Friends of Snodgrass offer a prebuttal to CBMR’s presentation

The Friends of Snodgrass Mountain took a look at the proposed Crested Butte Mountain Resort Master Plan presentation on the CBMR website and decided to do a "prebuttal" analysis before the resort's Wednesday presentation. Here is the FOSM analysis. The CBMR web presentation can be found at



The following is a copy of Friends of Snodgrass Mountain's prebuttal:


FOSM Response to CBMR's March, 2009 "Snodgrass Mountain Project Presentation"

This document presents "The Rest of The Story" – information that is not included in CBMR's presentation. It is designed to be read while viewing CBMR's presentation, which can be downloaded at:

SLIDE 2: “Mountain Resort Overview”
    CBMR: “The 'mountain business' is strong. . .”     
    FOSM: (See SLIDE 7 discussion)

SLIDE 3: "Key trends/points . . ."
    CBMR: “Destination skier visits to Crested Butte . . .”   
    FOSM: (See SLIDE 8 discussion)
    CBMR: "CBMR’s market share has decreased . . ."
    FOSM: (See SLIDE 7 discussion)

    CBMR: "National skier demographics are changing . . ."
    FOSM: Baby Boomers are aging and the ski industry has failed to replace them with younger participants. Since 1998 the number of US Skiers fell 29%!* Since 2003 the number of US Snowboarders fell 19%! * Fewer participants = decreased demand for terrain of all types.                    *

    CBMR: "CBMR lags in repeat visitors, only 54% return . . ."
    FOSM: This claim is unverifiable. No backup data is published by CBMR, CSCUSA or the national ski industry. Repeat visitation for Utah's ski industry is 43%* and for Vermont's is 36.3%. **     
    * 2007 Utah Economic Report To The Governor        ** Vermont Tourism Data Center

    CBMR: "Destination skiers ask for more intermediate terrain at Crested Butte."
    FOSM: (See SLIDE 11 discussion).

SLIDE 4: "Skier Economics"
    CBMR: "The average destination skier will spend $221 total each day."
    FOSM: The Colorado Tourism Office notes, “ski vacationers spend $140 per person/day…”

    CBMR: "An average 5 days skied."
    FOSM: The Colorado Tourism Office states the average CO ski vacation is 4.3 days and dropping.
     CBMR: "400,000 existing skier days
                  160,000 additional destination skier days
              40,000 day and/or local skier days
            600,000 total skier days"       
    FOSM: This assumes CBMR could substantially beat industry trends and increase Skier Visits by 50% (400,000 to 600,000), 80% of which would be Destination Visits. 80% is a far higher percentage than CBMR (@ 64%) or the ski industry (@ 59%) now achieve. (See SLIDE 7 and 8 discussions)

SLIDE 5: "Snodgrass USFS Permitting History"
    CBMR: "Land and Resource Management plans have designated Snodgrass . . ."
    FOSM: In 1978, alpine skiing was a growth industry that warranted additional ski terrain. Skier Visit growth has since stagnated in spite of enormous terrain expansion. Current reality does not warrant expanded ski terrain.

SLIDE 7: "Skier Days – CBMR vs. Other Ski Resorts"
    CBMR: "Since 97/98 national skier visits have grown from 54.1 million visits to an all time high of 60.1 million in 07/08, an 11.1% increase."
    FOSM: Total growth of 11.1% over ten seasons is an average growth of only 1.1% per year. Few industries view 1.1% per year growth as being "strong."
    CBMR: "Since 97/98 Colorado skier visits have grown from 11.9 million visits to record 12.6 million in 07/08, a 5.9% increase."
    FOSM: The above statement is the most important in this presentation! CBMR claims the ski industry is "strong," that a Snodgrass expansion would increase Skier Visits by 50% and "is critical to rebuilding our business to a sustainable economic model for the entire community" (SLIDE 31), however . . .

