Opinion: C’mon Copper, tell it like it is!

Despite a few cuts, skiers and riders will still find awesome spring conditions at Copper Mountain during the last few weekends of the season.

Some Copper skiers not happy with late-season cuts in hours, terrain

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — This is a story about perception and reality, inspired by Copper Mountain’s recent announcement that it will close down part of the mountain and shorten the hours of operation on most of its lifts during the last couple of weeks of the season.

Copper outlined its decision in this blog post and in an email to property owners, claiming the decision was made to provide “safer and more enjoyable conditions.”

In a year when the resort reported its best snowfall in recent memory, the blog post also claims that coverage on some slopes is dwindling, and that closing terrain will help prevent equipment damage. The post also makes reference to the fact that this year’s closing date is unusually late.

The post drew a couple of immediate and irate responses claiming  the decision was made for fiscal reasons — by limiting operations, Copper can likely reduce staff, which is one of the best ways to shave costs.

First of all, huge kudos to Copper for allowing its fans to express their frustration in a public forum on the resort’s own website.

Here’s one of the responses, posted by “George.”

“this is bs! open @ 10 close @ 5 not 4, dont make it sound like it is for safety when it is about money ! on powder days in spring they r over by 11 3o because the sun is so hot ! who r u kidding? you r robbing the locals and homeowners in every way possible .. dont think everyone doesnt know that you r nickle and diming us evry which way ! poor business decisions being made ! intrawest is gone but not the intrawesrt mentality ! that is a shame !”

Now to the perception and reality part of the tale. When Powdr Corp bought Copper, word on the street was that the mountain would now be operated by real skiers, for skiers. That’s the public image Powdr has worked hard to polish. But reviewing published newspaper reports from other communities where Powdr owns ski areas shows that the privately held company has often taken steps to cut costs, sometimes at the expense of guests and employees. That’s the reality.

Nothing wrong with that. In this new era of the ski industry, when resort companies can’t rely on real estate speculation for profits, the rules of the game have changed. Making money from lift tickets, ski school operations and selling burgers is a lot harder than sitting back and watching revenue roll in from the sale of grossly inflated slopeside condos.

I don’t ski Copper, so I don’t have a dog in this fight. Closing down a few lifts in late season seems reasonable, and everyone knows that spring skiing is indeed best once the snow has softened up a bit.

But if this wasn’t about saving money, wouldn’t a “real” ski company keep the lifts open an hour longer at the end of the day to please those “real” skiers who spent “real” money on lodging and lift tickets?

Real skiers know that spring conditions are incredibly dependent on day-to-day and even hour-to-hour changes. Yes, the snow might be frozen on one part of the mountain, but in another area, where the sun hits early, the surface could already be prime spring corn. And new snow — not uncommon at Copper in April, can change the game completely.

Of course, the area can’t change it’s hours from day to day, so a blanket change seems reasonable to some degree. But I think what irritated the two people who commented on Copper’s blog post is that they feel like the resort is not being completely truthful in its stated reasons for the changes.

I think those loyal Copper fans would show more understanding, and respect the decision, if the resort simply acknowledged that it’s parly about the bottom line. In addition to the explanation about snow conditions Copper could have said: “We have had a great season and cutting some costs now will help ensure the long-term financial viability of the resort.”

There’s probably a lot more to the story. Many of the guests who are still coming up this time of year are probably season pass holders, so the resort isn’t exactly raking in the dough from them. And we also don’t know details of staffing — maybe some employees have commitments to be somewhere else, so Copper might be finding it difficult to maintain full operations.

My guess would be all these factors played into the decision, and that the truth lies somewhere between the perception and reality.

Here’s the blog post: http://www.coppercolorado.com/winter/blog/authors/rachel/about-the-lift-changes.


One thought on “Opinion: C’mon Copper, tell it like it is!

  1. Good article. You made some good points.

    I feel like people are forgetting the economic slump we’re in. In times like these companies just need to survive, and cutting back hours is what many companies have to do. The reality is, even if the resort is owned by the most hardcore skiers, I doubt they are going to go into the red (concerning revenue) when they can do something like cut hours. Would you?

    I’m more worried about the lifties. instead of working 40 hour weeks they’re working 35 hour weeks. That is a shitty 12.5% paycut when you’re making minimum wage.

    After all is said and done, I hope everyone gets some good spring turns!


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