Opening Day: Happy Thanksgiving!

Opening day is always welcome news and it’s difficult to not feel thankful being Thangsgiving … especially when it’s been one of the better early snow years in recent memory.

Having said that, I find it a bit infuriating to have to have traded in my late Fall early Winter sunny warm days just so the ski company can continue on their status quo of bare minimum terrain openings in recent years.  While I’m not privy to the exact state of affairs on the mountain (we’re now banned from hiking uphill on the ski are during the pre-season), my strong suspicion is that with a 39″ base, we could probably open up some decent terrain (i.e. lift 9) if Telski really want to do so.  However, I believe there’s more at play than simple logistics and sufficiency.   I think it all boils down to expenses, marketing, and historical usage patterns.

From a budgetary standpoint:  each day, each lift, and the rate at which new terrain is opened via the allocation of personnel are expenses which can be calculated and controlled … in the same way that bean counters figured-in a so-called “savings” re: not running lift 8 last year.  Even holding off a few days on running lift 6 can measure in the thousands of dollars in savings when you factor in the lift ops and energy required.   Who know, perhaps there’s even stipulations re: deployment of operations within the insurance policy which runs on a daily basis as a function of terrain opened.  The insurance bit might be a bit far fetched Replica Handbags, but the savings incurred by not running lifts is concrete.

Given some of the slow starts to the season we’ve become accustomed to, I believe there’s been both a concious as well as “unconcious” (or institutional) shift in expectations regarding how much terrain actually opens up from the get go.

Thanksgiving is a week later this year vs. last year.  The closing day is about the same.  That’s about a 6 day “net gain” on days re: expenses from Telski’s point of view.  This is huge, but it was certainly integrated into the budget from the get go.

While Thanksgiving is technically the start of the “winter tourist season” in Telluride, it is nonetheless notoriously slow in terms of the actual number of visitors compared to other winter holidays and peak windows of visitor traffic.   Families do travel for Thanksgiving & some do make a ski trip out of it, but my suspicion is that it is much less elastic in it’s potential to ramp up real numbers vs. Christmas, NYE, President’s Day Weekend Replica Handbags, or Spring Break.   My suspicion is that Valentine’s Day offers greater potential from the ski area’s point of view.  Things might be different in Summit County, CO … where there’s a huge multi-million resident metro area on the front range to draw from to attract the day skier market.   Telluride, however, is too far off the beat and path to court front range visitors in the same manner … who could easily zip up to Copper Mountain on the Friday after Thanksgiving.

In other words, I don’t believe there’s as much of an incentive for Telski to go all out on terrain openings from the get go at Thanksgiving in order to court a very limited number of families who’ve might be flexible in their travel plans, as well as a relatively limited number of day skiers from western slope cities such as Monrose and Grand Junction.

Nonetheless, I think there’s always the appeal to at least market what appears to be a “big snow year” early on.   There was a recent article printed in the Telluride Daily Planet which looked mostly like a press release from Telski which touted “big snow” and “more openings soon”.   It really was a bit over the top, which is very suspicions.   This would serve at least two purposes:  1.) getting the wheels in motion in the minds of those who are making plans for later on in the season, and 2.) appease the locals into believing “good things are coming and to be patient”.

In the 20 years I’ve lived here, I have to admit that Thanksgiving has always been touch and go.  It’s always a crapshoot; however, my recollections of 10+ years back is that a much greater percentage of the mountain was likely to open early on if we had enough snow.    I have vivid recollections of getting first tracks on skier’s left of Joint Point opening day (right where that morning sun first hits that upper patch).

By the same token, I STILL have a bad taste in my mouth from when I believe Dave Riley apparently sat on opening lift 9 well past it’s “due date” – to the point of having some inbounds slides occur on Spiral Stairs (effectively setting it back in time) – so as the large influx of visitors in December could have an optimal experience.  Part of me wonders if what we might be seeing now is a remnant of the Riley years?   Part of me thinks he’s still being called upon for direction from time to time behind the scenes like former disgraced President Logan in the series “24”.

Another aspect of all of this most likely has to do with what is the ski area’s probable position to see a decent return on their investment from snowmaking equipment as a function of trying to be conservative with respect to blowing as much snow down as possible in the suspect areas – providing insurance against a reversal in fortunes of snowfall later in the season.

I wish I had kept track of what terrain was open with a 39″ base last year, since if my memory hasn’t failed me, that lift 9 would’ve been open at such a juncture (i.e. today, or even yesterday for donation — would’ve gotten my $25).   Not to dwell on lift 9, but this rant (exposition) is partly due to a rumor I had heard very recently that even if we were to get another three feet of snow tomorrow that lift 9 wouldn’t open for another two weeks due to budgetary reasons.    While I don’t invest very much in rumors, it does sound consistent with the operating procedures Ive witnessed in recent years from Telski.

I’m of the personal belief that if a private entity has been awarded an exclusive special use permit to operate a ski area, it ought to be required to run all lifts whenever possible vs. whenever profitable.  It’s the gamble they embarked upon and should be bound to upholding.

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