January 30, 2009 in Sports

Silver offers value despite midweek changes

Bill Jennings Staff writer
 

On the slopes

Mt. Spokane

Today through Sunday – KAN JAM Weekend; Rail Jam tonight, Slopestyle Saturday and Big Air Sunday.

Silver Mountain

Saturday – Parrot Fest, pirates and parrots party with Jimmy Buffet cover band and rum drink specials.

Schweitzer

Today – Toyota Ski Free Day, 24 Hours of Schweitzer Skiathon.

Saturday – College Daze

Lookout Pass

Sunday – Ole Olson Bratwurst, Brew & Music Festival

The ski industry grapevine was abuzz last week when Silver Mountain Resort announced it would pull back its operating schedule from seven to five days. In the wake of financial travails for resorts such as Tamarack in McCall, Idaho, and the Yellowstone Club in Big Sky, Mont., some wondered if Silver is struggling.

No more than at any other ski area in the current economic climate, said John Williams, director of resort marketing at Silver Mountain.

“All resorts are struggling with the same thing,” he said. “The challenge to get people to come midweek is harder now. It makes sense to take a break, when our skier visits are low, until the economy becomes more robust.”

The Silver Rapids water park remains open every day. The lifts have stopped turning Tuesday and Wednesday. Lookout Pass, normally closed those days, opened Wednesday to take up the slack. Area wide, midweek deals abound as resorts compete for customers.

Silver Mountain is owned and operated by Jeld-Wen Communities, a real estate development company in Redmond, Ore. Unlike steeply leveraged projects such as Tamarack and the Yellowstone Club, Jeld-Wen carries no debt on its ambitions in the Silver Valley.

“Jeld-Wen Communities isn’t dealing with interest payments or demands from creditors during this period of slow real estate sales,” Williams said. “We’re bullish on the Silver Valley’s future and development continues on Galena Ridge, our championship golf course.”

Silver is offering concessions. Season and midweek pass holders can use the water park for free when the hill is closed. Pass holders also get water park tickets they can give to friends and family. When the hill reopens on Thursday, season pass holders from other resorts can ride the lifts and use the water park for $20.

For those who booked vacations at Silver in advance, management is arranging to adjust their schedules. If guests are locked in, visits are set up for them at other resorts in the SkiNW Rockies group when the mountain is closed.

Midweek may be slow, but Williams said Silver’s weekend traffic and lodging revenue is on par or better than prior years. The Morning Star Lodge has been nearly full every weekend this season.

“Skiing is a lifestyle choice,” he said. “People find a way to commit to their lifestyle before holding off on other things. Plus, Silver isn’t a one-dimensional place. Our water park is a great feature. It weatherproofs vacations.”

During a recent visit, my wife Claire and I found the water park can weatherproof a dry spell. Silver, stuck on a desert island of high pressure with other Northwest resorts, hadn’t seen new snow for a few weeks.

The sky was blue, but the skiing was hard and scratchy. We looked forward to hitting the water park at sunset. The transition from ski layers to swimsuit was surreal. I was eager to try the Flow Rider, a simulated surf wave that is the main attraction.

I watched some kids make it look easy. But surfing the Flow Rider was a bigger challenge for me than anything on the mountain. My best advice is to cinch your drawstring tight. After being flipped, pitched and punted by the powerful jet of water, I healed my wounded pride in a hot tub.

Bill Jennings can be reached at snoscene@comcast.net


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