This is an interesting idea. Locals in a town in Wyoming wants to take over its local ski hill and turn it into a community-owned operation.
Here in Australia, the resorts tend to be owned by large entities that run a number of operations. For instance, Grollo Group – a major property development company – owns Mt Buller Ski Lifts amongst a number of other tourism ventures. Hotham and Falls Creek ski operations are owned by Merlin Entertainments Group, which “operates more than 90 attractions, seven hotels and two holiday villages in 20 countries and across four continents.”
In contrast, the community at the base of Snow King Mountain ski area in Jackson, Wyoming are looking to bring ownership back home because the area is up for sale. “The King” is Jackson’s original ski hill, established in 1936 and located on the southeast edge of the city. It was the first ski area in the state of Wyoming.
This proposal is being driven by ‘Free Snow King’, a campaign started by local citizens who would like to see the ‘Town Hill’ managed cooperatively as a non-profit organisation.
Our 76 year old Town Hill has been owned by a small group of well respected shareholders with influential backgrounds, and they have shown their commitment to operating Snow King for nearly 40 years. Since 2010 it has been known that this group intends to find new ownership, which has resulted in many rumors and uncertainty about the future. This group also owned the Snow King Resort Hotel, until those grounds were sold in 2012. In 2011, a group titled “Friends of Snow King” almost made a deal to take over ski area operations and future responsibility, but an agreement was never made. Since then, a new master plan has been accepted (not approved) by the US Forest Service which includes a fortune in improvements, a major expansion, and the addition of controversial new activities and rides.
The summer of 2014 has brought over $3.5M in improvements to help make winters more viable at the ski area, thanks to a collaboration by Snow King Mountain with the Wyoming Business Council, the JH Ski Club and the Town of Jackson. Snow King will hopefully have their best winter ever as a result of the new snowmaking line to the summit, as well as the addition of modern lighting”.
The group holds a vision of purchasing the resort:
“The Town Hill should someday be managed collectively by the residents, users, and local leaders, and operate as a non-profit. The money generated on Snow King Mountain would forever stay on the mountain, and decisions would be made in a cooperative manner. Our Town Hill would never be “for sale” again, and would never be owned by developers or corporations”.
Imagine a resort where profits are put back into the operations rather than off to distant shareholders. It would be fantastic.
It is very early days in their campaign. They are aiming to encourage the existing owners to consider selling to a cooperative ownership group. The group says “The main goal is to continue the traditions and improve our ski area facilities, while protecting this environment from any unwanted developments”.
There are many precedents: There are almost 50 ski areas in North America already running as non profits. Check the website for an inspiring list of all the community owned resorts in North America.