Implications of Potential Blue Knob Sale
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JohnL
July 19, 2004
Member since 01/6/2000
3,509 posts
The sale is not final and we are just doing some message board speculation. What do people think about:

1) The impact on reviving Laurel Mountain? Help or hurt?

2) Capital improvements will most likely increase the number of skiers/boarders at Blue Knob. How many skiers can the narrow and natural snow(?) trails of Shortway, Lower Route 66, Edgeset, D-Trail et al handle without being degraded?
shearer519
July 20, 2004
Member since 07/12/2004
149 posts
I personal think laurel is the best ski area in PA. They have top of the line snow making on the trails that have it and the gromming has always been great. There is never a lift line and it has the best of both worlds(steeps and long criusers). I dont think that resort can stay closed for to long with the amount of money invested in it already and the state of the art snowmaking it would not take much money to get it going. from what i understand they broke even money wise the last year of operation and the only reason they closed is because the debt got to big. Living in Pittsburgh its hard for me to justify going to blueknob over laurel I dont see why anyone would want to drive an extra hour just to pay an extra 20 bucks to ski on a worse surface. For the people coming from the east i dont think laurel would steal that many people from blue knob. the better ones will still go to blue knob for the better terrian and the more intermidiate ones will most likely chose the springs over laurel since laurel only offers 1 way down for them on snow making trails. but if laurel ever becaomes fully devoloped it could give blue knob a run for the money it already has 1 very steep trail and the potential is there for an even steeper one. Plus i was told by a snow maker up there once that they actual adverage about 150 inches a year and a usual 3-4 degrees colder then seven springs
Mountain Masher
July 23, 2004
Member since 03/13/2004
541 posts
I agree that Laurel Mt. receives more snow than Blue Knob; 150 inches a year sounds about right. Also, Laurel seems to hold snow well. With 1,000 vertical and REAL glades, Laurel has plenty of potential, that's for sure. I believe that it would take far less capital to make Laurel competitive than the amount of capital required to make Blue Knob competitive. Despite the fact that 7-Springs is nearby, I believe that Laurel could still draw plenty of skiers and boarders if it was improved (and expanded) a bit.
johnfmh - DCSki Columnist
July 23, 2004
Member since 07/18/2001
1,914 posts
1. Laurel/BK competition.

a. Laurel will have a hard time competing with 7 Springs (especially with the new Great Western Expansion) and a beefed up BK, but skiing is growing in this market as the infrasture improves. Also, Laurel's market is Pittsburgh; BK's is DC/Baltimore/Philly(a bigger market to say the least).

b. I'm at the point where I feel that its only worth the drive to New England for a handful of mountains. The more mountains we have here in the Mid-Atlantic, the greater my reluctance to travel to NE, especially early in the season when it is butt cold up there and snowmaking really is not as good as our "Banana Belt" resorts. BOTTOM LINE: we could use both mountains. More mountains will only help improve the region. Everyone will be pulled up by a rising tide. When I first started skiing here, I tried Whitetail and said, "hey, this is great; I want more." I visited 7 Springs the next week and was impressed. From there, I went to Timberline and Snowshoe. In otherwords, more skiing is always better than less skiing.

2. UPGRADES for BK.

a. First the focus should be on snowmaking. In this region, snow is life. They need to strive for 100 percent snowmaking on non-gladed terrain. Also, they need a system like Whitetail's or Snowshoe's that is robust enough to blow 6 inches overnight on major trails after a thaw. BK sits right on the Allegheny front but it's trails are on te east slope. That means it gets much less natural snow than 7 Springs or Timberline. Snowmaking, in other words, is not an option. It is a dire necessity and the difference between running a successful operations and losing skiers to other mountains.

b. Improve lodging and off-slope entertainment for destination guests.

c. Improve uphill capacity. BK should forget about 4-packs and go straight for high-speed, detachable 6-packs even if that means that some slopes may need to be widened in spots to accomodate extra traffic.
Mountain Masher
July 23, 2004
Member since 03/13/2004
541 posts
John, Blue Knob is actually situated several miles to the East of the Allegheny Front; it's the second highest point in PA and the highest stand-alone peak in PA (nearly all of the mountains in PA are ridges rather than peaks). It should be noted that ALL of Blue Knob falls within the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

