Run the Lifts-A Plea to Tahoe Ski Resort Executives by Gary Jeong

2 Jun 2011

The Rider's Voice

As a long-time Truckee/Tahoe local, a 16 year passholder to Alpine Meadows, including the last 5 at Squaw Valley, it hurts me to write this.

Mother Nature has blessed us with one of the biggest winters on record. In fact, it’s still snowing. But here is the problem, the ski resorts are closed. All of them…except for little Donner Ski Ranch, which is operating weekends until the snow runs out.

I know I am not the only one in a mountain town that plans their life around skiing. Sure I could go hike, and will do so when the motivation strikes..but I pay for a pass each year! In fact, these days I pay for passes to both Alpine and Squaw. I feel it’s in the ski resorts best interests to keep passholders happy. It’s the norm for ski areas to open as soon as they can, sometimes with one strip of white on low angle slope. But to close when the coverage and conditions are all-time?

When there are drought years, then it’s a short season. But in the epic season of 2010-2011, there is not one Tahoe ski resort embracing the white gold that has fallen from the ski. Do any of those corporate executives have the heart of a true skier? Apparently not.

Alpine Meadows Mid Mountain, June 2, 2011. Photo courtesy of Dr Robb Gaffney.

I don’t buy into the philosophy that there is no interest and resorts will lose money. I don’t agree that by staying open, ski resorts are going to lose business. Last weekend at Squaw Valley, I waited in 20 minute lift lines. The interest is obviously there.

KT-22 Line Up, Squaw Valley USA. May 29, 2011. Photo courtesy of Unofficial Squaw.

I have never seen this much snow on the mountain and it not be open, ever. In some years, the ski resorts make snow to supplement coverage, so why are they closed now?

Squaw Valley USA, June 2, 2011. Photo by Mountain Rider’s Alliance.

With more snow in the forecast, I plea for some ski area executive to find his or her own “soul of a skier”, sac up, and run the lifts!

Gary Jeong is an unemployed  television production director and lives in Truckee, California with his dog Tiberius. He skis as much as he can, especially being out of work at the moment.



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29 Responses to “Run the Lifts-A Plea to Tahoe Ski Resort Executives by Gary Jeong”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    I am glad someone spoke up. With 800 inches of snow, Tahoe Ski Resorts are totally dissing Mother Nature by not operating.


  2. guy Says:

    I would love to have you cross post this at Gary. Well said.


  3. Aaron S Says:

    What if everyone (including all pass holders) contributed to cover the costs (including a standard profit margin) in advance. And you don’t show up, your loss. The more people the lower the price…it could function like a Groupon…you have to put down your credit card by 5pm the day before, this way Squaw will have enough time to make this happen.  And we as pass holders, would have to view this as not part of what we purchased for the 10/11 season pass. It’s incremental, so we would need to pay….I know I would throw down and commit say $5-$60 for an extra KT powder day. 


    • PowAbuser Says:

      I live in Squaw Valley and looking up at the mountain today with all the new snow and no tracks was like a dagger to my heart. I would have gladly ponied up to bang out some laps.


  4. Ripgnar Says:

    As a resort employee who works as many as 60 hours a week I can safely say there comes a point when I am so ready to get as far from the resort as possible, mountain bike, rock climb, and soak up some sun as well as unemployment benefits… That lasts for about 2-3 weeks, then I get bored and the money starts to run out. That’s when they should spin chairs again!


  5. TahoeLocal Says:

    Kudos to Gary for writing down his thoughts. The only thing I would add is that Squaw, Alpine and Sugar Bowl are all going to open for 4th of July weekend. How about they rotate and us skiers win?


  6. SkiBum4Ever Says:

    After seeing the photo of KT from last weekend, it appears skiing is still on many people’s minds. What a golden opportunity that all the corporate ski areas are throwing away. As the author said, someone please SAC UP!


  7. Dougman Says:

    it’s total bullshit that the resorts spend millions of dollars on man made snow to open early based on a calendar date, and then close when there is 20 feet of natural snow on the ground. the parking lot was full last weekend and the lift lines were full, it’s not for lack of interest. spring skiing in the best, warm weather, great coverage, hot tubs and pools, you have your ski legs and then beers on the deck. what’s not to like. they need to market the spring skiing!!


  8. Chucky Says:

    operative word: unemployed. Guys, they’re running a business and clearly the numbers just won’t work, even if you were willing to pony up a $5. If you owned a profitable business you would realize this. We all got our money’s worth out of our passes. Get over it, stop whining and break out the skins.


    • Jerryhr Says:

      The numbers won’t work? Had Squaw, Alpine or Sugar Bowl opened yesterday with a foot of new, I guarantee they would have made a profit. 

      And besides that, a ski resort should service it’s community, not make it’s decisions solely on a quick profit. Make the right decisions and the profits will follow. 


