GIRDWOOD, AK (KTUU) Alyeska Resort will delay the opening of ski slopes this winter to Dec. 15, three weeks later than the traditional opening date of Thanksgiving weekend, a company spokesman said.
Marketing director Eric Fullerton said the decision was made because of shifting weather patterns the past few years, and the need to balance expenses.
"Sometimes we'll get the inversion where there's rain on the bottom and there's a lot of snow on top and it makes it difficult to ski all the way to the bottom" Fullerton said. "Or it flip flops and there's not enough snow on the top and we got snow on the bottom."
Fullerton said the resort has spent millions in the past several years on new snow making equipment and chair lifts, and it's difficult to balance expenses if the ski season opens when the mountain doesn't have snow from top to bottom.
"You gotta have return on that investment at some point, and that's really what's happening here" Fullerton said. "If we only have the lower half of the mountain running and there's only one restaurant available for people to eat at, then you know the numbers don't add up for the amount of people you need to have to keep things going, right?"
Fullerton said the decision to open slopes later is not a sign the resort is in financial trouble. He added that pre-season sale of lift tickets is running higher than last year.
Word of the later opening date is spreading through the local ski community.
"I think a lot of people are upset about it in the club, they're concerned about it" said Scott Zahn, alpine director for the Alyeska Ski Club, a non-profit that trains young skiers for competition.
Zahn says the later open could impact training for teenage teams, that have their first competitions in early December.
Alyeska says if weather conditions allow, it will open early than Dec. 15. "We'll open as soon as we can" Fullerton said. "If we have the snow and the cold and the conditions, we'll do it."