|Mt. Bachelor Ski Resort has been criticized for poor maintenance and high prices.|
BEND It was one of the most important days of the season for Mt. Bachelor Ski Resort, midway between Christmas and New Year’s, and the conditions were not pretty. The wind was howling, the snow resembled cement, visibility was virtually non-existent and the ski bums were getting edgy. As the Pine Marten chair lift shut down once again for repairs, a chant rose up in the lift line: “Re-FUND, re-FUND, re-FUND!”
A mountain employee stepped forward to explain that the conditions were unavoidable given the ferocity of the storm, and workers were scrambling to get things running again. His style was direct and laid-back, helping to deflate the tension immediately. After he had left a skier identified the employee as Dave Rathbun, who was hired as Bachelor’s president and general manager last July as part of a management shakeup that sent four executives packing after a sub-par 2007-2008 season.
“He’s got a heck of a job ahead of him,” said the skier.
“He’s trying to run the place better, I’ll give him that,” said another skier. “It couldn’t get much worse.”
Mt. Bachelor is Central Oregon’s most powerful tourist attraction and the fifth-largest ski resort in North America, charging $69 per skier per day on peak days and weekends. It is also one of eight resorts operated by POWDR Corp of Park City, Utah. Local skiers criticize POWDR for not investing in upgrades and maintenance for lifts and grooming while raising prices ambitiously. The dissatisfaction spilled over a year ago with a barrage of complaints and a 7% drop in sales.
Rathbun and his team have sought to thaw customer relations by improving the accuracy of weather and conditions reports, tackling deferred maintenance and offering special discounts. They also have hinted at major upgrades to lifts and lodges and even the eventual possibility of slope-side lodging, an important amenity that Mt. Bachelor lacks because of Forest Service regulations.
It may or may not pay off, given the bleak economic forecast for Central Oregon. But things were certainly looking brighter the following day, when the sun reappeared to display a gorgeous mountain blanketed with fresh powder. By mid-morning the parking lots were full and visitors were being turned away. For the skiers and snowboarders who made it up early, it was a pleasant reminder of why some 2 million visitors a year pay big money to ski Oregon.
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