How to Start a Ski Resort Business

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Skiing is enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of people every year. Some choose to visit ski resorts for a memorable family vacation, while others enjoy the scenic beauty without hitting the slopes. Even in the recession of 2009, The Huffington Post reports that some ski resorts in Colorado were still earning profits upwards of $180 million. If you would like to own a piece of a snowy mountain and, better yet, a piece of those profits, consider opening a ski resort.

  • Choose a location for the resort. Though Colorado and Vermont are popular destinations, even Arizona has snowy peaks. The location will depend on competition and amount of money you can spend: setting up shop in Vail, for example, will be costlier and more competitive than choosing a remote location like Flagstaff, Arizona, which offers cheaper land but little name recognition.

    Buy or lease property in the chosen destination. Consider the size of the resort. Renting a large resort will cost more, but potentially result in higher profits when at full capacity. A smaller resort could save money in equipment and staffing, but may not be as profitable due to lower capacity.

    Buy acreage and land. Determine the steepness of hills and size when purchasing land, as this will determine the number and difficulty of the ski slopes. Work with real estate developers to ensure your resort abides by all legal standards.

  • Buy necessary items. Many skiers, especially novices, will want to rent their equipment. Therefore, the resort should be stocked with rental skis and snowboards in addition to helmets, goggles, and padding. Running a gift shop with this gear is advisable as well.

    Other necessary equipment includes mechanical items like ski lifts and snow machines, which will likely be the most expensive items you acquire.

    Ski resorts commonly have concession stands and restaurants, which will demand kitchen equipment, food, and drinks, as well as liquor and restaurant permits.

  • Get capital and financing. Inc.com notes that snowmaking equipment alone costs several million dollars. Land can also cost several hundred thousand dollars, as well. Therefore, those who wish to open a ski resort must be prepared to spend millions in start-up costs.

    Apply for loans, gather potential business partners with deep pockets, and approach financial institutions with a thorough business plan.

  • Advertise extensively. Like all vacation destinations, you must advertise your ski resort to a select demographic. Will the resort cater to families and be child-friendly? Or will the resort target young couples looking for a romantic getaway? While targeting both audiences is appealing from a financial standpoint, few childless couples will appreciate a resort full of children, and parents may not be pleased with a lack of child-friendly amenities.

    Distribute fliers at local businesses in addition to posting your resort on common travel websites like tripadvisor.com. Offer promotions like "buy one get one free" ski tickets or "stay two nights and get the third free" during the grand opening to drive up traffic.

    Specifically target local schools, offering cheap ski classes to encourage young people to take up the activity and become a lifelong skier (and, therefore, a potential lifelong customer).

  • Hire knowledgeable staff members. Scour the area for local ski teachers and offer them full-time positions at the resort. Your business will also need accountants, reservation agents, cooks, servers, mechanics, and a number of other positions relevant to the business. Robert Pfister and Patrick Tierney in their book "Recreation, Event, and Tourism Businesses" suggest hiring a business partner with strong credentials in recreation management who will be willing to oversee the operation.

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