Colorado Springs Ski History

Skiing has played a major role in the development of our state.  Colorado’s first wave of resorts was developed by the Works Progress Administration during the Great Depression and a newly founded Forest Service intent on getting people outside.  The Forest Service opened Cooper in 1937 and then Wolf Creek in 1938.  In 1939, the Works Progress Administration opened Monarch and Pikes Peak.  At that moment, the Colorado Ski industry was born.

A second wave of resorts opened as the 10th mountain division returned home following WWII.  They established many of the most recognizable resorts in Colorado, Breckenridge in 1961 and Vail in 1966.  New ski resorts slowed dramatically in the 1970s, with the last public ski resort opening in Colorado, and North America for the fact, Beaver Creek in 1980.

The Pikes Peak Ski Area opened as part of a Works Progress Administration and operated for 45 years, from 1939 to 1984.  In the 1980s, the Pikes Peak Ski Area began executing a plan to modernize and expand in an effort to meet growing demand from Colorado Springs.  Skiing had advanced significantly since 1939, and to offer locals an experience similar to the newer, more modern resorts along the I-70 corridor, Pikes Peak planned to recapitalize – installing modern chairlifts, snowmaking capabilities, and increasing its vertical run length.

The Pikes Peak Ski Area expansion effort fell victim to unfortunate timing.  The modernization project began at the start of the worst recession since the famed Great Depression, that of 1981-82, and the same year, the Forest Service introduced new ski resort management rules that had been in deliberation for the past decade.  This amounted to a perfect storm for the resort.  It had committed to significant capital outflows with modernization and was now responsible for a significant tax bill being assessed by the Forest Service.

When the new lift installation ran over budget, the resort missed its promised tax payment to the Forest Service.  Poma USA, who installed the new lift, had also lent Pikes Peak funds to operate.  With the Forest Service threatening to seize the resorts infrastructure due to payments in arrears, Poma acted first.  In the dead of night, Poma removed Pikes Peak’s ski lift so it could not be taken as collateral for outstanding taxes.  The Forest Service responded by pulling the resort’s permit and seizing control of Pikes Peak’s remaining facilities for failure to pay.  Without an operating permit or lift, in an economy limping out of a recession, no investors were willing to assume the resort’s debt, and the area officially closed with its bankruptcy declaration in 1986.

More familiar than Pikes Peak, to many, is Ski Broadmoor.  Ski Broadmoor operated from 1959 until 1991.  It covered approximately 300 acres with a base area at 6,569 feet and summit at 7,084 feet.  The Broadmoor had 100% snowmaking capabilities like almost all current Colorado resorts and one lift.  It operated Thanksgiving to March, six days a week (Monday-Saturday) from 10am to 10pm.  As a smaller resort, its focus was on the community and ski teams.  Many of the best American skiers from the 1960s into the 1990s trained at Ski Broadmoor.  The Broadmoor operated Ski Broadmoor from 1959 until 1986. After 27 years of successful operation, the original infrastructure needed recapitalization. The Broadmoor, wanting to focus on its core business, offered to sell its beloved ski resort to the city of Colorado Springs.

Colorado Springs’ voters approved the city’s purchase of Ski Broadmoor in 1986.  The City of Colorado Springs was new to ski resort management but turned a profit in its first season.  It also learned in that first season of operation, that the resort was in desperate need of recapitalization.  Not wanting to upset the public that had just bought the resort, it did not want to raise ticket prices and relied on increased visitations to cover the cost.  The following season, when management made necessary equipment upgrades, the resort operated at a loss.  That summer, Vail offered to buy and operate Ski Broadmoor.  Ski Broadmoor was going to get professional management and the experience of the Vail brand.  Vail though had other ideas.  In 1991, Vail closed Ski Broadmoor, knowing Colorado Spring’s closest ski options were the Vail properties of Breckenridge and Keystone and smaller resorts at Loveland, Arapahoe Basin, and Monarch.  Ski Broadmoor was sold to a developer and transformed into an exclusive gated community, and Colorado Springs residents were forced to make the 100 miles and 5-hour round trip drive to experience the wilderness and ski.

Colorado Springs locals know there is skiing to be had.  Monument hosts a Nordic resort operating on natural snow seasonally from November to March.  Others prefer the more rugged terrain surrounding Rampart Reservoir for backcountry exploits.  Each spring, locals flock to Pikes Peak, as the winds that strip the mountain of snow in winter subside and wetter, stickier snow coats its slopes.  Until 2012, plans were underway, led by local ski champion, Harvey Carter, and Boulder developer, John Ball to reopen a resort on Pikes Peak.  The death of Harvey Carter, owner of the 320 acre parcel that would form the core of the resort ended the project.  John Ball who had raised over $40M towards construction of the resort left the state and the parcel that was to form the core of the resort was sold to the Broadmoor.