CBMR accurately notes that Colorado Skier Visits grew a total of 5.9% over ten seasons, which represents an average growth rate of only .59% per year. At .59% per year, it would take CBMR over 68 years to grow from 400,000 to 600,000 Skier Visits! The NSAA states, "The Rocky Mountains will experience a very modest 5.8 percent gain in visitation from 2004/05 to 2019/20 (.39% per year)." *
Three Front Range resorts (Beaver Creek, Breckenridge and A-Basin) accounted for virtually all of Colorado's small increase in Skier Visits. As a group, the rest of Colorado's resorts suffered a net loss in Skier Visits.

The growth that did occur was due to increased usage of heavily discounted Front Range Season Passes, not due to an increase in economy-boosting Paid Skier visits. The NSAA states, "Season pass usage continues to rise, contributing to increased days of participation." ** The USFS notes, "The recent growth in visits is the result of the growth in season passes and the increase in participation by holders of these passes, rather than an increase in the number of participants." ***
    * NSAA Journal – "The Way We Grow"            ** NSAA Research Highlights 2006/07
                    *** USFS 2005 Downhill Skiing Needs Assessment
    CBMR: "CBMR skier visits have decreased 32% during this same time period. From 549,660 in 97/98 to 416,009 in 07/08."
    FOSM: Actually, the decrease was 24% – the calculation was done incorrectly. At any rate, CBMR’s skier visit loss was entirely attributable to their business decisions. In ‘91/’92, CBMR introduced their Ski Free promotion which boosted Skier Visits to an all-time high by ‘97/’98 (including over 100,000 free lift tickets). They then terminated Ski Free, reduced the length of the ski season by more than a month and their quality dropped dramatically. As a result, Skier Visits fell to a low point in ‘03/’04. It is misleading for CBMR to imply they lost market share due to any other reason. Since new ownership arrived in 2004 CBMR's growth rate has been competitive. It should be noted that there were some number of free skiers in 07/08.

SLIDE 8: "CBMR Paid Skier Visits – Past 20 Years"
    FOSM: Paid Skier Visits are in decline industry-wide. CBMR's Paid Skier Visits ratio is about 64%, based on SLIDE 8. The NSAA states: "(06/07) Skier Visits attributable to paid tickets declined to 58.7 percent nationally." * CBMR's Paid Skier Visit ratio is higher than the overall ski industry's. The USFS notes, "It is unlikely that the Rocky Mountain Region will experience any significant increase in destination skier/snowboarder visits in the foreseeable future." **                    * "NSAA Research Highlights 2006/07"            ** USFS 2005 Downhill Skiing Needs Assessment

SLIDE 11: "Finding Additional Intermediate Terrain"
    FOSM: CBMR currently has approval to add intermediate terrain on Crested Butte Mtn. Their January, 2008 USFS approval states: "Major new improvements for CB Mountain will increase and improve intermediate skiing, provide additional tree skiing, particularly for intermediate skiers [and] allow for more efficient utilization of existing terrain." * These improvements, yet to be implemented, will upgrade lifts, add 70 acres of intermediate terrain, glade 63.5 intermediate acres and improve intermediate skier circulation. With these improvements, Crested Butte Mountain will still be at less than 30% of it's Comfortable Carrying Capacity (CCC), defined by the USFS as, “ . . . the number of skiers that can be accommodated and still guarantee a pleasant recreational experience.” *

There is limited intermediate terrain available on Snodgrass Mountain. There are few "long, blue cruisers " in the proposed layout. Skiers would have to ride four lifts taking over 40 minutes from the Base Area to the top of Snodgrass. CBMR notes, "Due to its relatively remote location, Gold Link is somewhat underutilized." * Snodgrass is much more remote than Gold Link.
                    * 2008 Crested Butte Mountain Improvement Plan

SLIDE 12: "Ski Terrain Growth vs. Skier Visits"
    FOSM: This chart is misleading – it compares Skiable Acreage in percentages, rather than actual acres. For example, the chart gives the impression that Wolf Creek added more Skiable Acres than Aspen. Actually, Aspen added over twice as many acres. Despite the flawed basis of this chart, it does clearly show the lack of correlation between Terrain Growth and Skier Visits, as demonstrated by the lack of any consistent pattern between the black bars and the yellow bars.

