involved in the development, so be it (politics [Wink] ) . (I know they have a vested interest in CV but a high speed at TL is good for the whole valley.)

Compare Deep Creek, MD & Wisp with Canaan Valley. The high season rental wise in MD is SUMMER. They have more visitors in the summer because there are plenty of "main stream" summer activities. CV's golf course, at 100% potentially brings 45,000 rounds or visitors. Rumor has it that another 36 holes are being planned in the Blackwater/Davis area. Assuming there is sufficient demand (economics [Wink] ) for this (rural development [Wink] ) we now have an increase in summer visitors that equals the current number of winter visitors.

As a skier, I would love to see a new ski resort in CV but as a West Virginian i think it's more important to develop a "Four Seasons" clientele in CV first, which will make the socialists as well as the capitalists very happy. [Big Grin]

My two cents
Jimmy
Roger Z
March 18, 2004
Member since 01/16/2004 🔗
2,181 posts
Johnfmh-- was chatting with another ski bum here at the office today and we were talking about your recent post regarding skiing in North America being a real estate oriented versus skiing oriented venture. Out of the blue, I remembered something about Intrawest: I think they agree with you! Kind of...

Intrawest, like most resorts, has been real estate intensive for a long time but as a consequence has been saddled with debt and highly variable earnings. As a consequence, they are spinning off their capital intensive real estate projects to a new subsidiary (which I believe they may eventually sell to a bank or just sell off). They will retain ownership of developments that involved 15 units or less, plus the initial development of capital intensive projects, plus consulting on the Leisura projects. Anyway, if you are interested in learning more about the structure here is the link:

http://media.integratir.com/idr/PressReleases/Leisura%20reference%20291003.pdf

The slide I really want to call your attention to is Slide #23, where Intrawest states that they want to move to a business model that is 65-70% "fee based" (that is, revenue derived from rental management, ski tickets, and other recreational revenue).

Yes, it's not 90% of revenue coming from ski tickets like it is at some European resorts, but it is a lot more sports-oriented than the model has been for the last two decades or so. If it works it could mean a change in how resorts here in North America look at their business.

Disclosure: I own stock in Intrawest.
DWW
March 18, 2004
Member since 03/11/2004 🔗
144 posts
With the IDR model, it is the real estate that gets things going and establishes the base. But its the fee revenue that keeps things going from there, like an annuity. Hopefully, once they reach capacity on real estate development at Snowshoe (and I hope that is soon) they can focus more of thier attention on customer service including guests and property owners (the folks who got them there).
gatkinso
March 19, 2004
Member since 01/25/2002 🔗
316 posts
stop over anayizing either you want a ski resort or not why delve into the whole year round issue that is for the people with money to deciede and this is not DCGOLF!!!!! as a skiier I say BRING ON ALMOST HEAVEN!
johnfmh - DCSki Columnist
March 19, 2004
Member since 07/18/2001 🔗
1,926 posts
Roger:

That's very interesting and dovetails well with something else I read: that Intrawest is trying to hold down capital improvements to boost profits and bolster its stock. So far, the strategy appears to be working because the stock has been inching upwards. Look at the stock's rise from Jan 03 - Jan 04. DISCLAIMER: I DO NOT OWN IDR.

One thing that this report pointed out is that many Intrawest properties are beginning to mature; therefore, heavy capital outlays are no longer necessary because the big buildout periods are over.

Like the military (where I work), Intrawest has a lot of bright people who view their work more as a calling than a means to make money. These people are extremely sensitive about some of the negative publicity IDR received from books like Hal Clifford's _Downhill Slide_. In short, they want the company to move beyond the "village people" image to a more "sustainable" one: owners and managers of the GREAT PLAYGROUNDS OF THE WESTERN WORLD. Moving to more of a fee for services model will be one way of achieving this goal.
Roger Z
March 20, 2004
Member since 01/16/2004 🔗
2,181 posts
Yes the stock has moved nicely but not much differently than Vail Resorts, which so far has not undertaken any new strategic direction. The least that can be said is Intrawest is trying to boost its' stock value the old fashioned way (and, IMHO, the right way): boosting cash flow to investors.

However, the best I can tell their cash flow from operations is still negative, hence the reason the stock is not breaking that 19 dollar mark. So even with a ski company aggressively pursuing a target of increasing income streams from fees, they don't seem to be accomplishing their objective (YET). If Intrawest pulls this off it will be a great thing, but there's still a lot of uncertainty about whether it can be done.

This, of course, doesn't necessarily apply to local ski areas, some of whom do seem to be making profits thanks to new pricing structures and increased skier visits. And, as far as local ski areas go, the lesson from Intrawest vis-a-vis our new WV ski resort might be to let a development company build out the capital intensive real estate projects and let Almost Heaven do the rental management as well as some hotel ops for revenue. This could lower the amount of capital they need to build a new resort substantially...
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