Forum Index > Public Lands Stewardship > Crystal Mountain, Alterra, and USFS Leases
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Pyrites
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PostSat Jan 02, 2021 12:41 am 
I remember thinking my Svea 123 was an expensive buy.

A couple gallons of gas, and for two of us spending the night at Maple Flats was as cheap as a movie.

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Brian R
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PostSat Jan 02, 2021 7:21 am 
RodF wrote:
Brian R wrote:
One final insult before we depart this state forever, Crystal Mountain's new owners/lease-holders have raised day prices to $139/$149 this season.

Same as the entrance and permit fees for a weekend family camping hike in any of our National Parks, alas also an "elite/elistist sport"  frown.gif

True, and this has been a complaint since national parks were created. One that Yard and Leopold and Marshall railed against too. But you're comparing for an entire family--for at least a couple of days--to a single lift ticket valid for 6-1/2 hours. Here we're talking per-person, per day at Crystal Mountain. Hence, a family of four would spend over $600 per day in lift tickets alone.

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treeswarper
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PostSat Jan 02, 2021 7:38 am 
Jinx's Boy needs to chime in here.

I'm thinking that the leases are for a fairly long number of years.  I also think a percentage, but not much, of their profits goes back to the Treasury.

The way to ski, if you can't afford it, is to work at the ski hill.  Even the Loup has a program where you can volunteer to work and after a certain number of hours, get a season pass.

I worked at White Pass for a winter, back in the "hippy" days and that's where I really started learning to ski.   Funny, Dave Mahre AKA Spike, used to call us hippies.

Then, I worked at the Loup as a ski instructor and got "free" skiing in.  We don't have so many little hills for kidlets now.  Squilchuck, just out of Wenatchee used to have a few rope tows going and was an alternative to the high lift ticket prices at Mission Ridge.  It doesn't operate anymore.  There also was a rope tow area up the Entiat Valley.  We now have Loup Loup, which has a slow chair, Badger Mountain, Sitzmark and (not sure on this one) Echo Valley?  These are non profit hills run by local organizations.  I cannot think of any on the west side of the state, unless Hurricane Ridge runs.

The Loup is on Forest Service land.  Badger Mtn?  May be on state land.  Sitzmark is on private land.

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cascadeclimber
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PostSat Jan 02, 2021 11:10 am 
Brian R wrote:
One final insult before we depart this state forever, Crystal Mountain's new owners/lease-holders have raised day prices to $139/$149 this season.

Yep. Lift skiing is for the rich now. No way I could afford to teach my kids (now in their 20s) if they were learning now.

This and the yet-another restriction on parking at Snoqualmie Pass (they have repeatedly tried to curtail public access north of I-90, going back over a decade) is just frustrating as hell to me.

Pay to play is not healthy for public land.

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RichP
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PostSat Jan 02, 2021 11:49 am 
RodF wrote:
Same as the entrance and permit fees for a weekend family camping hike in any of our National Parks, alas also an "elite/elistist sport"  frown.gif

I was shocked this summer in eastern Washington where some FS campgrounds are now managed by private (for profit) outfits and charge more than double or triple what they used to. Not a good trend for making public lands accessible for all.

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Olympic Hiker
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PostSat Jan 02, 2021 12:16 pm 
RichP wrote:
I was shocked this summer in eastern Washington where some FS campgrounds are now managed by private (for profit) outfits and charge more than double or triple what they used to. Not a good trend for making public lands accessible for all.

I spent the night at a FS campground in Gifford Pinchot NF a few years back that was managed by one of these companies. I was surprised that the FS contracted this out, but found it nice since there was no litter in the campsites, the bathrooms were spotless and there was garbage service. And there were campground hosts too, who helped with the upkeep of the campground. I did not mind paying the extra money to have clean bathrooms and campsites.

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Malachai Constant
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PostSat Jan 02, 2021 12:30 pm 
We used to take the family to Crystal for Christmas week leaving on Christmas Day as it was before the rates when up. They kept raising housing and lift rates. After the Whistler Olympics it became cheaper to go there and the skiing was much better, the invisible hand made housing substantially cheaper and much newer. Crystal is a near monopoly with only the No. 2 lift at Alpy being somewhat competitive but overcrowded.

