Ski area makes small, steady profit |

Ski area makes small, steady profit

MONARCH PASS, Colo. – Do ski areas have to hawk real estate in order to make money? Nope, says Bob Nicolls, who knows something about both real estate and skiing.Nicolls’s Denver-based real estate company, First Pacific Investments, owns about 5,000 apartment units in the West. He’s also a part owner of the Monarch ski area, between Salida and Gunnison. He tells The Denver Post that Monarch expects to top $1.4 million in net income this year, up from $905,000 four years ago.”When you’re just selling lift tickets, you do have to have tight control on your expenses,” he said. “But I guarantee we’re more profitable than any of the bigger resorts on a pound-for-pound basis.”Monarch doesn’t try to compete for Denver-area skiers, but does play hard for Oklahoma and Texas church groups. Given New Mexico drought and Monarch’s surprisingly generous snow pack this year, it has done well.Various improvements, including new base-area buildings and more steep terrain, are being delivered. Monarch’s success, says Michael Berry, president of the National Ski Areas Association, is typical in that small and medium ski areas have been doing as well as they ever have.Further study about snow’s mysteriesMAMMOTH, Calif. – Snow is often made up of more than hydrogen and oxygen. Often, there are what are called impurities – in the case of Mammoth, magnesium and sodium from the Pacific Ocean, and nitrates and sulfates picked up in the California Central Valley. In fact, the first runoff of spring is usually highly acidic, due to the mineral content, explains snow scientist Walt Rosenthal in an interview with Mammoth’s The Sheet.While that acidity is of interest to those who wonder how fish and amphibian populations may be affected, Rosenthal has an angle that might be of interest to backcountry skiers. Through his work toward a doctorate, Rosenthal hopes to understand how impurities could speed the formations of bonds in the snow, which could help understand when avalanches do – and don’t – happen.Vail, Colorado

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