The news throughout Lane County has been one downer after another regarding the economy, businesses struggling, and employee layoffs. Like runoff in our rivers after a warm front pummels the area it has been hard to find good news recently.
Willamette Pass Resort may not be one of the larger employers in the area, but activity at the resort fuels the economies of small towns like Oakridge, and puts paychecks into the hands of nearly 200 employees. The ski season got off to a late start. But continual snowfall, some creative value pricing, and a focus on the "customer experience" are helping the counties only ski resort keep pace with last year despite the struggling economy.
Since the resort opened on December 19th over 150 inches of snow has fallen, to date the resort has recorded 210 inches of snow for the season. An average snowfall is 430 inches. Initially it was "champagne powder" that actually plagued the resort, snow falling below 20 degrees has no structure and is hard to create the necessary base that resorts need for safe operation.
Warmer storm front last week delivered a mixture of rain and snow that has created a base of snow ranging from 4 feet at the lodge to more than 8 feet on the northern slopes at Willamette Pass.
Resort operators feel that discount early season pass sales and expanding the value of their popular 5 day pass (now called the Super Pass) are providing the means for skiers to continue to participate in their favorite winter pastime during a challenging economy.
The focus on the "customer experience" has been in the words of resort spokesman Randy Rogers, "a lot of small measures each having a big impact on our customers. We want them so anxious to return, and extolling tales of their fun at the Pass that they become our best advertising." It seems to be working.
Last Saturday the resort tallied over 2000 skiers for the day, more than 50% higher than attendance on the first Saturday of 2008. Bluebird skies, moderate temperatures, and a mountain of perfect snow rewarded them but it was the word on the street and value pricing that got them there.
Ski IT, Ride IT, LIVE IT!