WENATCHEE, WA-Harbor Mountain Co. is looking to sell its 2,000-acre Mission Ridge ski resort near this Central Washington city. Ronald W. Cook, president of parent company Harbor Resorts, tells GlobeSt. that the 30-year-old resort has been profitable the past two seasons, but is in need of more snow makers and a high-speed chair lift. The cost of such improvements could run $6.5 million, says Cook, who has chosen to instead focus on a major development involving its Schweitzer Mountain ski resort near Sandpoint, ID.

Still, says Cook, Mission Ridge has potential. There are five million people within 170 miles of the resort and 2,100 motel rooms within 25 miles of the resort. Additionally, its 4,500-ft base elevation and 2,200-ft vertical rise give Mission Ridge’s 900 skiable acres a drier, more appealing quality than other Western Washington resorts. “If a new owner made the improvements, Mission Ridge should be able to increase skier visits by 50% to 75%,” says Cook.

Given the needed improvements, real estate srouces say the resort could sell for between $2 million and $4 million. Its relatively remote location also appears to have been factored in. Crystal Mountain ski resort, 80 miles southeast of Seattle, sold a few years back for a reported $15 million. Stevens Pass, another Western Washington ski property owned by Harbor Resorts, is valued at $35 million.

Meanwhile, says Cook, the ski industry is trying to make sense out of a 20-year trend that shows annual skier visits to US resorts have remained stable at 50 million to 52 million. During that same period, the number of ski areas has dropped from 1,100 to 600, most dramatically over the last 10 to 12 years. “Relying on shrinking competition (to increase skier visits) leaves owners with a false sense of security,” says Cook. “What the industry needs is a model for growth.”

Statistically, 85% of first-time skiers never return to the slopes. In part, Cook attributes this to resort ownership by expert skiers who have lost sight of what encourages beginners to follow through with the sport. The mantra of Harbor Resorts’ business plan has become “trial and retention.” If the industry could increase the number of first timers who return, it would experience a dramatic increase in profitability, says Cook.

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