Telluride Is Ready for Prime Time
by Martinique Davis
Oct 18, 2010 | 4233 views | 35 35 comments | 20 20 recommendations | email to a friend | print
COLORADO’S BADDEST SKI RESORT – That’s what <i>Powder</i> magazine says about Telluride in its October issue, which fills 12 of its pages
COLORADO’S BADDEST SKI RESORT – That’s what Powder magazine says about Telluride in its October issue, which fills 12 of its pages
slideshow
12-Page Powder Magazine Spread Heralds ‘America’s Greatest Backcountry Resort’

MOUNTAIN VILLAGE – A headline on the cover of the October Powder magazine reads, “O.B. at Colorado’s Baddest Resort.” Flip to page 80, and find the predictable ski mag photo: A skier, waist-deep in the white stuff, spitting up a plume of snow in his wake as he points it down a perfectly untouched line.

It’s the kind of photo that makes you wish you were there. But wait: You have been there. The name of your home resort is splashed across the opposite page, announcing it as “America’s greatest backcountry resort.”

Telluride (or T-Ride, as the article’s headline reads) was the feature story in this month’s edition of this nationally circulated ski magazine, touted as a rising giant in the contemporary “side-country” skiing revolution. “One thing is for certain,” author Porter Fox writes. “The Telluride of 2010 is skiing like the biggest of America’s big mountains. And if things go according to plan, it may soon be the greatest backcountry ski resort in the country.”

It’s an impressive 12-page spread, complete with a montage of classic powder shots featuring local skiers you have probably said “hey” to in the lift line, as well as badass photographs of routes that a few of us can point out from atop Lift 14 and even fewer of us will ever ski. (We know, after all, that lines like San Joaquin chute and Heaven’s 11 Couloir are reserved for the local ski realm’s notorious, like Josh Geeter and the Russell brothers, and not us mere mortals.)

Throughout the piece, Fox paints Telluride as a community in a tug-of-war with its past and future, at once a “Gatsby-esque” town on the verge of a total sell-out, shedding its rough-around-the-edges mystique in its quest to gain entry into the resort world’s aristocracy. He mentions “hot beds” as the local buzzword, and writes of Mountain Village’s ongoing battle to achieve that hazy goal of vibrancy as the resort’s Achilles’ Heel.

But it’s also a place where snowboarders drink PBRs while hiking to some of the resort’s recently opened extreme terrain on Gold Hill Ridge; a place where locals ski dodgy lines in lift-accessed backcountry in the mornings and sell real estate in the afternoons; and a place where there might still be one lone ski bum living in a derelict mining shack in the woods near the bottom of a popular backcountry ski tour.

Telluride is also a place where, at least from the Powder perspective, the mantra of skiing for skiing’s sake is making a comeback. With the last three years of expansions into rougher and more extreme terrain like Palmyra Peak and Gold Hill Ridge, the new Revelation Lift that serves up even easier access to the iconic Bear Creek backcountry, as well as the based-in-reality buzz that more expansions could be on Telluride’s horizon, the Powder piece builds a solid case for Telluride being a resort on the most adventuresome end of the ski industry’s cutting edge.

The man portrayed as leading the charge for this local adventure-skiing revolution is Telluride Ski and Golf Co. CEO Dave Riley, who gets his fair share of the spotlight in the “Rising T-Ride” piece. Described as a mustachioed, soul patch-wearing visionary in microfiber who’s bent on bringing more powder to the people, Fox writes of Riley: “He may well have stumbled across a formula to get the West’s ski resorts back on their feet. Rule one: Turning a ski area into a real estate brokerage works great until you run out of real estate to sell. And two: To keep people coming to your resort – you need to teach them to love to ski.”

I sat down with Riley this week to ask him what he thought of the Powder piece, and whether calling Telluride “America’s greatest backcountry resort” was on par with the resort’s plans for its future. He reiterated that the Resort is still in the “listening phase,” as he calls it, in relation to its creation of a new Master Plan (which has been requested by the Forest Service, and could include, among other things, expansion of the resort’s boundaries into Bear Creek.)