Surprisingly, CBMR neglected to include the 118 acres they added in Prospect and Teocalli Bowl plus their Visits were distorted by the ending of Ski Free (See SLIDE 7 discussion). Note that Taos and Alta banned snowboards, which reduced their growth potential, Sun Valley and Durango had very low snow years.

The real point is that terrain expansions have failed to increase skier visits. Colorado's Skiable Acreage grew more than 50% (13,000+ acres) in the past twelve years, while Skier Visits growth was sluggish. FOSM challenges CBMR – or any other entity – to prove there is a correlation.

SLIDE 13: "Ski Area Acreage without 'Extreme Terrain'" Chart
    FOSM: This chart is misleading due to inconsistent methodology by (the named source). For some resorts, Skitown lists Most Difficult and Expert terrain separately. They combine these two categories for other resorts – including many that do have Expert terrain. CBMR is an example of a "combined listing." This chart intermixes both rating methods, yielding inaccurate results. Many bar lines on the graph are longer than they should be because they include "combined" Most Difficult and Expert terrain. Expert terrain was deducted from CBMR's bar line
At any rate, this chart shows, once again, that there is no discernable correlation between
Terrain and Skier Visit growth. Only one of the five big ski companies at the top of this chart (Vail/Beaver Creek) increased Skier Visits faster than Colorado's slow growth rate of .59% per year even though they offer vast terrain.

    CBMR: "CBMR currently offers only 362 acres of intermediate terrain, less than
half of most of its competitors, and among the lowest of destination resorts in Colorado."
    FOSM: 362 acres? CBMR's website shows they have 665 intermediate acres, an amount that is highly competitive with the intermediate acreage noted on other resorts' websites!

        CBMR        665 acres            Copper Mtn.    613 acres
        Durango        612 acres            Taos            324 acres
        Telluride        720 acres            Beaver Creek    776 acres
        Loveland        560 acres           

SLIDE 16/17: "2009 Snodgrass Plan"
    FOSM: The addition of 275 Total acres (with all terrain types) would only move CBMR up two slots on the Colorado ski area "terrain list," giving them slightly more than Durango and Loveland. CBMR will never match the "Big Boys'" terrain acreage.

SLIDE 20: "2009 Snodgrass Plan"
    FOSM: There aren't many long, blue cruisers in this layout. There's only one top-to-bottom route for beginners and lower intermediates.

SLIDE 21: "Snodgrass lifts"
    FOSM: Lift angles aren't the same as slope profiles. Snodgrass runs would primarily be flat on top, steep in the middle and flat on the bottom.

SLIDE 22/23: "Photo Simulations"
    FOSM: It is not possible to cut two hundred or so acres of trees, grade and contour ski runs, construct restaurants and maintenance facilities, install what geologists call "aggressive surface and subsurface drainage systems" and install snowmaking systems plus provide power to run lifts, snowguns, maintenance vehicles and equipment without creating substantial environmental damage and increased carbon footprint. This expansion would hardly be "Light" on our environment. Where would the critters go?

SLIDE 25: "Water and Snowmaking"
    CBMR: "Snowmaking has consumptive use of 20%-25%"
    FOSM: "Consumptive use" means that snowmaking water is lost via evapotranspiration. 20% to 25% of 40 to 50 million gallons = 8 million to 12.5 million gallons lost each year, equivalent to the annual domestic consumption of 220 to 340 citizens. Is that how we should use our limited and diminishing water supplies?

SLIDE 29: "All about Real Estate"
     FOSM: If 25% of North Village properties became ski-in/ski-out and those properties conservatively generated an additional $500,000 each, the windfall real estate profits would be $137,500,000! Real estate speculation is not an acceptable use of our publicly-owned National Forest.

Please send your comments to: US Forest Supervisor Charles Richmond, GMUG National Forest, 2250 Hwy 50, Delta, CO 81416

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