Resort Report: Whistler, Bud Klein RIP, late returns and more

With only a handful of resorts still keeping the season going in North America, the final reports for 2010/2011 are rolling in. From Whistler's earnings to the passing of a legend to off-season improvements, SNEWS keeps an eye on what's happening in the hills.
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With only a handful of resorts still keeping the season going in North America, the final reports for 2010/2011 are rolling in. From Whistler's earnings to the passing of a legend to off-season improvements, SNEWS keeps an eye on what's happening in the hills.

Whistler Blackcomb Holdings Inc., reported financial results for the fiscal 2011 second quarter and six months ended March 31, 2011. Post 2010 Winter Olympic skier traffic and ticket prices were up considerably, according President and CEO Dave Brownlie. “We are pleased with the post-Olympic recovery with skier visits increasing 33 percent and effective ticket price up 9 percent over the same quarter last year and record-breaking sales of seasons passes and frequency cards,” Brownlie said. “In particular, we achieved exceptional results in our local and regional market, which includes Washington State and we will exceed two million skier visits this year.”

Highlights include:

  • In the period from November 9, 2010 to March 31, 2011, the Corporation generated $79 million of EBITDA on revenues of $156 million, resulting in net earnings of $45 million or $1.18 per common share 
  • Sales of season passes and frequency cards to March 31 reached 161,000 units and $43 million, the highest level in the history of Whistler Blackcomb
  • Skier visits and effective ticket price ("ETP") returned to pre-2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games levels. In the three months ended March 31, 2011 and the period ended March 31, 2011 
  • Skier visits increased by 33 percent and 24 percent, respectively, over the same period in the prior year.

Kirkwood founder Bud Klein dies

The management of Kirkwood Mountain Resort announced the death of Bud Klein, Kirkwood's founder. Bud lost his battle with cancer on May 5, 2011. In a post on the California ski area’s website, a statement noted that, “It was Bud's pioneering spirit, entrepreneurial vigor and tireless energy in the early 1970s that converted a remote wilderness outpost at the pinnacle of the Sierra into one of North America's most legendary ski mountains. Bud saw opportunity where others saw challenges -- developing not only the resort, but also all the roads and infrastructure that would become our community. While Kirkwood was only one of Bud's many bold investments, we know it held a special place in his heart.”

Sugarloaf ends season, starts new chair

After a winter that saw more than 16 feet of snow blanket the slopes, Maine’s 2010-2011 ski season came to a close on May 9, 2011, when Sugarloaf celebrated its final day of skiing. Work immediately began on more than $4.3 million worth of offseason enhancements at the area, including a brand new, $3 million quad chairlift. In addition, Sugarloaf will also continue work on its terrain expansion onto Burnt Mountain, with an additional 135 acres of glades scheduled to open for the 2011-12 season.

Also, in Maine, Saddleback Ski Resort announced record revenue, record skier visits and record snowfall. According to Chris Farmer, general manager, “Saddleback's revenues from mountain operations increased more than 10 percent and we saw a 14 percent increase in the number of skiers and snowboarders.” Snowfall for the season totaled 276 inches, which is over four feet more than the seasonal average of 225 inches. 

BC’s Shames moves ahead with co-op plan

BC Local News is reporting that My Mountain Co-op is forging ahead with plans to buy the Shames Mountain ski operation even though its original purchase deadline of April 30 has passed. The Co-op and the Shames Mountain Ski Corporation signed a memorandum of understanding May 5 for negotiations leading to a purchase agreement. The Shames Mountain Ski Corporation has had the hill for sale for several years and dropped the asking price to $1.3 million recently. 

It’s ski or rod in the Midwest, and Little Swiss gets new owner

Lutsen Mountain Resort’s plan to pump more water into snowmaking next season is drawing the ire of local fisherman. According to a report in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the Legislature is expected to pass a law that would allow Lutsen to draw millions of gallons of water from the Poplar River, which is a designated trout stream. While that water would help Lutsen ensure a solid base from November to March, it could also create shallower pools in the river, increasing the chance of trout and their eggs freezing in the wintertime. 

Next door in Wisconsin, a developer has plans to reopen the Little Switzerland ski hill, which closed after the 2006-07 season. The Milwaukee Journal reports that Wayne Erickson, who owns the Slinger Speedway, bought the area earlier this year, and plans to spend more than $2 million on upgrades to the lodge, restaurant and bar.

In other news…

Brundage Mountain in Idaho closed on May 15, 2011, tying its latest closing day in history…Egyptian tycoon Samih Sawiris wants to team up with a Swedish company to link and upgrade Switzerland’s Andermatt and Sedrun ski resorts, and has teamed up with SkiStar to invest more than $150 million into the plan…Get in line to buy a piece of history when Loveland starts selling the doubles from its old Chair 4 for $350 per. Entries for the lottery to buy the chairs closes May 16…Vail Cascade Resort announced that Jennifer Williams has joined the team as national sales manager.

-- Peter Kray

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