Bringing skiing back to Colorado Springs is a natural fit.  We have the mountains, we have the snow, and we have dedicated skiers.  But, it will not be easy.  It will take the countless hours and love of ski enthusiasts like Harvey Carter.  It will require raising substantial funds from a large group of active investors and execution of a plan that balances environmental responsibility, with public use, in alignment with the mission of the Forest Service.  Most importantly, it will require you to help show we are ready to bring skiing home to Colorado Springs.  Support local, support community, support SkiOrmesPeak.com.

Sources

[1] ColoradoSkiHistory.com. Accessed 12 April 2016. http://coloradoskihistory.com/

[2] Phillips, Dave. Don’t count on Skiing in Colorado Springs. The Gazette. 19 Feb 2007.
http://gazette.com/dont-count-on-skiing-in-colorado-springs/article/11585

[3] Rappold, Scott R. Pikes Peak ski resort dream remains alive. The Gazette. 22 Nov 2012.
http://gazette.com/pikes-peak-ski-resort-dream-remains-alive/article/147611

[4] Bounds, Amy. Developer pitching Pikes Peak ski resort barred from Colorado securities market. Daily Camera, The Gazette. 13 April 2015.
http://gazette.com/developer-pitching-pikes-peak-ski-resort-barred-from-colorado-securities-market/article/1549606

Ormes Peak Skier Visitation and the Potential Local Traffic Impact

One of the biggest concerns of Ormes Peak is the potential impact on local traffic.  We find it fair to share the data and our assumptions so the community can understand and take part in discussions concerning the potential impact.  As a community resort, we estimate Ormes’ visitation to grow to and stabilize around 200,000 visitors.

How did we get to this 200,000 visitation figure?  If this figure is correct, how will it impact traffic on the routes to the resort, and more importantly, the local community?

Determining Visitation

First, how does 200,000 visits compare to other ski resorts we visit?  Most resorts only publish visitation data when required to do so in a Master Development Plan (MDP) update.  Every resort’s MDP must be publicly available, so in your favorite search engine type “*Resort Name* Master Development Plan.”  MDPs seeking to expand their area or justify new buildings usually must report their annual visitation.  Visitation is defined as one person visiting a resort for all or part of a given day [1].  Many of the top visited resorts in America are here in our backyard of Colorado, Ski Country USA.

Table 1: Most Visited Resorts in America Averages 2007/08 – 2011/12 Seasons [1]TrafficTable1

The ultimate goal of Ormes Peak is to bring skiing to Colorado Springs.  Ormes provides the Front Range an easily accessible, family friendly, and environmentally responsible option to get outside and enjoy winter recreation.  We want to develop school programs to keep our youth active in winter, night skiing for après work, and a real option for those who want to ski but can’t due to high cost and time necessary to get to the major resorts (currently five hours round trip).   With this in mind, we sized Ormes for our community.  At 1,150 acres it provides a range of terrain for our enjoyment, but its capacity is nowhere near that of destination resorts.  Our desire to be part of and embed within the existing community is why we are trying to create access from Colorado Springs, our community.

With this sizing in mind, we looked at comparable resorts.  The top three being Monarch, Loveland, and Arapahoe Basin.  Loveland and Arapahoe Basin both made major pushes in the last decade to draw in more destination skiers.  Their substantially longer seasons, opening in October and closing as late of June, result in approximately 30-40% higher visitation than resorts which operate in the core ski season of November to March (five months).  Meanwhile, Monarch has made significant progress growing its Front Range day-use visitors.  Using these resorts as benchmarks we developed the Ormes Peak proposal to service approximately 200,000 visitors over its five month season from November to March, both in terms of acres and lifts.  Market experts think it will take us several years to get to 200,000 visitors, but we are optimistic we can achieve it within five years.  While we are flattered by comments frequently comparing us to top 10 resorts such as Vail or Breckenridge, this is neither realistic nor our aim.

Table 2: Front Range Resorts Comparable to Ormes Peak [6] [7] [8]TrafficTable2

Local Traffic Impact

Flash forward to the future in Colorado Springs – Ormes is operational and the Front Range is rejoicing in the ability to night ski after work and our youth programs are producing future X-Game Gold Medalist and Olympic Champions.  What has happened to traffic in the area surrounding the Ormes Peak Base Area?

