The number of ski resorts still open after April 24 is shrinking. With all but Squaw Valley, Alpine Meadows, and Mt. Rose open past that date, the season really is cruising to a close. Mt. Rose will be open until May 8. Squaw and Alpine will stay open till the end of May. The snow however, continues to fall, even as the resorts close the lifts.
If you go up into the high country you’ll see snow at the resorts. Most of the resorts still have good snow covering their trails. How come they closed? One way or another, the season has simply ended.
Running a ski resort is a very expensive venture. In the best of snow seasons, and in the worst of them, there is a very defined period of time when the skiing public is likely to hit the slopes. It varies from year to year with the strength of the snowpack but it is still limited.
At the front end of the season when it is cold, with short days and good snow storms, it just feels right to wax up your gear and start skiing or riding as much as possible. As soon as spring hits and the days grow longer and more warm, outdoor recreation starts to change. Int this area it changes quite a lot.
In the Sacramento area, and gradually up to the foothills, then the mountains, the flora and fauna start leafing and blooming. Children all over the place start playing baseball and all manner of outdoor games. People who fish head to the lakes and rivers. Boats of all kinds hit the water. Hikers hit the trails, cyclists start pedaling.
The number of people who head up the hill to ski starts to dwindle. As spring deepens, that number simply starts to drop. The transition to other pursuits moves steadily forward. The cost of running the lifts at the resorts doesn’t drop just because the number of skiers does.
What the resorts do is start to scale back on a progressive schedule. They do cut back on some personnel and perhaps shut down some of the outback areas as the crowds thin out. If the resort has multiple eateries, some of them, especially the ones separated from the main lodge, cut back hours or shut down.
The long and short of it is that the resorts are in business to make money. What is obvious is this is a business that is completely at the mercy of the weather, and to an extent, how the economy is doing. The weather however rules everything. Think back to last year’s ski season, 2014-2015. Not so good. This year, much better.
In a decent ski season, like the one we had this year, this is the time when the resorts traditionally start pulling the plug, even when there’s enough snow to ski on. There’s just not enough people coming up to ski to cover the cost of staying open. Not every year is a profitable one, but in general, it all seems to work out.
Thea Hardy, who is head of Public Relations at Sierra,-at-Tahoe, said that they had a very good season. They had many more days of skiing this year than last. The resort enjoyed 488 inches of snow over the season. Their last weekend was pretty good up there.
The snow was good, there were skiers and riders, and families enjoying their last ski of the season. On Monday, April 18, Sierra had their traditional Customer Appreciation Day. Limited hours, and a last ski with Sierra staff from Grandview Lodge to the base. Music, fun, and a fond farewell to skiing for this season. At the end of the day, the lifts stopped spinning. Other resorts have done the same. Now, it’s just Mt. Rose, Squaw Valley, and Alpine Meadows.
And yes, there’s still a lot of snow on the slopes. Just not enough skiers. Time to do something else. Of course, there’s still a chance to ski and ride at Mt. Rose, at least for a bit, and Squaw and Alpine till the end of May.