The Los Alamos Ski Club, and Pajarito Mountain have experienced a rich history, which you can read in detail here. For over 70 years, the LASC and its army of volunteers created and maintained a ski experience within Los Alamos county. Locals first skied at Sawyer hill, until the club opened the current location of Pajarito Mountain in the ’50s. The wonderful volunteer contributions that led to the genesis of Pajarito sustained and grew the ski area for many years.
The unfortunate reality is that the Los Alamos Ski Club has been struggling financially since the late 1990s. Since its beginnings, the club survived on membership and season pass sales, with day passes supplementing the income. Volunteers literally did the heavy lifting, maintaining and growing the ski area. Unfortunately, this business model has not transferred into today’s reality of lower average snowfalls, taxes and insurance payments, and changing demographics. The fires in the last decade have also damaged our mountain, although with the ironic benefit that FEMA and insurance reimbursements have also helped offset operational losses from previous years.
It has been increasingly clear however, that Pajarito is operating at the edge of stability. Season pass sales are down year-over-year since the 90’s. Likewise, day tickets sales are down, or non-existent during the lean snow years, which have become too frequent in the past fifteen years. The club cannot sustain a ski hill on season pass sales alone, and even good day ticket sales cannot generate enough revenue for proper investment in ski hill infrastructure. For perspective, season pass sales cover all but ~$200K of the hill’s annual expenses. A good ski season will bring in about $200K of profit ($400K of revenue) from day passes. A typical modern ski lift cost is in the range of $3 million. Therefore, it will take well over a decade of good ski seasons for the hill to afford replacing either the aging Mother or Spruce lifts.
Many of these issues and more were discussed at the February 14th special club meeting. You can find the meeting presentation slides here.