The population of the 80919 zip code serviced by Woodmen and Centinela is approximately, 27,400 residents living in over 11,450 homes [2].  The 2003 El Paso Transportation Report measured per day traffic volume on W Woodmen at 10,000 cars [3].  Traffic volume is measured in one direction, so a volume of 10,000 cars means 20,000 cars per day pass in front of a business or home located on W Woodmen [5].  At that time only a fraction of the homes in the Peregrine community were constructed.

Figure 1: El Paso County Transportation Report – Existing 2003 Traffic and Congestion Level MapTrafficFigure1

Those that live in Peregrine or have visited might believe 20,000 cars a day sounds large.  Frequenting the local area, we agree, this estimate is high.  The county’s estimate was derived from various measurements taken from the base of W Woodmen all the way to its top.  The base of W Woodmen sees an average per day volume of far more than 10,000 cars, while at the top it sees substantially less.  Let’s take a closer look at the area immediately surrounding Ormes Peak’s proposed base area.

Figure 2: Traffic Impact Area of Study [9]TrafficFigure2

To determine current traffic volume for Peregrine, we utilized the National Household Travel Survey (NHTS) [4].  The NHTS has been collected by the US Department of Transportation since the 1970s to measure household vehicle use and is the gold standard for traffic studies.   The major metric of the NHTS is the number of vehicle trips per household, a household vehicle departing and then returning to home.  The average number of vehicle trips per household has settled near 10 per day since the 1990s.  For this study, 10 trips per household is utilized for Peregrine.  This figure is likely biased low by 30% to 40% for two reasons.  One, the average number of vehicle trips per household is higher in suburban areas such as Peregrine as compared to rural areas.  Two, the biggest discriminator for vehicle trips per household is income.  Households with earnings in excess of $80,000 drive almost twice as much as households with incomes between $10,000 and $20,000 [4].

Table 3: Daily Trips per Household, All Incomes and by Income [4]TrafficTable3

With a trip starting and originating from home, it would travel along Peregrine’s thorough fares 20 times per day, 20 passes per day = 10 trips per day * 2 (one departing and one returning).  There are more than 400 homes which must use W Woodmen North of Orchard Valley Road, the area of this study [9].  This amounts to 8,000 cars per day before we consider non-household traffic, 400 households * 10 trips per day * 2 (one departing and one returning) = 8,000 cars per day.  Non-household traffic includes travel to Mt St Francis, local business traffic to the Media Strategy Group, Bella Dia Events, Blum Wholesale Florist, and the Pine Creek Gallery among others.  It also includes school buses, delivery services, garden and home services, visitors to the Peregrine community and the Blodgett Open Space.  Non-household traffic can account for more than 40% of residential traffic [4].  For Peregrine, let’s use a low end planning factor of 20%.  This makes traffic departing and returning from Peregrine 9,600 cars a day (8,000 cars per day * 120% increase due to non-household traffic = 9,600 cars per day).  There are two primary routes of egress and ingress into Peregrine, towards Centinela and towards Woodmen.  If we assume both of these routes are utilized equally 4,800 cars per day pass along either route (9,600 cars per day/2 = 4,800 cars per day).  From the El Paso W Woodmen assessment of 20,000 cars per day passing through the local area, we computed a conservatively low measurement of Peregrine traffic at 4,800 cars per day along each of the two West Woodmen corridors of interest.

Next, let’s determine what impact Ormes Peak would have on these routes?  If Ormes achieves 200,000 visits over its five month, 150 day season, that amounts to 1,333 visitors a day.  Let’s assume all of these visitors park at the resort , traffic is spread across the week with no surge on weekends, and ignore our proposed shuttle parking plan.  The average number of people in a car for social or recreational travel according to the NHTS is 2.2 [4].  The trend towards charging for parking is because pay parking results in increased occupancy per vehicle.  Ormes plans to charge for parking at the resort, with parking being either free or discounted if the vehicle is full.  Assuming 3 people per vehicle, we expect 444 cars per day (1333 people per day/3 people per car = 444 cars).  For simplicity, let’s round up to 450 cars a day.  Day-use ski traffic sees near zero in-and-out.  In-and-out is when a visitor leaves and then returns to a resort.  This practice is further discouraged by the practice of charging for on-site parking, so we may safely ignore it.

