The Valdez Star - Serving Prince William Sound and Copper River Basin

By LEE REVIS
Editor, Valdez Star 

Mountain sports report brings clarity to developing Valdez assets

Council and commission met to begin process of understanding the data

 

The city has its work cut out if it hopes to become a premier mountain recreation destination.

That is the word from a report presented last week to the Valdez City Council and Economic Diversification Commission, who met in a work session to review a report presented by representatives by Jim Calvin of McDowell Group and Clair Humber from SE Group, main authors of the report, which runs 117 pages long.

The report is available to the public on the city's website under the agenda tab for this month.

The study's main objectives were to provide information regarding the current ski and snowboard market, as well as a comparison between three competing development concepts: East Peak, Sugar Loaf and Mineral Creek.

Valdez is considered a skiing and snowboard Mecca - one of the world's top destinations for winter-chasing experts. Potential developers in Valdez have visions to attract more mountain sport tourists with infrastructure development.

Humber helped shed light on the current worldwide market.

"It has to be more than the skiing," she said. If an area such as Valdez wants to attract winter-sports tourists, it has to up its game considerably. This includes bringing upscale hotel rooms, alternative activities to attract families and providing top-knotch customer service. "Something for everyone to do."

While Valdez is attractive to ski and snowboard professionals, it is lacking in amenities that attract the type of tourists that like to visit mountain-sport destinations.

The report notes that worldwide mountain-sports tourism has been flat for the past 20 years, but it is possible for Valdez to capture a large share of that tourist market.

It estimates that it would take a capital investment of around $23.3 million to create this type of industry.

The report says a year-round mountain recreation facility could attract between 13,000 to 39,000 additional tourists during summer alone.

The market report says snow sports visitors typically spend $105 per day, per person, not including the amount spent on the mountain. Off season visitors average $95 per person for mountain sports - if an area can attract the right cliental - and that depends largely on the private sector.

"Snow sports destination visitors are in general accustomed to high-quality accommodations," the report says. "Valdez's competitiveness as a snow sports destination will be constrained by lack of accommodations consistent with the quality of facilities and services available at other destinations. However, public sector involvement in supporting development of higher quality lodging would require careful considered policies that would not be perceived as attracting competition for established hotels and other lodging establishments."

So who are these mountain sport tourists?

The report says: Millennials.

Source: City of Valdez

This mountainous map shows the locations of the top three development sites for year-round mountain recreation in Valdez.

It notes that the current population of Valdez cannot hope to support a year-round mountain sports facility so must rely on the world market for such attractions, and that means millenials.

A large increase in visitors can also strain city services.

"Other local government costs associated with Mountain recreation facilities operations could include emergency services (search and rescue, emergency medical services, fire suppression), the report notes. "Valdez has well-equipped, well-trained emergency response capability."

While Valdez has much of what it takes, it will take community backing and buy-in to make it happen.

"Mountain Recreation development has the potential to create new jobs and attract new residents to Valdez," it noted. "Lack of affordable housing (housing that is available at a cost consistent the community's wage and income profile) is already a challenge for Valdez."

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