The new slope expansion at 7-Springs will be nice and is much needed (to spread the weekend skiers out a bit), but Great Western won't offer much challenge or have any more vertical than the rest of 7-Springs. Don't get me wrong, I love 7-Springs (because of their snowmaking, grooming and top management), but 7-Springs will never be known for it's vertical or challenge. An improved and expanded Laurel Mt. could offer skiers in the area a challenging alternative to 7-Springs and Hidden Valley.
johnfmh - DCSki Columnist
July 23, 2004
Member since 07/18/2001
1,914 posts
MM:

I think vertical is far less important in this region for attracting skier numbers than skable acreage and snow quality. Even advanced skiers tend to make resort decisions based more on the number of trails open and the quality of snow than on double black terrain, which in many cases in natural snow, gladed terrain. In this sense, Wisp and 7 Springs are head and shoulders above many competitors.

BK, to make a good buck, needs to look at 7 Springs and immitate it. The focus should be on keeping a good variety of trails open from early December to April. The next focus should be on lodging and off-slope activities. Then on uphill transport, and last but not least, on improving expert terrain.
Mountain Masher
July 23, 2004
Member since 03/13/2004
541 posts
John, I totally agree with you on what BK's priorities should be. They should first improve the snowmaking and grooming on their conventional ski slopes so that they can open ALL of them EARLY in the season (like 7-Springs does) and keep a nice snow base down for most of the season. That's why I think that the creation of the Glades was, among other things, a distraction. Hopefully, the new owners (if the sale is actually completed) will set NEW priorities.
snowsmith - DCSki Supporter
July 23, 2004
Member since 03/15/2004
1,287 posts

John - I agree with your assessment. I own a condo at Hidden Valley and while it is a nice resort, the ski slopes lack challenge. Thus, when I get bored at Hidden Valley I go to other resorts. I skied at BK last year and it was the iciest mountain that I have ever skied on in 30 years of skiing. There were times when I did not think I would be able to stop.Thus I agree that improved snow making and grooming is critical. I was really looking forward to giving Laurel Moutain a try last year,but the guy who bought the resort at auction died before the sale could be completed. I have spoken to several folks familiar with the situation and they indicate that if a buyer can't be found the creditor or the state may open the resort.
One important fact the local ski operators miss is marketing the area as a regional ski destination. From my base at Hidden Valley I am 15 minutes from 7Springs, 30-40 minutes from BK and Laurel MT and 45-55 minutes from Wisp. Thus I can ski 5 resorts if I hang around for a week. If I want to drive for 1.5-2 hours I can go to Canaan and Timberline. Why don't these guys get together and market the area as "Ski the Appalachians" or whatever. And they could have a lift ticket that would be good at all of these mountains. The joint marketing is done in Vermont, New Hampshire and in the area north of Montreal. It just requires a little imagination.
johnfmh - DCSki Columnist
July 23, 2004
Member since 07/18/2001
1,914 posts
Quote:


Why don't these guys get together and market the area as "Ski the Appalachians" or whatever. And they could have a lift ticket that would be good at all of these mountains. The joint marketing is done in Vermont, New Hampshire and in the area north of Montreal. It just requires a little imagination.




The key to making alliances like this possible is a chip card system similar to Metro's SmarTrip. Europe has been able to link hundreds of resorts together using such technology. The chip cards enable resorts to carefully track a skier's usage over a collection of resorts and make sure all resorts are compensated according to that benchmark. Conceivably, the technology could be employed to allow people to pay by the ride instead of the day. You could load $500 onto a smart card and a certain amount would be debited from the card for each lift ride taken (faster lifts or those covering more vert. would cost more money). The beauty of this system is that it would allow you to stop skiing if you get tired or if it rains. Similarly, you could do 10 runs in the morning at WT and then 5 in the afternoon at BK. Also, new skiers who only use beginner lifts would be charged less than those skiing the longer slopes.
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