Each car must come and go from Ormes though.  This results in 900 additional cars passing through in a day, 450*2 (one arriving and one departing).  If we assume both routes to Ormes are utilized equally, as we did for Peregrine’s other traffic, the resort adds 450 cars per day on each route.  This results in a worst case scenario of a 9% increase in traffic.  What does a 9% increase look like?  Well, the 55 cars that passed your house previously in an hour are now 60 cars passing your house.  Practically speaking, this is an imperceptible change and thus far have done everything to estimate this figure high.  We used a low estimate of trips per household for Peregrine (10 when its likely higher than 13), we used a low multiplier for the percent of current traffic not originating in Peregrine (20% when it’s probably closer to 30% or 40%), and we assumed every visitor to Ormes will park there, ignoring our proposed shuttle operations of which 30% of Ormes visitors would utilize.

Traffic Impact Mitigation

The Ormes Shuttle system reduces the impact on local traffic from a 9% to 6% increase in traffic, a 3% reduction.  Ski resorts see the majority of visitors on Saturday and Sunday.  Friday, Saturday, and Sunday account for upwards of 60% of weekly ski resort visitation.  If shuttle use accounts for 50% of weekend visitors the number of visitors driving to the Ormes Base Area reduces from 200,000 to 140,000.  This is approximately 310 cars per day.  Utilizing the same computations as before, thus is a 6% increase in daily traffic.

There is another reason the traffic impact of Ormes is likely to be less noticeable than the computed estimate.  Day-use ski traffic moves counter-cyclical to day-time residential traffic.  What does that mean?  When the current surge of residential traffic flows out of Peregrine for work, weekday ski traffic is moving up the hill in the opposite direction.  When work traffic returns home, the majority of ski traffic is again traveling in the opposite direction.  This makes the effect of the traffic less perceptible to locals for two reasons.  First, because ski traffic does not impact the predominant direction of travel, and second, ski traffic occurs when more cars are on the road making the increase in traffic smaller relative to existing traffic levels.

Figure 3: Cyclical Residential Traffic Patterns and Ski Traffic Concentration Periods [5]TrafficFigure3OptB

How will Ormes enforce parking?  Ormes is working with the City of Colorado Springs in developing its proposal.  Our preferred solution is to create a free permit system for local residents.  Non-permitted parking in the local area will result in ticketing and towing enforced jointly by Ormes and the City of Colorado Springs.  This has been the approach utilized by other ski areas (Breckenridge, Keystone, Wolf Creek, Aspen, Vail) and it has proven very successful at preventing skier parking in the surrounding communities.

Ormes goal is to integrate into the Colorado Springs community.  We appreciate all the support we have received from Peregrine and the surrounding area and thus wanted to allay as much as possible one of your biggest concerns, that Ormes would bring an incompatible level of traffic.  While we agree Ormes will be an amazing success and it is flattering to be compared to many of America’s largest and most successful ski resorts, Ormes will be sized to our community.

Sources

[1] Stewart, S. “America’s Most-Visited Ski Resorts” (n.d.)  Travel and Leisure. Retrieved 13 April 2016 from http://www.travelandleisure.com/slideshows/americas-most-visited-ski-resorts

[2] 80919 Zip Code Detailed Profile (2013).  City-Data.com.  Retrieved 14 April 2016 from  http://www.city-data.com/zips/80919.html

[3] El Paso County Major Transportation Corridors Plan (2004). El Paso County. Retrieved 10 April 2016.  http://adm.elpasoco.com/transportation/Documents/report_final2.pdf

[4] Summary of Travel Trends: 2009 National Household Travel Survey (2011).  US Department of Transporation. Retrieved 08 April 2016 from  http://nhts.ornl.gov/2009/pub/stt.pdf

[5] Federal Highway Administration Traffic Guidelines (2015). US Department of Transportation. Retrieved 08 April 2016 from  http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/Environment/air_quality/air_toxics/research_and_analysis/near_road_study/protocol/protocol03.cfm

[6] Arapahoe Basin 2012 Master Development Plan (2012). SE Group. Retrieved 10 April 2016 from http://arapahoebasin.com/ABasin/document-library/Arapahoe-Basin-2012-Master-Development-Plan_FINAL.pdf

[7] Loveland Ski Area Master Development Plan (2013). SE Group. Retrieved 10 April 2016 from http://skiloveland.com/the-mountain/master-plan/

[8] Monarch Ski Area Master Development Plan (2011). SE Group. Retrieved 10 April 2016 from http://www.skimonarch.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/monarch-mountain-mdp-august-2011.pdf

[9] Public Record of Real Estate Property (n.d.). El Paso County. Retrieved 06 April 2016 from  http://land.elpasoco.com/

Snowfall at Ormes

The après work ski, youth ski teams, carving down a groomer as the wind brings tears to your eyes – one common thread, snow.  When Ormes Peak Ski Resort is mentioned, the question of snow is the first topic brought into question.  Is there enough snow to accommodate a ski resort?  Yes.  Ormes Peak has an abundance of snow and that is what makes après work ski, youth ski teams, and you flying down the steeps a real possibility.