Results from a communitywide survey Telski sent to the public this spring brought back a few surprises, he said, but also affirmed that the ski resort is heading in the right direction in other aspects of its planning process. There wasn’t much support for night skiing, although Riley received a big nod of approval from Telluride Middle and High School students when he talked to them about the night skiing idea last school year, and some of the survey’s big-ticket ideas (like building a tram to the top of Palmyra Peak, or erecting ski lifts from here to Silverton) elicited concern about the economic feasibility of large-scale projects. Riley noted, however, that since a Master Plan typically spans a time frame of many decades, financial aspects of the plan shouldn’t necessarily filter out aspirations for the future of the ski resort.

“This is the time when you’re supposed to really dream; that’s where the plan is now. You worry about how things get phased and paid for later,” he said of the Ski Area’s ongoing task to create a Master Plan.

Concepts that did garner sweeping approval were plans for more glading (already underway) as well as the idea that Telluride should strive to build smaller, European-style restaurants rather than larger, more traditional cafeteria-style dining establishments on the mountain.

Perhaps the most contested idea that has developed under the Master Plan process is to build a chairlift in Delta Bowl, which Riley reports won a “slight majority” in favor among the survey’s participants.

He noted that the Ski Company will not release any definitive Master Plan strategies until the Mountain Village completes its Comprehensive Plan process, which began two years ago and is slated to wrap up, with Town Council approval, in the first quarter of 2011.

Major ski area expansions and Master Planning processes aside, Riley said the Powder article did hit on something the ski resort has been trying to promote since he took the helm in 2007: That Telluride is the place to come to, if you’re looking for adventure.

“I’ve learned that people want adventure in their vacation. A lot of ski resorts don’t have much adventure, but we’re fortunate because we have the ability to provide that – and that’s a really different experience,” he says. Being able to provide that kind of “adventure,” by making terrain like Gold Hill Chute No. 9 safe as well as accessible to intermediate-level skiers, is a “good business model” in the ski industry, Riley says.

But Riley also counters that steep, adventuresome terrain isn’t the resort’s only selling point right now. “It’s the whole package,” he says, noting the ski area’s recent push to emulate a more European ski experience – with small, boutique-style dining like at Alpino Vino – along with its location amid peaks reminiscent of the Alps and between two towns connected by a gondola, make for an experience visitors won’t find anywhere else on this continent. “All of a sudden, you’ve got a complete experience that blows away the normal North American ski vacation,” he says.

Whether or not Powder contributor Fox was blown away by the gondola ride into Telluride, or the heated deck at Alpino Vino, wasn’t revealed in his “Rising T-Ride” piece; Powder isn’t, after all, the kind of publication that usually prints stories about a ski area’s sightseeing or dining.

What did seem to blow the author away was simple: Telluride’s skiing. After his first trip down Gold Hill 9 with Telski public relations man Tom Watkinson, Fox writes: “Forget the marketing hype. Forget the acreage. The hallmark of a good resort is the ability to birddog powder, weeks after a storm. And the hallmark of a good person is someone who appreciates powder. So bring on the Fortune 500, introduce them to the white room and show them – firsthand – what we’re all so crazed about. God knows we’ll all be better off for it.”
Comments
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Matthew4u
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October 26, 2010
Hi Responsible, yes, interestingly a condo just sold at Element 52 for $1,100 a square foot, a record price; and, purportedly, the very high end real estate sales volume is up hugely right now. I do not know how to interpret this really? Best regards
Matthew4u
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October 26, 2010
Hi guys, you have so many interesting comments, it is hard to follow them all. I appreciate your courtesy.

Someone mentioned putting up temporary wooden posts/poles, where the Delta Bowl (Bear Creek) chairlift pilons would be, so the public could get a better idea of the visual impact. Yes, for those who do not know, putting up temporary posts, and ropes, is required in many jurisdications as part of the planning process. Hopefully whoever proposed this idea could contact Dave, or, post a comment on Dave's blog at Telski, as, this is the logical next step. You obviosuly know what you are doing and I am sure Dave would appreciate the kindness.

Yes Mr. Face, I understand your position about not wanting to talk right now with Dave; no pressure :-) Still, you have so many goood ideas, I think that Dave would be interested in meeting with you one-on-one; that is the logical next step, come as you are, be a friend. No bridges have been burned despite your past comments which were made in good faith, kindly feel free to give him a call, or email, if, at any point you might want to sit down with him over a bottle, or two, of red wine.

