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 Post subject: How to Save Your Local Ski Hill
PostPosted: Mon Jul 23, 2012 9:08 am 
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Joined: Thu Oct 30, 2008 5:44 am
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Location: Hidden Valley St Louis, MO- 310 really BIG vertical ft
From an article in skiing Magazine - Dec 2009

The T-shirts in Greg Williams’s office are everywhere: floor desk, filing cabinet. By his estimation, there are hundreds of them, and to Williams, they’re much more than clutter and cotton. To him, these shirts represent perhaps the final chance of survival for his favorite ski area, a scrappy knob of soil and stone in the southern Vermont town of Londonderry known as Magic Mountain. “I definitely think it’s all on the line,” he says with a sigh. ‘It’s this year or never.”

To understand how a few piles of laundry can be so critical to one mountain’s well being you must know that Greg Williams is selling the “Save Magic” shirts to pay for two more ownership shares in his beloved but beleaguered Magic Mountain, which has operated for years in the margins of survivorship—a little ski area rich in steeps, trees, and devout locals but not much more. Last season, Magic posted a mere 16,000 skier visits. Still, that’s better than the dark years of the early ‘90s, when three lifts ware pawned off to pay outstanding debt. In August, the mountain’s management began promoting the idea of cooperative ownership.

Magic is not the first ski area to consider the cooperative model. A hundred miles to the north lies Mad River Glen, which has operated cooperatively since 1995 and currently has 1,8oo “owners,” each of whom has paid $2,000 for a share of the mountain (some own more than one share). And in the small town of Terrace, BC, a group of skiers are picking through pocket lint, trying to gather enough spare change to make an offer on Shames Mountain, a low key ski area that reaps 480 inches of annual snowfall and boasts hundreds of acres of backcountry. It’s currently on the market for a cool C$1.5 million.

What’s behind the co-op trend? Tim Cohee thinks he knows. Cohee runs the Ski Business and Management program at Sierra Nevada College and spent 13 years as president of Kirkwood Mountain in California. “In this economy, most small resorts are simply not bankable. It doesn’t matter how good your credit is; you’re not going to get financing if you’re showing below, say, 200,000 skier visits annually.”

More optimistically, Cohee sees a subtle cultural shift that supports the cc op model. “At some point people say, ‘Big mountains, fast lifts, villages: I don’t really need all that.”’ That’s certainly how Mad River Glen shareholder and marketing director Eric Friedman sees it. “When people ask me, ‘What do I get when I buy a share?’ I tell them, ‘The first thing you get is a bill every August”’ Friedman says. Indeed, Mad River share holders are required to spend $2OO per year at the mountain on goods and services. They do receive a small discount on season passes and lift tickets, but as Friedman notes, “Ninety-nine percent of our shareholders bought their share for the right reason: preservation:’

Preservation is very much on the mind of Magic Mountain President Jim Sullivan, who currently leases the mountain with two silent partners. They invested $1 million and planned to buy the mountain but, as Tim Cohee might have predicted, they couldn’t find investors. Now, with the lease running short, Sullivan is turning to Magic devotees like Greg Williams, hoping that 1,000 of them will part with $3,000 each to keep the lifts running. As of late September, 120 shares had sold, a result Sullivan classifies as “somewhat disappointing but not entirely surprising.” Like Mad River, Magic is promising little in the way of fiscal return (shareholders will receive a 20 percent discount on passes). “We’re careful not to tout return on investment;’ says Sullivan. “The return is really an emotional one, that they can keep this place alive and viable:’

Much the same could be said of Shames, which is owned by a quartet of Canadian investors with an improbable collection of first names: Harry, Larry, Gerry, and Barrio. The four have owned the mountain for two decades, and they put it on the market two years ago. The idea of a co op was first floated by a California native named Jamb Schectman, who currently lives in Argentina with his wife Shanie. “A friend sent us the listing. Neither of us had heard of the place, but we quickly realized Shames has something special,” Schectman says. “We contacted a couple locals and asked them what they thought of the idea of buying the resort as a co op. Both responded within in minutes.”

