As far as ski resorts go, you probably have never heard of Snow King. Nestled in the town of Jackson, WY, it’s overshadowed by its larger, more famous neighbors JHMR and Grand Targhee. But it’s a damn respectable little mountain; people have been skiing there for almost a century and it’s Agnarchy.com approved.
Unfortunately financial trouble may end the King’s reign as the locals hill in Jackson. Even though the rest of the facilities are doing alright, Snow King’s ski operations are bleeding a half a million dollars annually and this season the resort threatened not to open.
What went wrong?
It’s possible they simply overextended themselves — happens to business all the time — only to find out the hard way that taking on tons more debt doesn’t doesn’t draw enough more customers to service that debt.
Another likely possibility is this: one side effect of the hyper-capitalization of the ski industry is that eventually only the biggest mega corporations will be able to sustain the illusion of “growth” while smaller facilities go out of business.
Can they fix it?
Determined to remain the “Town Hill” for the Jackson area, Snow King is exploring the gamut of extracurricular amenities offered at other resorts, such as zip-lines, alpine slides, and a mountain bike skills park.
Snow King will also seek Forest Service approval to expand some yurt camping and cross-country skiing. But even if these new activities are massively profitable, the ski operations will still be losing money. It will just be subsidized by the other activities. This may be a good short-term compromise, but I fear that it won’t be enough in the long run.
It is also exceedingly difficult to compete in a Wall Street-dominated industry when you’re financially outgunned, and Wyoming is not a tourist attraction of the same caliber as the I-70 corridor or Whistler/Blackcomb or Lake Tahoe so trying to compete on that business model may be challenging to say the least.
What’s next for Snow King?
Hopefully many more winters, d’uh!
Despite its current financial trouble, Snow King does have a lot to offer, as Managing partner Manuel Lopez highlights:
The location in the center of town, it’s highly visible from everywhere in town. It’s easily accessible by any means of transportation. It has steep and challenging terrain. It’s a ski-racing destination. It’s the community hub. It’s the Town Hill.
The opportunity to be a viable ski resort is there, but it’s not without challenges.
Last season they remained open due in part to a “sizable increase in revenue from an outpouring of community support”, hopefully the community continues to back their “Town Hill” and some new all-season activities help boost their margins for years to come.