Ah yes, the Cappella; so too, the Illikai in Waikiki went into receivership, as did the Casa Madrona in Sausalito, and numerous other hotels that I, and my clients, have been involved with - someone buys them for pennies on the dollar and life goes on; what can you do? Best, regards, thx for the posts.
ResponsibleFreePress
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October 25, 2010
Capella

It had to be...carrying 110 million dollars in construction debt...no condo sales...the heights of the condos were all screwed up due to the max height of TMV...

Yes, now more than ever, we need leadership in both towns...

This is awful news for our town..

If Riley thinks opening another lift is good then go for it...it will at least bring positive news to the TMV..

Who wants to buy into the Capella now?

Lets list em....Peaks condos are flat, See Forever is largely unsold, Capella is flat empty, Lumiere has sold 2 or 3 units, Trails Edge a few units, Elkstone nothing, Lorian, nothing, Element 52..about 20 under contract...

We dont have enough hot beds and we sure have unsold cold beds...

We need more people,hmm...when Sam Walton opened a store he always advertised the different eggs er I mean terrain he offered...oops..does price factor in ski area decisions? Cuz Sam Walton figured out how to bring in 200 billion dollars into his stores a year...and we cant figure out how to bring in a minimum sustainable number...maybe price does count...mebbe..

Robert Levine and Alan Reich were class acts in the town meetings..Good people in tough times..

FaceOnMars
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October 25, 2010
M4U: I'd speak with anyone if I thought it was going to be productive, but Dave and myself might simply have categorical differences on the subject.

RFP: I was referring to lower BC receiving increased skier related traffic, but I don't believe the lift will be visible from down below. However, I'm not sure. Rather, I believe you'd need to be up higher to see it, but isn't it up high where the "scenery payoff" on hikes often pays off the most?

Once the "seal has been breached", the door is open for more lifts in BC and beyond. Maybe this is part of the plan, maybe not.

One thing I do know is that the carbon footprint to construct and operate this new lift will be substantial. I'd almost go out on a limb and say it'd be more than all plastic bag use in Telluride & the TMV's entire history combined. I'd be interested to see a good estimate. If I am correct, will the Town of Telluride officially issue a statement in opposition on such grounds? If not, then the plastic bag ban appears to be that much more arbitrary.

I find it interesting that the ski company will advertise that a lift is being "offset" by the purchase of "clean energy" -- to paraphrase -- yet pursue development which requires signficant new energy consumption where we currently are able to self-propel ourselves (aka "hiking") into the same terrain. Sorry, but from where I sit it's almost laughable to read anything about "being green" or "environmental stewardship".
ResponsibleFreePress
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October 25, 2010
Mr. Face-

I take your representation as fact that the lifts will be visible from the day hike trail. This would be awful.

Perhaps TSG should be required to post faux lifts from stick framing so we can see the visible impact.

Yes, bears have a first right to the area; my guess is that they will re-locate elsewhere when the blasting occurs to install the steel stanchions that support the concrete pedestal. I will say that TSG has been a good corporate citizen in animal rights area; they relocated the little varmint at 10; I'd a blasted the thing when it nipped the tourist. Generally, TSG supports good things and is everywhere in its community support-this counts in my book.

I do think we need to really examine how much we want to fight this; Telluride and TMV are near lost economies-the Peaks traded at 20 million for a building that would cost 100 million to replace. This speaks to the Net Realizable Value of hot beds and commercial structure in TMV and TOT. Capella, Elkstone, Lorian, Lumiere, Cass Ridge, Trails Edge- all pretty much empty...this is a billion dollars in investment (big guess here) and it is worth 25cents on the dollar? Hard to say, nothing is selling except the low fruit. Businesses are operating on life support.

High taxes, high investment in real estate,high wages, competition in Montrose and internet sales...pretty bleak picture on both Main Streets. The Watch has taken a lead in spurring business and excitement; it is finding deals for businesses and using the paper to connect the business to its customer. Seth gets the fight we are in.

I spose if Hilary gets behind a fight and we can gather some grass roots support it might be wise to sit with the NFS rubber stamp and express some concerns (like visible changes in the landscape).

I would support this initial query financially. My guess is that TSG wants the development but would work with interested groups if it could.

At the end of the day, though, we are going to be skiing lift served BC-I have no doubt. We may have to go to Montrose to get a decent meal since it looks pretty bleak but I do think we will be doing laps on a groomed and managed BC.

