Wrightwood, CA – January 24, 2003 – War. Rain. Pestilence. Well, maybe not pestilence. But certainly war, rain, record-breaking heat waves and just a fraction of the usual snowfall provided major challenges for Mountain High during its 2002/03 season. Despite these setbacks, the virile Southern California resort generated more than 450,000 visits and secured its spot as one of the top five areas in the state. They also claimed a prestigious award from the National Ski Areas Association for increasing the frequency of their core participants.
Said Karl Kapuscinski, Mountain High’s General Manager, “This was by far the most challenging winter I’ve seen. In spite of the mixed natural and economic climate, I’m proud to say that we maintained our leadership status in Southern California’s winter recreation arena.”
Mountain High started the 2002/03 season off with a bang by being the first Southern California resort to open for the 6th year in a row. This has become an unofficial tradition and one that consistently generates early season exposure. Attendance peaked during the Christmas Holidays and the mountain received 118,000 visits in just 16 days, making it their most successful Christmas ever. During January, however, the weather and the mood changed. The once-heralded El Nino, which brought 310 inches of snow in 1997/98, turned on Southern California, unleashing record-breaking heat waves and torrential downpours. More than nine inches of rain fell in the San Gabriel Mountains taking with it any snow that had either fallen or been previously made.
Calvin Coolidge once wrote, “Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. The slogan ‘press on’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.” It was this determination and perseverance that saw the mountain through. The area rebuilt itself, both on the mountain and within the marketplace, three separate times creating new promotions and new reasons to visit the resort. With the help of many unsung heroes from Snowmaking and Grooming, Mountain High carried on successfully until April 6th, 2003, when they finally closed. Or so they thought! The season’s largest snowstorm arrived on April 14th, roughly a week later, and the resort reopened to the praise of its patrons. More than 10,000 guests visited during the remainder of the week and when Mountain High officially closed its doors on April 20th, its popularity was as strong as it was when it had opened.
Says John McColly, Director of Marketing, “Hey, did I love the challenge? You bet! But man, it was comical the way things kept coming at us. We would have easily done 600,000 visits if we had any kind of winter at all.”
Despite the soft economy, a shortened season and the worst winter weather in recent history, Mountain High still recorded over 450,000 skier visits, a feat that other regional resorts would have loved to achieve. Two sections of the mountain that saw notable increases were night skiing and the Children’s Academy. Mountain High is the only resort in its region to offer night skiing seven nights a week from 5:00pm to 10:00pm and the resort saw a 36% increase in attendance during this time due to such extras as live radio broadcasts, celebrity DJs and interactive events like the Burton Halfpipe Series and the Friday Night BoarderCross Series. A night-related program called the Quad also contributed to the jump with its own incredible 300% increase in sales. The Quad consists of four Night Tickets, regularly $25.00 each, for just $59.00. After March 31st, the tickets were valid during the day as well adding a small stimulus to late season business. No surprise, the Quad was recognized by the National Ski Areas Association as the Best Program to Increase the Frequency of Core Participants in the country*!
This year represented Phase 1 of Mountain High’s new Children’s Learning Center and the expansion proved to be both warranted and profitablle. Children’s Academy lessons increased 25% and the mountain saw more young skiers and snowboarders enter the sport than ever before. Improvements included doubling the size of the resort’s previous center and the addition of a specialized ticket outlet, rental shop, sport shop and large, indoor activity area. On the snow, Mountain High added 20% more room to the learning area and installed a moving-carpet lift to help students progress at their optimum level.
Yearly improvements, cutting-edge marketing and an overwhelming commitment to the guest make Mountain High a successful entity even during the harshest of conditions. At this point, the only thing more impressive than their accomplishments is their potential for greater success.
*As compared to other winter resorts averaging 500,000 plus annual visits.