I accidentally deleted my database when trying to back it up (DOH!) and the original version of this article was lost. If you find it anywhere, let me know. This is a shorter version that includes the main ideas. I think.
The Fresno Bee recently published an excellent article on the past glory and the present blemishes on Badger Pass ski resort. They examine various reasons why Badger has declined from the 73,000 visitors per season to more like 30,000 in recent years (just about as many as came in the first year Badger was open). They cite several reasons:
- increased entrance fees and for Badger that may actually be a consideration since local people who don't have a Parks Pass suddenly add $20 to their ski day. That said, overally, Badger is still a cheap day by downhill ski standards: $38/day versus $50/day at Sierra Summit, the next closest ski area. So if you have two people in your car, it's already roughly a breakeven in pure dollar terms and Badger has incredible deals on beginner packages and midweek packages for those who are renting and so forth. So for beginner and intermediate skiers it's still a great deal.
- Narrow marketing strategy, which may be true, but even great marketing can only do so much
- Antiquated equipment and lack of snowmaking. That also may be true, since snowmaking equipment would make the Christmas season more reliable, but anyone who has seen the impact of snowmaking on mountains in Vermont as I have would see that it is totally incompatible with a ski area in a national park
That said, there are two factors that the article did not mention and which cannot be changed.
First and foremost, the evolution of ski equipment has left Badger behind. Back when Badger was built, only experienced skiers could competently ski its hardest slopes. New equipment has made it so much easier to learn ski that athletic teenagers can be skiing and snowboarding down Badger's hardest slopes in a just a handful of days. By the time they have a dozen ski days under their belts, many yearn for bigger challenges. There's no going back in this respect and that means that large, steep ski resorts will be at an ever-greater advantage in the future and Badger is never going to lure those advanced and expert skiers back.
Second, increasingly people expect slopeside accommodations and fine dining at the ski areas themselves. Skiing has become so expensive that the ski clientele who pay $70 and more for day tickets at elite areas want luxury all around, and there will certainly never be slopeside accommodations in the park.
Badger remains a fantastic beginner area, a great place to learn, and a great place for families with younger kids, but it is never going to be the destination area that it once was because it will never grow more mountain. No amount of marketing can change that.