Hate to break the news, but many of our local ski resorts are basically bowling alleys with snow.
The economy stinks, so luxury sports like skiing/snowboarding are going to suffer a bit, but that’s not all. The service & experience at many of the ski areas here is just not that awesome anymore. Over at his blog, Jon Tollefson called out the Midwest ski resorts. This struck a chord with me because I’ve had the same discussion with people at every resort bar.
[W]hat are you doing to show that we should come to your hill? I don’t see you at local events. I don’t see you promoting your parks. I don’t see you doing anything other than propping up on a trash hill and blowing 4 months worth of ice out of the year.
Truth. Several of them actually are converted land fills. But the problem is worse than just the inflated pass pricing.
- Pine Knob sets up the exact same park every year with the same kickers and the same rails and the same bombed out landings.
- Mt. Brighton deals us the same crappy cafeteria with that hideous dark wood paneling and falling-apart picnic table benches and video games from 1984 that don’t work anymore.
- Mount Holly runs a pretty decent comp at the end of the season and they change up their park and make it fun for once but the park never looks like that when you’re there on a random Wednesday, and their overall park vibe is the weakest of the Detroit-area resorts.
- Alpine Valley, the only resort not near a major freeway, declined to participate in the Shell lift ticket discount program the last two years. Their park is usually on point but compared to the competition that doesn’t say much.
Before you accuse me of sipping the Haterade, there’s plenty of Michigan resorts that are doing things right. Take a weekend and visit one of them for a change.
It’s not just for kids
In fairness, they have some deals for kids, and school ski clubs help fill the void, but the resorts aren’t making their bread and butter on these deals. So maybe you fan the flames and get these kids interested in skiing or snowboarding, but you abandon them the minute they can’t get those $15 midweek lift passes any more. So they stop coming to your mountain every week because they can’t afford it any more.
Next thing you know, it’s been 5 or 6 years since they’ve been on planks and the love is gone and for most of them it’s not coming back. It almost happened to me.
Adults = Après = $$$
The skiing and snowboarding gets us in the door, but they make their money when we pony up for the après, so they need to do something to get more adults out on the slopes more often, even if that means nominally cheaper lift rates or creative discounting. Because adults don’t bring backpacks full of juice boxes, instead we buy a few rounds of beers at the bar — that’s where the margin is for profit.
- Kids ski/snowboard free with a full-price adult lift ticket.
- Would it kill you to do more demo days? We don’t get any of those around here. I know it’s not entirely the resorts fault, but it’s like they’re not even trying.
- Something other than NASTAR races on every weekend day, so more freestyle comps. Even am-jams you don’t need to go get Nick Visconti to do an appearance.
- Something like a “league” night, if you register 4+ people in advance you get a 50% discount on lift tickets.
- News flash: most of us have day jobs. Extend your “Two for Tuesday” deal beyond the AM session, make it buy-one/get-one all day Tuesday and all day Thursdays.
Summing it up:
Anyone who can afford to ski or snowboard can certainly afford not to ski or snowboard. Bottom line is that if you’re not giving people a great experience, they’ll find somewhere else to spend their money.
You’re the ones with the budget go hire someone who can figure out how to get people to your mountain. It’s your call.
All four of these resorts are also in serious need of new websites. I’m willing to help if they’re willing to make a commitment to their customers.