Many Tahoe ski resorts have been overrun with what many locals call the “Bay Area crowd” and its impacting traffic and lift lines for locals. That’s why one Tahoe ski resort is looking at a private business model to reward local residents and battle the ongoing traffic issues in the Tahoe basin.
Homewood Mountain Resort sits on the west end of Lake Tahoe, with its beautiful slopes opening up to some of the best views of the lake. It’s a favorite of west shore locals, but its location on Highway 89 can make it an arduous journey driving in from either Highway 80 to the north or U.S. 50 to the south. That’s why they are planning to move to a semi-private business model, allowing only season pass holders to ride the mountain, eliminating all single day tickets.
The rare business move, first reported by Moonshine Ink, will allow the resort to give skiers and snowboarders a less-crowded experience and help the business thrive without the reliance on out-of-area commuters. According to JMA Ventures President Art Chapman, the company which runs the resort, its the only way to compete with the local ski resort giants and mitigate the traffic issues that their passholders experience throughout the region.
“The fact is today with all the Ikon passes, if you go to Highway 89 on a Saturday afternoon you will see traffic backed up all the way from Squaw and Alpine into Truckee. You can’t even get to Homewood,” Chapman said to Moonshine Ink. “Commuters coming from the Bay Area can’t get past Squaw and Alpine and get to Homewood unless you are through the Mousehole at 7:30 in the morning.”
Over the past decade, skiing has declined dramatically at Homewood. Skier visits to the park have dropped 40 percent and season pass sales have dropped 60 percent. On February 2, the resort only had 115 skiers on the mountain during the entire day, which included 7 employees. That business model, along with growing competition from Ikon and Epic passes to the major resorts in Tahoe, is not sustainable.
Under their new business model, only residents of the six or seven major West Shore homeowners associations would be able to obtain a pass. The rest of the public would essentially be out of luck.
“Our intent is not to shut the public out,” said Chapman. “Since we know most skier attendance is from the local community, we intend to work with the HOAs to ensure that a certain number of residents can get passes to ski.”
This may upset some people who love riding at Homewood, but with growing competition from major ski conglomerates like Vail Resorts, it may be the only way to keep the resort alive. According to Chapman, this is the only way to create a sustainable business.
“We are trying to do the right thing here; we want to keep Homewood open.”