Apathy reins high on the streets of Telluride...that is the bottom line.

Matthew4u
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October 25, 2010
Hi Mr. Face, yes, it probably would be best to give Dave a call and invite hime out for a few beers (he'll show up) and discuss it with him directly. Yes, everyone needs a "voice" so to speak including you. I have no opinion on the Delta Bowl expansion, I think it is a non-issue as the area is so small and remote and not really visable to the summer hikers. Best regards
FaceOnMars
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October 25, 2010
RFP: there would be a noticeable impact in both the summer and winter seasons. One can't escape the fact that foreign mechanized steel will be planted into the terrain & churning churning churning. It will be a visible eyesore in all months, but there will be a noticeable increase in traffic during the winter season ... in lower BC as well.

There has yet to be a study about the disruption of the hibernation of bears who may have setup shop for winter shuteye. As long as there's a "two strikes you're out" rule, we owe it to these creatures -- distant cousins of ours -- to insure they are at least given a fair chance to co-habitate peaceably. This is especially true if there's only a miminal gain (for us) at stake.

You could be correct in your assessment RFP re: the ducks which have been placed in a row to date ... although I was always under the impression we're still in the "floating stage". Hmmmmm. when do we leave the floating stage? ... when the raft with the beer catches up to the rest of the group? Yes, the local NFS has typically reacted with a "how high" response when asked to jump by Telski on just about all matters. However, my suspicion is that an expansion into BC is a much bigger hurdle which may require approval of higher ups ... or at least be able to withstand greater scrutinization. The CB Snodgrass expansion denial withstood appeal on the other end of the spectrum and may prove to be a shining light in OUR story of "when's enough enough?!?"

Nonetheless, you raise an excellent point about the NFS and their historic pattern on such matters. I have been thinking recently how relatively easy it is for a ski area operator to engage in transactions with NFS for special use of lands vs. the mechanism the public needs to embark upon to protection of lands which entails a "Wilderness Designation" ... and requires approval from the U.S. Congress. The deck certainly appears to be stacked against Sisyphus on this count.

Still, there are a lot of assumptions which people simply take for granted as being acceptable. For instance, why ought a ski area operator who's leasing public NFS lands be given a 'leg up' on exclusive use of adjacent lands vs. lets say an independent guiding service? This was one of my major contentions with the ski guiding permit, aside from the almost utter lack of solicitation of public input. Why shouldn't there have been a competitive bidding process from independent guiding outfits?

Maybe if some of the guiding outfits are reading this now & would like to band together as a coop, they could submit a competing proposal to the NFS which might PROVE to be the "highest and best" use of BC (vs. a lift) if there's such a demand. Maybe Telski could be a partner in such a coop. It would definitely be a unique arrangement & garner national/trade attention.

Not trying to put words into your mouth, but it's not all about the business model, for me, RFP. But I agree with you that a BC expansion gives up a lot for very little in direct return ... economically speaking. Maybe an over-extended front line might actually stumble on to a combination which is viable. Who knows, maybe there will be Telski employees as street musicians on Colorado Ave. with their guitar cases open & collecting change one day too!
ResponsibleFreePress
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October 24, 2010
Mr. Face-

Methinks that Delta Bowl is a foregone conclusion; Mr. Riley has invested in tangent land, he has created a well parsed survey, the NFS isn't concerned about the intent of the land or the law- it is concerned about a return on its holdings which presently are zero $ for Delta Bowl, the NFS doesnt really care about what anyone thinks-it granted special private use on public land (guided tours of Delta Bowl and below)just last year, the ski company now understands how to bomb the area (presumably) since they had a closure/special dispensation to learn how to bomb this area a few years back, and most importantly their is no local uprising on the issue-it has been in the public domain for a good year or so and everyone I talked to is up for skiing BC versus preserving its current status.

No sense being Sisyphus.

I have been persuaded to support the whole concept since it does not involve tree removal or terrific landscaping or anything else. It preserves the day tourist hike up the falls. I hope that I am wrong that it wont bring more tourists that drive hotels; I just dont think I am.

I am not in the women's clothing business, the restaurant business and not even in the crepe cart business. The ski company is in all these businesses, too and we are going to see over time if concentrating your assets on production versus bringing in an economy through pricing is correct.