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altasnob
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PostSat Jan 02, 2021 2:05 pm 
Crystal season pass this season is $600, including tax. If my memory is correct, it was over $1,000 back in the 2000s. Factor in inflation and cost of living adjustment, and a season pass is an absolute bargain compared to what it was. On top of that, a season pass gives you 5 free ski days at Alpental/Snoqualmie, Mt. Bachelor, Red Mountain, BC, and dozens of other resorts worldwide. So the Crystal acquisition by Alterra and monopolization of the ski resort industry has not been all bad. It has been way more crowded up at Crystal since Alterra took over though.

The bean counters working for big ski resorts have decided the way to maximize profits is to charge outrageous day ticket prices for the casual skier, but make season passes very cheap comparatively. Crystal's day tickets are expensive, but so are tickets at every other major ski area in North America.

If you want to ski Crystal for a day find someone who has a season pass as each season pass holder has eight 25% off vouchers to give out. Also, night skiing is a pretty good deal at Crystal. It starts at 2 pm and if you start skiing at 2 pm sharp you can get a couple hours on the upper mountain before the upper lifts close around 3:30 to 4:00, then ski Gold Hills and Quicksilver under the lights until 8 pm. An no reservations required for night skiing this year, unlike day tickets. They use flex pricing like Mariners games and airline tickets so pay less to ski on random days.

kw, jaysway
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jinx'sboy
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PostSat Jan 02, 2021 2:38 pm 
Brian R wrote:
...Back to my point, does anyone here know what the USFS/Alterra "arrangement" looks like? Does the FS get a percentage of the revenue? or just a flat lease payment?...

I spent time with these permits when I worked for the FS.

The ‘arrangement’ is called a Special Use Permit.  It looks, smells and walks and talks like a Lease, and anyone else would call it a Lease, rather than a Permit - except Government lawyers.   I don’t know exact details about Crystals Permit, but like the Permits for all ski areas on National Forest - they all have the same boilerplate.

It probably has a tenure of 20-30 years, maybe 40.  Most Ski Area Permits in this area were re-newed about 2000.

The way the fee paid to the US Treasury is figured can be complicated, but in essence it USUALLY amounts to about 3 to 4% of the gross receipts +/-.  Or, it did, and I doubt the amount has changed substantially.  I believe that today, the FS retains some or all of those $$, and may use them for certain purposes.  This under the authority of various Rec Fee Acts.

Up until the late 1980’s the FS actually approved each and a every price at a ski area....including the cost of a snickers bar or a bag of potato chips.  That went away....and the FS quit being in the odd and awkward position of determining and balancing ‘fair’ and ‘competitive’.

The Permit is further modified/bolstered by accompanying EIS’s, EA’s and Master Development Plans.  And, most importantly an Annual Operating Plan - which specifies the operational nuts and bolts.

Importantly, ALL of these documents are public.  They are available for the asking, although some FS offices may require that you file a FOIA for them.  But you will get them - minus, maybe, some proprietary info. like some financial information that might damage the permit holder.

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Owler
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PostMon Jan 11, 2021 1:28 pm 
jinx'sboy wrote:
but in essence it USUALLY amounts to about 3 to 4% of the gross receipts +/-.

Based on Vail resort 10K filing for 2019 this is correct.

" For use of the land authorized by the SUPs, we pay a fee to the Forest Service ranging from 1.5% to 4.0% of adjusted gross revenue for activities authorized by the SUPs. Included in the calculation are sales from, among other things, lift tickets, season passes, ski school lessons, food and beverage, certain summer activities, equipment rentals and retail merchandise."

http://investors.vailresorts.com/static-files/1e93a8f9-2451-40d6-942f-b2c1411470c6

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jaysway
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PostMon Jun 28, 2021 11:42 am 
As others have pointed out, the trend in skiing is towards more expensive day tickets and less expensive season passes. A season pass for Crystal costs $999 next season (at least the renewal price) and includes in addition to unlimited days at Crystal: 7 days at Snoqualmie, Bachelor, Schweitzer, Red, plus if you're willing to fly, you get 7 or more days at the best ski areas on the continent like Revelstoke, Snowbird, Alta, Jackson Hole, Aspen, plus many more. If you factor in inflation, this is cheaper than passes before Alterra took over and the pass now includes way more access.

