The many parts of a running a ski area

Did you ever stop to think about the many parts required to make a ski area work? Many of the products and skills were on display this week at the summer meeting of the Midwest Ski Area Association.

The event, held at Alpine Valley Resort, of Elkhorn, Wisconsin, brought together resort owners, managers, and employees, as well as suppliers from some of the industry’s leading companies. Participants used educational seminars as well as informal networking to exchange ideas and learn about best practices. They also got to talk with vendors of equipment as well as consultants and service professionals of various sorts.

Even in the cold Midwest, snowmaking equipment is a key component to a long (and profitable) season. So several snow-making companies were present at the show. Some sell the snowguns that combine water, fans, and cold air to make snow. Others sell pumps and pipes for getting the water up the hill. And of course, once you get the snow on the ground it can get frozen into unskiable crud quickly. So groomers — essentially, tractors for the snow — are another staple of ski-area management. The meeting gave ski-area people the chance to talk about the techniques of making and grooming snow, as well as talk with people who sell snowmaking and grooming equipment.

While old-school skiers and snowboarders may enjoy hiking up the hill to get their turns, most of us appreciate the convenience of lifts, especially chair lifts. The trade show featured several companies that provide engineering support for the lifts, as well as sell the lifts themselves. The growth in freestyle skiing and riding, meanwhile, has brought about a demand for man-made features to place on the hill. It has also created new jobs in the alpine world, including the terrain-park designer and manager.

Out on the hill, you’ll also find simple items such as caution signs, fences, and ropes. Someone’s got to sell those to ski area–and they were present at the show as well.

All this is just the beginning of what is required to keep an area humming. Attendees of the show also considered point-of-sale systems (lift tickets, lessons, food service), and software to aid marketing efforts that bring people to the slopes. Ski area employees could also talk with financial managers, accountants, insurance professionals, appraisers, and other groups of people deal with the financial side of things. As much as you may not like to think about it, without a sufficient financial base, ski areas wouldn’t be able to provide consumers with the snow and service they expect.

So while you’re spending your summer recreation time riding bikes, fishing, water skiing, or simply sitting out on the deck, the ski area industry keeps thinking about the winter to come.


Buy season tickets in the summer to save money on skiing and riding

“Buy now, save now,” a good motto for buying lift tickets and season tickets, applies today, as Welch Village offers a one-day special on tickets.

Purchase lift tickets today at the Welch Village e-commerce store, and the price is only $25 a day. (During the season, the price approaches $50.) You can buy up to 10 tickets.

You may be a bit confused when you click through. An email from Welch explains: “Although our system will require the purchaser to name a guest for every ticket purchased, these tickets can be used by ANYONE on ANY DAY during the 2013/14 season. There is a limit of 10 tickets per transaction but you may make as many transactions as you wish.”

Be warned, though: The tickets are non-refundable, and you can’t exchange them for a freeze card, so don’t overbuy.

By the way, Peter Zotalis, VP of Welch Village, has started a blog. There are only two entries to date, but it’s worth a look.