Monday, April 13, 2009

Challenging Ski Season Ends Early

The San Francisco Chronicle reports Challenging season for Sierra ski resorts ending

Sierra Nevada ski resorts are beginning to shut down lifts for the season after what some operators are calling a "very challenging year" because of the economy's downhill run.

The Boreal, Soda Springs and Homewood resorts around Lake Tahoe closed on Sunday, a week before the nearby Alpine Meadows, Heavenly, Northstar-at-Tahoe and Diamond Peak ski areas plan to halt operations.

In a message on the resort's Web site, Alpine Meadows executives acknowledged the economy is prompting an earlier-than-usual shutdown of their slopes. Last year, the resort closed May 4.

Art Chapman, president of JMA Ventures, and Jim Kercher, chief operating officer and general manager of Alpine Meadows, said it was "a very challenging year" for the industry as skier counts and revenue were down sharply at all Tahoe resorts.

"Our decision to close April 19 was driven by the unfortunate fact that we are not seeing the number of skiers necessary to cover our operating costs on weekdays or weekends," they wrote.

At an April 1 conference in Keystone, Colo., Vail Resorts Chief Executive Officer Rob Katz said his company also has faced a dramatic decline in ski school participation and high-end retail spending this season.

"We've seen such huge declines, especially during some of the key weeks," said Katz, whose company is the nation's largest ski operator.

Most Sierra resorts plan to close by late this month, despite storms in recent days that dropped up to 20 inches of snow.

Tahoe-area real estate has been suffering for a couple of years now. Sales this season have been dismal. Many vacation home-owners need the rental income to help cover their payments and upkeep. If this trend continues and rental revenue cannot be counted on…look out below.