What happens when a ski resort closes for the season?
May 14, 2012 7:55 PM   Subscribe

How do they shut/close ski resorts for the season?

I was recently at Heavenly at South Lake Tahoe on its last weekend of operation. I'm not much of a skier, so Mister Psho and I just spent a couple of hours on the top of the mountain in the lodge. We watched the folks in the kitchen and the bar performing their duties, and wondered -- jeez, when the resort closes for the season, what do they do with all the food, booze, equipment, etc? I can't image them shoving it all into the gondolas. I didn't see any roads that they use (but they must exist, right? It's not like the lodge and ski lifts sprouted overnight after a magical storm). Do the workers have an epic party the night of closing and eat/drink as much as they can?

This seems like closing a resort (and opening it, for that matter) would require an army of people and quite complicated logistics.

Any one with any experience with this?
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord to Grab Bag (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Snowmobiles help a lot.

Also, the day's food offerings are very carefully planned according to demand - I watched Cypress resort here in Vancouver BC offer fewer soft drink choices, fewer soup choices, fewer sandwich choices as the season dwindled around Easter.

The older resorts, like Cypress and like Tahoe, have demand cycles dialed.
posted by seawallrunner at 8:09 PM on May 14, 2012

Just about every resort has a green trail from the top, those are often roads. They also have the big grooming tractors which can have a trailer attached to move stuff.
posted by sammyo at 8:10 PM on May 14, 2012

Equipment stays, canned food stays, even booze can stay. See the Shining for storage reference.
posted by Ideefixe at 8:14 PM on May 14, 2012 [6 favorites]

The logistics are complicated, but not super crazy. And yes, there is a small army of people involved in the maintenance of the resort.Every resort has several snowcats or groomers. These would be used to remove the perishables (its also how they get the food up) that are not stored/used year round( a lot of the basics stay on the mtn year round though). The majority of the equipment, snow guns etc stays on the mountain and is regularly serviced throughout winter and summer. In winter, snowmobiles would be used to get around. In the summer, at vs and pickups would be used. Each mountain usually has an easy green, or at least a very traversey trail that is basically converted into a road once the spring mud dries.

For very remote lookouts, and super big projects(putting in new lifts, adding to a lodge) the materials would be chopped into place.

I type too slow on my tablet. Damn it
posted by larthegreat at 8:18 PM on May 14, 2012

Choppered not chopped. Helicopters are involved in big projects.
posted by larthegreat at 8:19 PM on May 14, 2012

Well, for one, some resorts never close down. Heavenly's pretty tame, but Mammoth turns into a downhill mountain bike park in the Summer. Also, as others have said, there's usually some lame-o run towards the top of the mountain that is obviously a road and it's a pain in the ass to ski down because it's flat in areas.
posted by LionIndex at 8:23 PM on May 14, 2012

Some resorts are open in the summer for non-ski related activities: alpine slide, bike trails, hiking trails, etc. Some ski resorts have summer skiing on non-snow slopes.
posted by dfriedman at 8:27 PM on May 14, 2012

Came in here to say what LionIndex said -- with the rise in popularity of mountain biking for the past 20 years or so, it's actually rare for a resort to completely shut down.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:28 PM on May 14, 2012

"what do they do with all the food, booze, equipment, etc? I can't image them shoving it all into the gondolas."

The resort I worked at had a road to the top for equipment (the little that wasn't permanent) And we'd run food up in trailers pulled by snowcats but because the cats could not run when skiers where on the mountain lots of stuff went down (and up in the first place for that matter) on the lift. Especially in the winter it was way faster and cheaper to load up the lift than it was to ferry stuff up in the truck or on the cat. Like it would take 40-45 minutes to drive (each way) and only 10-15 minutes on the lift. Plus the carrying capacity of the lift was a lot larger than a truck. Here's a picture of kegs on a lift and though our top of mountain restaurant wasn't licensed I've loaded 10-12 24s of pop onto a lift.

And yes, opening or closing the resort takes an army of people. We had a biking season in the summer but we didn't run the lifts in the spring/fall so we actually had two shut-down/startups every year (each of which included converting from ski lifts to bike lifts and back). Plus there is a crazy amount of maintenance that needs to be done when there isn't any snow to both the plant and the slopes.
posted by Mitheral at 8:56 PM on May 14, 2012

I have been working at various ski resorts for 10+ years.

My observation is the same as Mitheral's. i.e. shove everything into the gondolas is exactly what they do, at least for anything that will fit. Heavy equipment gets taken by truck or snowcat up separate access roads. Helicopters are the last resort for special projects, given that they cost several thousand dollars per hour to operate.
posted by wutangclan at 10:10 PM on May 14, 2012

The NY Times did a short piece awhile back on the logistics of making a ski resort hamburger that talk about some the issues discussed in this thread.
posted by mmascolino at 5:34 AM on May 15, 2012

You all are great! Thanks for solving the mystery!
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 7:43 PM on May 15, 2012

(Bonus points for "Shining" reference! )
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 7:44 PM on May 15, 2012

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