The Shames Mountain Co-op is in its infancy but its members hope to eventually sell enough $500 shares to purchase the resort. Owner Harry Murphy would love nothing more than to sell to a group of locals, but he tempers his enthusiasm with the sort of pragmatic wisdom one gains by operating a ski resort for 20 years. “Running a mountain is a lot more difficult than most people could ever believe,” Murphy says. “There are a lot of armchair quarterbacks out there who don’t really know how to throw the ball:’ For his part, Magic skier Greg Williams doesn’t much care if they know how to throw a ball. He just wants them to buy a damn T-shirt. —BEN HEWITT

June needs someone to step up and LEAD. Then there might be a chance.


First On - Last Off ...and I really joined Nov. '01
I wasn't born to ski, I was born to work... But then I got layed off.

 Post subject: Re: How to Save Your Local Ski Hill
PostPosted: Mon Jul 23, 2012 9:41 am 
Tim Cohee teaching others how to manage a ski area?
what a fricken joke -
but interesting information, thanks

 Post subject: Re: How to Save Your Local Ski Hill
PostPosted: Mon Jul 23, 2012 4:27 pm 
Cornice Bowl
Cornice Bowl

Joined: Thu Oct 30, 2008 4:51 pm
Posts: 688
I'll repeat my comments about co-ops/501c3 non-profits from the main "Bye Bye June" thread:

Bogus Basin is a 30-40 minute drive from a metro area of 500,000. Bozeman is less than 100,000 but does have Montana State University. At any rate there is a substantial category 1 daytrip skier population base to support both areas.

Mad River Glen within its regional context is an expert oriented niche. It gets 250 inches snow (in the upper range for the Northeast), minimal snowmaking, only a little bit of grooming and narrow twisting trails that to many people have more character than the broad groomed boulevards at most mountains. Also excellent tree skiing for powder days. So MRG's appeal is to the fanatics who want to preserve that kind of skiing in the East. Passionate skiers are more likely to pay $2,000 to preserve something they love even if they don't think they will earn many $ as an investment.

Magic is MRG lite. Smaller, less snowfall, only advantage is farther south so closer to metro NYC and Boston. Nonetheless this is a niche market and MRG is the superior product. Magic has been off-and-on open/closed for many years and its survival is questionable IMHO. SoCal skiers should be able to relate. Baldy is the Mad River (in terms of terrain, facilities) of our region and Mt. Waterman is the barely surviving Magic.

Even the co-op success stories are often a close call. Mad River barely breaks even overall and I suspect has minimal revenue in a year like this one (much worse in the Northeast than the Sierra this year). On a press trip at Bogus they gave us a nice book on the history of the area and it has had a few financial close calls in bad years as it averages ~250 inches snow with minimal water for snowmaking. Bogus inaugurated the cheap ($199) season pass program in 1998, which has been a smashing success. But that program works so well for Bogus because it has that population base where people can come up and ski a couple of hours before or after work.

June does not have the population base of Bogus or Bridger nor the fanatic appeal to draw thousands to buy co-op shares from a long distance away like MRG. If there's a co-op I think it's likely to be a smaller group of the June Lake businesses who are most directly threatened if the ski area goes down.

MRA is really less than spam. They really do nothing

MRA's first stab at Shames alienated the locals but did prod them to form their own co-op. MRA does spout a lot of ideological rhetoric that can turn many people off. I've decided to tune most of that out and wait for actual results of the second project at Manitoba Mountain in Alaska's Kenai Peninsula. This has more local support than Shames but is still far from a done deal.

 Post subject: Shames!
PostPosted: Mon Jul 23, 2012 4:49 pm 
Hemlock Ridge
Hemlock Ridge
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Joined: Wed Oct 29, 2008 8:33 pm
Posts: 4195
Location: Going deep inside the Kremlin ... KGB-plotting with Vladimir Puntang..
Info on the Shames Mountain co-op :rock:

Is this the NEW you, June Mountain?

PS - Thanks for the insight and details on those hills, TonyC!

Git'r done, JM co-opers!

"To much of the world, which has grown to hate American bullying, the bullying of Americans by their own police is poetic justice."

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