Blue Knob vs Laurel
September 27, 2004
Ok recently there have been a lot of rumors of both Blue Knob and Laurel Mountain being sold. So that got me thinking what resort is the better buy from an investor's perspective? Both resorts have their own pros and cons to them. I'll try to list them as I see them and i invite everyone to add to it.
Pros: strongly established skier base, Central location to most mid Atlantic cities, Good steeps and cruisers, many glades, Ski in ski out housing
Cons: Antiquated snowmaking and grooming, Lodging and housing in disrepair, Poor night skiing coverage, Environmental damage, overgrown glades.
Pros: Brand new ski lodge, snowmaking, and grooming, steeps and cruisers, newly installed or refurbished lifts
Cons: no on slop lodging poor snowmaking and night skiing coverage, Skier base no well established, only a few choices to get down the mountain, farther from east coast cities
I was wondering what people think is the better investment. Remember this is not about what the better mountain to ski is but which will be a better one to invest in
Sadly, I don't think either one is a stellar investment. Laurel, and to a lesser extent Blue Knob, have to compete with Seven Springs (and even Wisp). I don't think large investments in infrastructure (lifts, snowmaking, ski lodges, slope-side accommodations, etc.) to try to compete with Seven Springs would pay off.
I think both Laurel and Blue Knob could survive as Mom & Pop ski areas; lower-cost, less-crowded, beginner-friendly, expert-friendly, more rustic alternatives to the local destination resorts. Both Laurel and Blue Knob have superior terrain than Seven Springs.
A Mom & Pop area still needs to maintain its core infrastructure such as lifts and snowmaking. If the core infrastructure becomes too decrepit, even the hard-cores and money-savers will eventually stop coming.
In this region, snow is life. A resort can still run slow lifts if they can maintain a good snow surface. Sadly, it sounds like BK was not measuring up in the snowmaking category and that's probably the main reason skiers began going to other places. When Whitetail often boasts 5 inches of fresh manmade for big weekends during the regular season, why would anyone drive further to BK to ski ice?
Too much of a blanket statement. If I had the whole day to ski, I'd personally choose Blue Knob with icy conditions (and all terrain open) versus Whitetail with fresh man made. And I know lot's of other skiers who feel the same way. Why? Less crowds and much, much more challenge. Don't underestimate how much crowds can really sour the ski experience for most skiers. Any ruin the trail conditions. If no a single trail is bumped up (as is often the case), Whitetail can become very, very boring. Plus whatever snow was made the night before will be scraped off the trails by 11 AM. When's the last time you've skied a Mid-Atlantic area (besides T-Line) on a weekend during the middle of the season?
Most people I know ski Whitetail because it's close and people don't want to spend all day skiing and driving.
Too much of a blanket statement.
Yeah, I think you have a point there. I guess my worldview is clouded by Timberline--horrible lifts but awesome terrain, great snow, and low crowds (EXCEPT FOR 3 DAY WEEKENDS). Where else in the Mid-Atlantic can you score a face shot in April???? Just think: if BK had T-line's snow what a fabulous place it would be.
I guess my worldview is clouded by Timberline
That's not a bad thing. I really enjoyed my stay there last year and I'll be skiing there at least a couple times this coming winter. I agree the lifts at Timberline are sloooooooooooooow. But put the slow lifts in perspective; the Timberline crowds over last President's Day weekend were less than the typical crowds at Whitetail on a normal mid-winter weekend. You have a choice between spending time sitting on a chairlift or waiting in line. (Although the slow chairs must be really frustrating first thing in the morning when there is no one on the slopes.)
Didn't BK have some massive environmental damage from some irresponsible logging practices a few years back?
Norsk, I was going to say, what are you doing...
It's hard to have your cake and eat it too. When you have nice snow or good terrain, then the place is too crowded. You can't compare BK and Laurel without looking at the pros and cons of all that the Mid-Atlantic has to offer.A summary of the local areas follows:
Pros- great scenery, interesting terrain, no crowds. Cons-slow lifts, ice, more ice.
Pros - great scenery, good snow, some interesting terrain, no crowds. Cons - no crowds(and no lift ticket sales).
