Monday, July 02, 2007

Trumpeting a bigger Sunlight could sound demise

The new owners of Sunlight ski resort near Glenwood Springs are spending big money for big improvements, and it makes me a little afraid that this could cause one of the state's smallest resorts to go under.
The Associated Press reports Exquisite Development, based in Destin, Fla., bought the 40-year-old ski area in December for an undisclosed price. The asking price was $50 million.
The resort's new owners plan $15 million of on-mountain improvements, plus a 750-unit base village.
Besides a new high-speed lift and restaurant, proposed improvements include a new lift to the extreme ski area and 120 acres of snowmaking, up from the current 20 acres at the bottom of a beginner run.
Here's the problem. Sunlight is a locals hill, always has been. How can you draw people from out of state when you have Vail, Beaver Creek, Aspen and Snowmass all within an hour's drive.

Sunlight is one of the rare medium-sized ski areas that has survived (and thrived) among its bigger competitors (see also Monarch, Loveland and Wolf Creek). For these medium-sized places, the key to survival is being largely debt free. (Don't over build. Don't spend too much, and if you have a few tough years, you won't have bills piling up. Plus, then you can charge less, and attract more people.)

Apparently the folks from Florida plan to try the other skiing business model: spend a bundle and make it back on base area activities.We'll see if it works. I hope they don't do to Sunlight what they did to what was once a quiet stretch of beach called Destin.
I also hope Sunlight isn't killed by over optimistic investors with more vision than money, like Pikes Peak Ski Area was.


anon said...

Great post Dave.
No chance these developers will be able to appropriate enough water from 4 Mile Creek for top to bottom snowmaking. In addition, their proposal to build a reservoir on wetlands in Babbish Gulch (the X-C area) has already been denied. Without top to bottom snowmaking, your scenario of a few years of bad snow with debt piling up becomes that much more likely. Too damn bad, because Colorado needs more little ski areas like Sunlight.

Baja Hockey Fan said...

Amen about the lovely Redneck Riveria. How entertaining that it made it into a CO blog.