We are going to learn if centralized planning works in this company town. I dont want to be like Rush Limbaugh who hoped President Obama fails; I rather hope that the man is right. Since we dont or cant know what the internal financial report is of Telksi we will have to watch main street businesses. Presently, Heritage Plaza is on life support and so is most of main street Col Ave in ToT. Personally, I think that encouraging local talent like my friend Brian Werner who took over a moribund outfit and created something special (The Bean) works out best over the long term. I will close and shut up on this discussion with two thoughts-good luck TSG in your development plans and like George Harvey "I could be wrong" and I hope I am.

See you on 9.

FaceOnMars
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October 24, 2010
M4U: thanks for responding.

RFP: under the renter's article you brought up that it has been bantered about at the buck that a BC expansion would apparently be to "prep" the ski area for a sale.

This is one of a few possibilities that I've considered ... because as you put it earlier, the math essentially doesn't add up on the face of things. The ski area would essentially be paying a lot for "excess capacity/supply" which probably won't generate a substantial direct revenue return itself.

Another possibility I've considered is that it's simply a capital investment which could reap a return in the form of "free" advertisement which might prove to stimulate substantial indirect returns. An expansion into BC would be written up immediately in many publications such as the PM article. Not only would it be "free" advertisement, it could assist in creating a "buzz" of sorts which could achieve a type of critical mass on route to the "discovery of Telluride". Call it a kindling theory of sorts.

Hypothetically, should either of the above possibilities be a basis for a National Forest Service approval of an expansion? In my opinion, absolutely not! The onus ought to be on the ski area to at least prove both a substantial need & that the highest and best use for an extremely unique area of public land is most suited for such a purpose & in light of the fact that expansions are typically permanent and irreversible in so far as impact.

Matthew4u
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October 24, 2010
Hi Responsible, Thx, I do not know what a hot/cold bed is? Kindly explain if you like. I have 6 vacation rental condos with an occupancy rate of 98%, my competition is the hotels, and quite frankly, I am eating their lunch. I just posted a comment to the article about allowing more homeowners to convert to vacation rentals, you might find it interesting? I have a very, very, strong opinion that more vacation rentals should be allowed (they are less expensive to rent, nicer than the hotels, bring in huge tax revenues, and do not destroy neighborhoods as some people incorrecty fear), as described in my post. Thx for the input.

Hi Face, Thx, I do not want to get into the Creek argument; my opinion is to open up the powder area of Baldy, although for some reason I seem to be alone with this idea with few supporters. The Creek, I can take it or leave it, Delta bowl is a very small area of no particular concern to me really.

Best regards
ResponsibleFreePress
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October 24, 2010
Mr. M4U (keeping it short, as you prefer)

So please draw a graph on ski hill capacity on an annual basis and commercial development. If you can draw then you will see that ski hill capacity has skyrocketed and commercial activity has plummeted.

Same with hot beds. The more lifts the fewer places to find a warm blanket and pillow.

Same with pricing. This exclusive pricing scheme is really something. It is new Math! The more we raise the prices the fewer places we can eat and sleep!

But like I said, who cares? Ski everyday on a bunch of shiny new lifts, never ever wait in line (except on a high pow day), restaurants are empty and service is fast as their is no queue and I already have a bed to sleep in!

Go Delta Bowl!

FaceOnMars
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October 24, 2010
Two short questions for you, M4U:

Why would a powder hound seek to put a lift in what is currently one of biggest powder stashes accessible from the ski area?

Why doesn't the powder under our current lifts last substantially past 11am or noon?!?
ResponsibleFreePress
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October 24, 2010
Good evening Mr. Mathew4u.

We have almost 30 plus years of a ski lift in Telluride and yet not much of a hot bed base and as your red wine drinking goretex wearing friend knows, a shrinking hot bed base (pretty drastically shrinking given the Peaks conversion and most of the hot beds down in town are now converted to cold beds).

Do these facts alter your thinking about ski lift development/economic theory?

Sure is going backwards here. What of the argument about overcapacity in the production assembly, er I mean lift lines? Do we need more areas to ski?

Thanks though for putting up with the long posts. This one is for you and short.

Matthew4u
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October 24, 2010
Hi, Mr. Responsible; people value your comments - you mentioned that everyone needs a seat at the table; yes, simply give Dave a call, or email, and invite him to lunch, or for drinks after work; you can afford it!

