How do Ski Resorts Decide on Closing Day?

As an avid skier, you’ve probably experienced frustration that goes something like this: It’s mid April, it snowed yesterday, the slopes are covered with snow, and the weather is perfect. Unfortunately the lodge doors are locked, the lifts hang lifeless, and the parking lot is gated. If the resort is on public land, it’s time to earn your turns. Otherwise, you head home and wait for November or December, when you will return to ski on a white ribbon of death with throngs of other people.

After muttering a few expletives, you probably kick some gravel and wonder why the resort has wrapped it up. In most cases it’s due to dwindling snow and lack of bodies to buy tickets, food, and services. In other words, people stopped showing up — so the resort decided to stop losing money.

But depending on the specific resort, many other factors play into the closing date, including but not limited to:

• Many resorts rely heavily on college-age seasonal employees from the southern hemisphere; they go back to school when their summer ends

• Forest Service lease agreements, or agreements with state or federal jurisdictions related to wildlife protection or management

• Owners of multiple resorts in a given region will close one resort and shift personnel and resources to another, to maintain a longer season

• Some resorts will intentionally prolong a season for publicity, special events, or an established reputation for spring skiing

• Some resorts establish a “guarantee” of a minimum number of days for passholders. Once they reach that date, they close, usually because very few other customers are showing up by then.

• Unforeseen circumstances, such as a primary lift failure. After long hours of operations in cold and wet, equipment has taken a beating. Sometimes the infrastructure forces an early end to the season.

• Other reasons very specific to a given resort. Running a ski area can be a very odd business, and an individual resort may have a unique reason for ending the season.

Again, in general it relates to vanishing snow and/or vanishing customers.

See you on that White Ribbon of Death in November!

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Photo above courtesy Montage Mountain, Pennsylvania