CANAAN AND TIMBERLINE
Pros-great scenery, good intermediate terrain, no crowds(usually). Cons - state owned or undercapitalized, no water for snow making, slow lifts
Pros/Cons - Too far to drive. If I have to drive that far I'd rather go to Vermont. Thus I haven't been there.
Pros-convenient. Cons-crowds, ice ball snow.
Pros- good terrain, excellent lifts, nice atmosphere. Cons- crowds of underworked government bureacrats, ice ball snow.
Pros-good snow, numerous lifts, interesting terrain, apres ski activities. Cons-crowds, bus loads on weekends.
Pros-good snow, good grooming, laid back. Cons-boring terrain, slow lifts.
Given that Pittsburgh, Balto., DC and Cleveland are within close proximity to both BK and Laurel, someone with deep pockets and marketing savy could make these places popular. Look what Intrawest did for Snowshoe/Silver Creek which are not very accessible.
Putting on my asbestos flak jacket for this one: In recent years the ski operation at BK has probably been as good or better than ever. The place has always been run on a dime, typically by very un-slick management; more like an asphalt paving business than a glitzy ski resort. They have more terrain and snowmaking than in the early days in the '60s and '70s. In the '80s they made the big terrain addition with Deer Run, etc, and the triple chair. Snowmaking on Extrovert, High Hopes and many other trails is much better than when I was a pass holder there in the '70s and '80s. The idea of glades was not formally known then at BK and definitely not officially promoted.
Unless a shockingly big budget ownership takes over, I think its established niche will remain as a place for hard corp ski terrain, under challenging conditions, a little far from DC for a day trip, a little underdeveloped for a long visit. It used to have one hour lift lines in the '70s, but in recent years it's become something of a shelter from crowds and high prices. At this point, you have to really want to be there to get there.
Sure, it might be interesting if they had more trails, snowmaking, condos, restaurants, but I have a feeling that a lot of the people who currently have a Mad River type of affinity for BK, might start reminiscing about the good old days if it underwent an Intrawest type makeover. Never been to Laurel, but I hate to see a place close down. In general, DC and Balt skiers/boarders have never had it so good as right now for variety and conditions. When we got some nice help from mother nature, as we did in 2002-2003, it made for probably the very best winter to be a skier in our region since I first laced on a pair of ski boots in '67 (at BK).
About original question: The only thing I'd think about investing in either is about 8 hours for a good time.
At the risk of starting up another involved BK thread...I have not seen a single post expressing a desire for more condos/restaurants/amentities at BK. Apart from the environmental issues, people seem to be asking: what fraction of BK's trails/glades are skiable during the course of the season. There are definitely two schools of thought on this issue!
Norsk, I know you said that you were kidding; but, at this point, I believe your post to be true......Moving right along, unless Blue Knob receives A LOT OF SNOW this Winter, I don't think that the skiing is likely to be very good for the following reasons: 1) Many of the Glades have become overgrown with brush and saplings. 2) Many of the primary (non gladed) ski slopes now have very little grass on them and are covered with rocks. 3) The snowmaking system is down to only one working air compressor and no more than a dozen working fan guns (guns that don't require an air line). 4) There is only one decent groomer and 2 others that are in pretty bad shape. Conclusion: I believe that Laurel would be a much better buy (despite being so close to 7-Springs) because it would take far less money to make Laurel a viable ski area. And, there's now the cloud of an on-going PA DEP investigation hanging over BK, exactly how that's going to play-out is anyone's guess.
The fact that there is only one decent groomer is a plus in my book.
How many decent groomers does Mad River Glen have?
JohnL, trying to compare Mad River Glen and Blue Knob is ridiculous. Unlike Mad River, BK receives only 100 inches of natural snow a year (on some Winters a lot less). To create a good skiing surface with a mostly (or all) man-made snow surface requires a lot of grooming, otherwise you're left with large piles of hard, icy snow in front of the snowmaking guns. Also, because there is often high wind (on and near the summit of BK), and there are few trees in that area, the snow surface must be packed down by groomers on a continual basis to keep it from blowing away. And finally, because BK has frequent swings in temperature and freezing rain is common, groomers are needed (several times a Winter) to break up the crust and ice on the slopes. In conclusion: groomers are very important to providing quality skiing at BK!