Dave listens, eg. the glading was what people asked for, and he did it.

Dave is a very soft-spoken, congenial type of guy, easy to talk with, and he likes red wine. Warments regards
Matthew4u
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October 24, 2010
Hello friends; the posts are interesting, but a little too long; good ideas get lost in too much collateral verbiage.

Fact; developing ski resorts is very different; you first build the lifts, people find out about them, then they come, then the hotels are built, then the airlines come last, it is a multi year process. It is a roll of the dice, but it works.

Telluride's problem is that it has not been properly marketed in the past, very few people know much about T-ride in exact detail; Dave Riley has taken the bull by the horns, and changed this dramatically for the better; his blog is nationally recognized, gets zillions of hits, the Telski website has been completely redone and is fantastic, and his use of the media (eg. magazines, newspapers, and TV news) is simply brilliant, as, he has generated millions of dollars in free publicity for T-Ride.

Thx, Dave, not bad for a soul-skiing, Gortex-wearing, hot-dog powder-hound, like yourself. Teach people to love skiing again, that is the key.

Yes you guys are correct, the Bear Creek survey is not 100% scientifically accurate as to the informal sampling algorythm; still, even allowing for statistical error, and using a sample size of about 2,000, it is really starting to look like the majority want the Delta lift (about 60/40 plus or minus 5% error).

I have no opinion on the Creek matter myself, as I favor building out Baldy and Palmyra, glading, and more staircases, instead. I wish I could get more people to see it my way; but, what can you do? Warmest regards
ResponsibleFreePress
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October 24, 2010
I just want to go on record that I will ski Delta Bowl when Mr. Riley builds the lift, that I do support reduced barriers to construction including zoning changes if they are suppoted by the community (ie, the people are directly involved and see their long term interest is affected positively), that whoever said demand is inelastic is incorrect in that we can make it elastic with proper long sighted pricing decisions, that everyone needs a seat at the table and I don't know how that is done with TSG opening a womens clothing store in Heritage Plaza-does this help or hurt Two Skirts over on Main Street stay in business?, that we still don't have any hot beds worth a dog's end, that

I personally favor higher lift prices and no lift lines as the daily pass or seasonal pass price has simply no effect on my personal economic decisions, I just think that we are not solving the overall economic problem with long term sustainability by opening a new ski lift and starting a womens clothing store in Heritage Plaza.

Go Dave Go...build your lift and have an additional underused lift to increase your marginal labor costs every day while you have 15 other lifts without a lift line. If this floats your boat, I am ready to ski with you! However, I think that in an economic environment that demands critical thinking on where to invest limited excess working capital you would do better investing in bringing more people in-and by finally taking control of the demand side of the world wide ski market-through long term pricing strategies you could actually get a hot bed built...bring the people in...that is the ticket.

I will be sure to shop at the two new stores and ski Bear Creek while you get your ducks in a row on your lift.

And not a hot bed in sight...

(Also, does the new Delta Bowl plan account for the land pirate guy and his mining claim?). I don't know exactly where the pirate has staked his hostage, er I mean blackmail, er I mean land claim as it relates to "Delta Bowl"

Overall, we have a winter storm coming in..time to get the skis out and looked after!

YouDon'tSay?
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October 24, 2010
Dear Mr. Face,

Believe it or not, when people shop for vacations online, they really do look at the kind of accommodations that are available in making their travel decisions. When all they see are aging cheap condos or expensive new ones (way more than half of Telluride's total bedbase), they assume the hotels they favor are sold out and they move on. (Steamboat this year, anyone?) Our occupancy rate for HOTELS is well over 50% and way over it during peak seasons. The low overall occupancy rate reflects deadly long off-seasons (no hotels to accommodate groups that travel during off-seasons, no air to get groups here), plus the fact that so much of our bedbase is aging and/or expensive condos.

Have you ever been to another ski resort that hosts crowds? Just to look around?
FaceOnMars
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October 24, 2010
YouDon'tSay?: you stated "there wouldn't be any place for the there is no place for the crowds purportedly attracted by lower prices to stay"

Ummmm, isn't our average annual occupancy rate at about 50%?

Oh wait, I recall hearing that they're not the right KIND of hot beds.