I don't love this trend, but it makes sense from a business point of view. This system rewards hardcore skiers but punishes occasional skiers, who are pushed into buying season passes. The facts are that increased costs and liabilities and climate change/weather variability make smoothing out revenue and locking in sales early is an important part of the business model today.

If you plot the population of the greater Puget Sound region against the number of inbounds skiable acreage in Washington, you will see that population growth has way outpaced new ski terrain. This plot would look even worse if you looked at lift capacity. Supply and demand tells us that if supply does not keep pace with demand, then prices increase. If prices do not increase, you will see increased crowding, lines, parking lots filling up, and more. Frankly, the ski areas could raise prices even more and still fill up, as I explained above the price per day for hardcore skiers is lower today than it has been in decades. Just look at how quickly the parking lots fill up at Crystal.

What is the solution? Force Crystal to lower prices in future special permit lease negotiations? That's one way to do things, but considering that there is already unmet demand even with prices being what they are that's only going to result in parking lots getting filled up quicker, longer lines, or lotteries/reservation systems becoming permanent. Maybe that's an acceptable tradeoff?

Another solution is to expand supply: let the current ski areas expand, or god forbid, allow new ski areas to be created. Expansions are already fraught with issues and take long amounts of time to become reality, and I can't imagine that anyone in this thread would be OK with the Forest Service giving out leases for brand new ski areas.

My guess: we will continue to see either increased prices (Crystal) OR increased crowding accompanying lower prices (Stevens). If you hadn't already heard, Stevens lowered season pass prices to less than $500 if you buy early enough. That's $50 a day for 10 days of skiing at Stevens (plus 10 days at Whistler), which I hope we can all agree is a very reasonable price for a place like Stevens. Would you rather pay more for Crystal, or less for Stevens?

The backcountry is going to continue to get more crowded as well, but that is going off topic...

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Randito
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PostMon Jun 28, 2021 12:04 pm 
Brian R wrote:
Crystal Mountain's new owners/lease-holders have raised day prices to $139/$149 this season.

FWIW: MT premier resort Big Sky day rate is $218 for peak days if bought in advance now.    I think their at the booth price is $250 and you have to pay extra if you want to ride the tram.

Seasons passes are $2099 if bought now

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coldrain108
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PostMon Jun 28, 2021 12:45 pm 
I think it was12$ day pass, add 2$ for night included, on Monday and Tuesday at Stevens Pass.  Early 90's.  14$ for 12 hours of skiing.  No idea what is now as I haven't skied anywhere since 2002.

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Randito
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PostMon Jun 28, 2021 2:28 pm 
cascadeclimber wrote:
Lift skiing is for the rich now.

Lift skiing (and skiing in general) has always been a sport for people living above hand-to-mouth.

My dad was a Boeing Engineer and he figured the only way to afford to ski was to be a ski instructor on weekends.

Ski instructor wages basically offest the costs of driving to and from the ski area, instructor discounts lowered the cost of gear and the participating the hand me down chain among the ski instructors made gear more affordable for the offspring.     The big perk until the '90s were complemenary lift tickets for the offspring.

I never bought any new ski gear -- until it was with MSFT stock grant proceeds.

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thunderhead
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PostTue Jun 29, 2021 3:47 pm 
If the population of the puget sound keeps climbing with no new ski terrain, then the price of lift tickets must rise even more.  There has to some way to reduce the overcrowding.  Charging more to reduce the numbers of those willing to pay is the obvious way if more terrain is not added.  Lifts can only carry so many people, there is only so much parking... and without more capacity, increased ticket prices is the only way to keep the experience from becoming miserable for everyone.

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