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Saturday, April 11, 2009

Holiday Valley says winter paid off

 
 

By Rick Miller
Olean Times Herald

 
 
ELLICOTTVILLE - The 2008-09 ski season at Holiday Valley came to a close last weekend after nearly five months of skiing.

While the first three months seemed to be record-setting, when February came along, "attendance was a little bit below our expectations, but still very strong," Holiday Valley President and General Manager Dennis Eshbaugh said Thursday.

There was no traditional January thaw. That didn't come until March.

"It was an excellent year," Mr. Eshbaugh said record snowfall. "We had more than 251 inches of snow during the season. The months of November, December and January all had record snowfall."

Add Holiday Valley's vast snowmaking capabilities and its experienced mountain crew and you've got great skiing conditions.

"It had been great until February," Mr. Eshbaugh said. "People may have reached the point where they wouldn't ski anymore. With so many good days, the business spreads out more and you see fewer peak days."

Conversely, he said, a slow start to the season means more peak days.

While Holiday Valley expects a record year as far as revenue, skier visits were about 535,000, enough to put the season in the resort's top five, but down 22,000 from the peak of 557,000 in 2000-01, the year Yodler Lodge opened.

"There are some similarities between this season and 2000-01," Mr. Eshbaugh said. Besides an early start to the season in November, there was no January thaw and a mild March with a lot of great skiing," he said.

Holiday valley didn't close last Sunday because it ran out of snow.

"We could ski today (Thursday), but there are no skiers," Mr. Eshbaugh said. "After a long winter, people are ready to move on to a new season."

And speaking of a new season, the front nine of Holiday Valley's golf course opens today. There's still snow on some of the back nine.

Mr. Eshbaugh is quick to point out that if the spring snowstorm earlier this week had dumped a foot of snow on Ellicottville as the Weather Service forecast, Holiday valley probably would have opened up a number of slopes for the die-hard skiers praying for just one more day of skiing this season.

Mr. Eshbaugh is quick to point out that if the spring snowstorm earlier this week had dumped a foot of snow on Ellicottville as the Weather Service forecast, Holiday valley probably would have opened up a number of slopes for the die-hard skiers praying for just one more day of skiing this season.

While Holiday Valley saw some signs of the economic downturn in February, the resort often benefits in times of economic uncertainty.

"We can provide a destination experience, closer to home, so people spend less time traveling and less money," Mr. Eshbaugh said. "In that respect, the economy helped us."

Peak winter employment was about 1,200 full- and part-time jobs, according to Mr. Eshbaugh.

That will grow next year when the Tamarack Club, a $40 million residential lodge opens next December.

Holiday Valley and Terry Ellsmore of Fractional Strategies Inc. are partners on the new building. The Tamarack Club will have a spa and a new restaurant, John Harvard's, which will replace Founders (formerly The Hearth) in the Clubhouse Lodge, said Jane Eshbaugh, Holiday Valley marketing director.

And Holiday Valley has plans for another $2 million in improvements for next season, continuing a tradition of reinvesting in the resort, she said.

Besides more snowmaking, a new mountain-top warming hut will be built atop Yodler slope, two new public pools will be constructed to replace those displaced by the Tamarack Club, and new designs for the Clubhouse Lodge will be prepared for the next phase of improvements.

(Contact reporter Rick Miller at rmiller@oleantimesherald.com)
For more information on Chautauqua Lake Real Estate & Living visit: www.chautauqualakehomes.com


 

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