Hellooooo again people, lower lift access fees may in fact attract visitors who aren't as selective re: exclusive lodging options.

Sounds a lot like "circular logic" to me ... but who knows, maybe if you rinse and repeat often enough it will gain traction.

(searching for the emoticon where the smilie face is repeated banging itself into the brick wall)
YouDon'tSay?
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October 24, 2010
Without the necessary infrastructure - primarily bedbase and low cost air - we can't have masses of people here, no matter how much we huff and puff about lower prices. Since we can't have mass, the ski company has no choice but to go for class. As much as some elements in the community rail against marketing to class, other elements in the community are even more opposed to mass (crowds!), and through zoning and political opposition they have killed numerous hotel projects over the years.

Lower lift prices can't produce crowds and provide free-market impetus for the development of bedbase because there is no place for the crowds purportedly attracted by lower prices to stay and no low-cost way for them to get here.

Demand for lift tickets in today's Telluride is highly inelastic. If it were elastic, the ski company, in its own self-interest, would long ago have lowered prices (as resorts that do have infrastructure to host crowds have done), because the mountain is well below capacity. In other words, if the ski company could sell more tickets by lowering prices, it has every reason to do so and no reason not to do so. The ski company is eager to maximize it's profitability, and will react to market forces to achieve that goal. So nobody can or should try to regulate lift ticket prices. What we can and should do if we want more business in Telluride is to reduce the political barriers to the development of bedbase and even (gasp!) provide incentives to developers of bedbase. (FOM and RFP will go ballistic over that one. My self-evident wrongheadedness of proposing GOVERNMENT intervention in the economy!) But no worries, between their libertarian beliefs and the community's knee-jerk no-growth sentiment, it is actually close to hopeless. So get used to high lift ticket prices. There is nothing out there to impel Telski to reduce them in the foreseeable future.
FaceOnMars
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October 24, 2010
While I don't agree with everything ResponsibleFreePress has stated, I believe he/she is grounded in reality with respect to some very basic economic observations; in particular, that demand is elastic and that high lift access fees at Telluride is a significant barrier to increasing the sheer volume of visitor traffic. Similarly, that a pure economic analysis of the return for a BC expansion is that of a diminishing return -- at best. An expansion might garner some additional interest via the media, but I'd hardly bet that we're going to see people flooding into Telluride because of a single new lift pod. At worst (aside from permanently disfiguring a unique natural asset), it only compounds the existing issue by increasing capital and operation expenditures, thus creating a pressure to keep lift ticket/pass prices high.

So, what is the metaphorical "method behind the madness"? I believe Riley has gone on record some time ago that he intends to "maximize yield" within the elite segment of the market and not focus on volume due to various factors which include geographic demographics and transportation issues.

If this is truly the case, then the National Forest Service ought to summarily REJECT any expansion proposal into Bear Creek on the basis that it would be EXCLUSIONARY to the greater U.S. population as a whole. I believe a ski area operator is essentially an entrusted steward of public lands, operating under a special lease agreement, and ought to be compelled to act (which includes expansions) with the greater population in mind first and foremost, and to allow for the "highest and best use" of public lands ... even moreso regarding extremely unique public lands.

I'm not sure that we've received an official "reason" WHY the ski area may want to expand into Bear Creek? Will they just throw stats in the direction of the NFS and simply claim "it's what the public wants"? Remember, the Delta Bowl survey is in all likelihood being completed mostly by those who currently have the wherewithal to ski here in the first place. In other words, it might be fair to say the results of such a survey might be skewed to reflect the desires of an elite segment of the overall market.

ResponsibleFreePress touched on something that I've known all along, but for whatever reason really struck me: Riley has been vocal in the community in so far as keeping the drum beat going for increasing hot beds and other "local macro economic tweaks" (which is all within his rights); however, the public does NOT get a seat at the table to set lift/pass rates. Helloooooooooo, is there anybody home?!? Maybe people have grown to accept this sort of weird one way conduit as being just "the way it is", but I have not lost sight of the fact that ultimately the power rests with the people regarding government involvement & the greater economic system as a whole. Nonetheless, I suppose if enough voters and people in positions of power can be swayed sufficiently on enough topics, a circle peg CAN be pounded into a square hole ... at least for a little while. However, people just need to be reminded that we might need a bigger circular hole instead of a bigger hammer.