From the urban thralls of Colorado Springs, Ormes is nearly hidden from view, making it difficult to see the vast quantity of snow blanketing its slopes.  Unless you have hiked to the summit of Blodgett Peak in the winter, Ormes’ valleys remain a hidden winter wilderness.  Once you lay eyes on Ormes Peak though, you have visible proof it receives more snowfall than Keystone Ski Resort.

Ski resorts publish and collect their own snowfall data.  How each resort collects and reports this data varies though making it difficult to compare resorts.  The National Weather Service (NWS) collects data across the entire nation and has no incentive to report extra snowfall.  At Ormes we do not yet have a weather station, so let’s take a look at the NWS data [1] [2] [3].

NWS data is collected for you, and as a result, it is collected where sufficient populations live, namely within towns.  Below are the closest towns for NWS reporting for each ski resort.  The NWS reports the annual snowfall averages using their historical data which goes back over 30 years.  Using averaged NWS data, snowfall at Ormes lies somewhere between Keystone and Breckenridge [2].  The important takeaway from the NWS data is that Ormes is comparable to the ski resorts we enjoy and are driving over 100 miles to visit.

Snowfall1

Now, why is it that ski resorts report more snowfall than the NWS [4] [5]?  There are two important elements, elevation and wind direction.  We like to live where it’s sunny and warm, and protected from the wind.  These elements are the polar opposite of what a ski resort desires – higher elevations where it’s colder, windier, and the uplift of mountain slopes increases precipitation.

In Colorado, wind direction often plays an even bigger role than elevation.  Breckenridge’s snowfall is nearly entirely a result of storms from the northwest.  The prevailing winds on the mountain are also from the west.  As a result, the resort’s east facing orientation loads with snow from these storms, while Keystone, on the opposite side of the Valley, sees only two-thirds of that same snowfall!  This is a similar tale for Beaver Creek and Vail where the more northerly the wind orientation of a storm, the more snowfall the resorts is likely to capture.

Snowfall2

Ormes orientation, like all ski resorts, maximizes snowfall.  Ormes Peak lies several thousand feet above Colorado Springs where its prominence and elevation result in increased snowfall.  Ormes lodge is located near the top of the mountain at 9,728’.  The base of Ormes’ Summit Lift, where night skiing and early season operations are proposed to occur, is at around 8,900’.  Most of us are living almost 3,000’ lower at 6,035’ in the rain shadows of Pikes and Ormes Peaks.

Elevation benefits Ormes but its slope orientation is at least equally as important.  The resort slopes lie on the Northern aspects of Ormes and Blodgett Peaks.  The southerly storms that batter the Front Range and leave a foot on your driveway, deposit two feet on Ormes.  This effect is even more pronounced for smaller storms which may leave only an inch or two in town but on Ormes, that same storm can leave over a foot.

The location of Ormes also benefits from Colorado Springs second snowfall pattern, storms from the North West.  As a deep valley running from North to West, its Eastern facing slopes load during NW storms.  The prominence of Blodgett to the East, the same prominence that hides the resort from view, also protects its Western facing slopes from being scoured by the wind.  The high pressure that sits over Colorado Springs provides Ormes a second benefit during such storms.  It causes them to stall over the mountain, giving them some additional time to unleash their white bounty.

Still not convinced? Take a hike up Blodgett Peak this weekend and you will become a supporter.  Ready to ski Ormes?!  Help us Crowd Fund Ormes Peak and let’s make this dream a reality!   In the meantime, don’t forget to follow us to stay up to date on all of the great things Ormes has in store for you!

SnowfallTable

Sources

[1] US Daily Snowfall and Snow Depth Data (n.d.).  National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved 18 Jan 2016 from https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/snow-and-ice/daily-snow/

[2] Sterling’s Best Places (n.d.). Retrieved 22 Feb 2016 from http://www.bestplaces.net/climate/zip-code/

[3] Average Snowfall (n.d.).  Weather Database. Retrieved 02 Feb 2016 from https://snowfall.weatherdb.com

[4] What’s Your Average Snowfall? (n.d.). Breckenridge Ski Resort. Retrieved 16 Jan 2016 from http://www.breckenridge.com/faqdetail/Snow-Stake-Cams/Whats-your-average-snowfall.axd

[5] Eldora.  Colorado Ski (n.d.). Colorado Ski Country USA. Retrieved 13 Jan 2016 from http://www.coloradoski.com/resorts/eldora