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Closed with All This Snow?

We have been asked by a few people why we are not open weekdays in April, or extending our closing date even farther into May.  I wanted to take a few minutes to share some facts regarding our small ski area.  Our operations calendar has reflected nearly all weekdays closed in April from the start of the season.  Although we are committed to providing the most skiing and riding possible, our number one priority is to be financially responsible.  It has been an amazing season and every single one of our expectations was exceeded, but we must be vigilant to ensure Mt. Ashland’s place in the community for future generations.  We are committed to the necessary work to protect the assets we have with robust maintenance and wise capital expenditures.  Although we had many good days this season, and a historic number of visitors, our pledge to keep experiences accessible and affordable means that our operating margins are tight.

Our daily operating costs are approximately $23,900 which includes wages, utilities, fuel, insurance, and supplies.  Our average weekday revenue over the last thirty days has been only $20,650, so we are losing on average $3,250 for every weekday we are open, despite the better than average attendance.  And we know from history that as the season winds down, skier visits will decrease.  It is a fact in the ski industry and we are not unique in this trend.  Over the past week we’ve had some amazing snow and nearly daily fresh, yet we have an operating deficit for the week and posted our lowest weekly number of the season.  This is nothing to fret over- it is budgeted every spring for us to operate at a deficit for several weeks in order to provide a full season to the community, and built as part of the whole season’s budget we are able to do so responsibly.  However, adding additional days that we know will only decay our fiscal security is not something that seems reasonable. Many of us remember days when Mt. Ashland’s future was in jeopardy and every decision we make must be a sound business decision or else we lose our ability to be sustainable.

Another very important factor in our spring operating schedule is the availability of staff.  At the start of every season we provide the planned calendar to our employees, so that they can plan for the livelihood and future.  At the time each season when we might have the opportunity to add more days, many of our staff has already engaged other employment.  The wide availability that many team members have in January and February is very limited in April as they had expected the season to be complete and have filled their schedules with new opportunities.  As an already small ski area, we do not have great depth in our team- many large resorts close peripheral terrain, lifts, and lodges and consolidate teams in order to keep operating.

I understand the frustration of seeing such wide snow coverage on the mountain while the chairlifts are idle on many days.  Our leadership team has had robust discussion about the addition of more operating days, and have added two additional weekends to the schedule- with a closing date of April 23.  Yet- as stewards of this amazing mountain we have the responsibility to strike a delicate balance between days of operation and financial stability.

Our entire team thanks you for your support in this amazing winter.  We appreciate our amazing mountain family, and are committed to ensuring this wonderful community ski area remains alive for generations to come.  In parting, consider how blessed we are to have had this winter, and celebrate our successes:

  • All time record in skier visits (119,500 and counting!)
  • Fifth snowiest winter on record
  • Latest closing date since being tracked (April 23)
  • Most days open since being tracked (93 days)

Andrew Gast
General Manager

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