      • Chucky Says:

        when you have actual numbers to back up your statements Ill humbly eat crow. without a profit/loss analysis then you’re just guessing without any basis. do you know exactly how much is costs to open the mountain for a day? do they have enough employees available to pull it off successfully? how many skiiers have to show up and spend $ to clear their costs? I don’t work for Squaw but I do own a business and it’s clear most people have no idea what it takes operationally and financially to be “open”.  Lastly, it is a for profit business, and when businesses don’t make a profit, then cost cutting measures are needed to keep the business afloat. These are just the realities of business that we have to accept.


        • Jamie Schectman Says:

          I heard rumors of around $5,000 to run KT-22. I am certain I could get 200 of my friends to each pay $25 for a day on the mothership. And then when they spend money at the bar (if one is open) and restaurant it would be all profit for the resort.

          But more importantly, I have a real problem with all decisions coming down to the bottom line. Clearly if any of the major ski resorts “sac-ed up” as Gary challenges them, the PR and customer satisfaction would more than make up for any perceived financial loss. 


  9. SkierX Says:

    Back in the late 80’s, Alpine Meadows blew snow to stay open as long as possible. If Alec Cushing and Nick Badami where still the owners, instead of corporations, one would think it would be a different story. Shame on JMA and KSL for not giving the customer what they want.


    • Gjeong Says:

      i remember skiing in june at alpine, geez..must’ve been at least 14 yrs ago now..thinking “wow! this is great…sun,warmth, smooth corn..awesome skiing.” it’s why i kept getting a pass there all those years..but then powdercorp took over and it started to change, i continued to get a pass there hoping they would get back to what made it great for me in the first place..but year after year they keep disappointing me … 🙁  i still consider it my home mountain..but squaw is kinda pullin me away with the killer lift accessed terrain….torn


  10. Daryl Nolch Says:

    At Mt Buller, the snow came 1.5 months early (and went). They opened 1 chair for the weekend and charged nil for season pass holders and $20 per day for everyone else. 5000 people a day came, mostly newcomers and intermediates: <$200,000 for 2 days for 1 chair wasn't bad. Sausages in rolls $8, + beers etc were sold out in 2 hours. Salaried staff and executives were selling tickets and food and beverage. Some lodges opened early with the staff they had in training.  Also it spruiked advanced bookings for ski in/out accommodation, and was 'good for business'. And offer the $20 off the price of a 2011/12 pass to snare market share.

    Perisher Mtn, owned by the billionaire partner of Rupert Murdoch's son, has just done the same with 1 lift for 1 long run they made snow on to top up the tiny amount of natural snow. The publicity and spike in accommodation bookings was pure gold. 

    Whats the cost:benefit of running one chair on a weekend?


    • jamie schectman Says:

      New Zealand and Australia’s ski club fields are an excellent example of running a values based business. 


  11. Scrapmail66 Says:

    Just a little note….. who is going to run the lifts?? Who is going to provide services for all of us who want to ride?? It doesn’t seem like it takes much but somebody has to sacrifice their day so the rest of us can ski. And who is going to do that for resort pay? If you’re so bent on skiing get your skins, pack a pack, and go earn them. I’m tired of all the whining that the resorts aren’t taking care of us because they aren’t open. Go earn your turns for once and realize that those of us who work at the resorts don’t wanna sit around watching everyone go by carving the white while we have to work. 


    • Gjeong Says:

      scrapmail66, i saw kate, rachel and migs running the lines at summit the last 2 weeks of ops for alpine..are you saying the full time year round people at squaw cant get out of their office and stand around outside in the sun for a few hrs?


    • Tahoe007 Says:

      Hey Scrappy, sounds like you should switch careers.


    • Mark Says:

      Ya know, i get tired of my job around April too. I get tired of dealing with problematic parents and grading homework. But I stay in the classroom and keep doing my job because i pay my bills. Many area employees complain that they have seasonal jobs…but for most, they want to just be able to go on unemployment. I have a second job too. Both of my jobs overlap for about 3 months a year. I make it work. Sounds like Scraps needs to look for a new career.


    • Rookie184 Says:

      As noted below resorts have year round employees and I know there are people out there who will gladly work for money, strange concept?  Let me guess you are probably the guy that says that’s not my job when something needs to get done.  There are still people with a work ethic and need money. 
      If you had been at Squaw you would have seem there is still strong interest in making turns and there are still employees around. 
      For me looking at the big picture it would seem that running KT would itself be a money maker just in publicity alone.  Couple calls to some news outlets and show that we are powder skiing in June.  Cheaper that running an ad and bookings for next  season would surely improve not to mention the money to be made each day.  Best guess says you can do the whole deal with 10 people and that includes having a BBQ on the deck and couple patrol on mtn. 
      When Squaw starts blowing snow that is a waste of money and resources.


  12. Cgregorak Says:

    Right on Gary.  Those were some fun turns on Saturday.


  13. AspenSkiExecutive Says:

    Dear Mike Livak and Andy Wirth,

    I am so much better than you.



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