Hogadon Hopes to Avoid Raising Rates If Casper Lowers Subsidy
On Tuesday, the Casper city council heard from Zulima Lopez, Parks, Recreation, and Public Facilities Director, about what the Hogadon Basin Ski Area is considering to stay afloat in anticipation of the city reducing its subsidy.
A resolution passed by the council in 2018 set a goal of getting the city's cost recovery for Hogadon to 60%, which the ski area has been hovering around over the past few years, with 70% this year, 64% in 2021, 65% in 2020, 60% in 2019, and 49% in 2018.
The subsidy the city provides is based on the difference between Hogadon's expenses and revenue, such as in 2020, when the ski area made $533,309.05 and had $821,153.77 in expenses, so the subsidy was $287,844.72.
For the 2023 fiscal year, Lopez said that they will need a subsidy of $375,949, after having a projected operating cost of $1,015,949 and revenue of $640,000.
Lopez showcased several areas in which Hogadon could reduce its expenses, including restructuring its agreement with OVG360, providing more perks to season pass holders, changing the comp provided to people over 70 and below six, and increasing the cost for season passes and daily ski lift tickets.
While they hope to avoid raising rates this coming season, Lopez said they will probably have to consider raising prices at some point in the near future.
"So the FY 23 budget is already set, we've estimated our revenues based on current rates," Lopez said. "You may remember in 2021 you guys did approve to increase rates at Hogadon. Those increases focused mainly on lift tickets and then we reduced the pre-season discount, but we do not change the pass rate. So my recommendation is that we not look to increase rates right now, but we probably would be looking at evaluating rates again in 2023 in advance of the 2023 2024 ski season."
Lopez said that if they are able to see an increase in attendance by around 3%, then they would be able to reduce the subsidy by around $100,000 due to increases in ticket purchases and food and beverage sales.
"I think this is really realistic in the next year or so," Lopez said. "Probably not FY 23, but certainly moving forward, I think we could accomplish this pretty readily."
However, attendance increases are a double-edged sword, as Lopez said if they saw too great of an increase in attendance, that would slow down the ski lifts, up from the current times of 15 to 20 minutes, leading to fewer people wanting to show up due to long lines.
While Hogadon could purchase ski lifts that could accommodate more people, Lopez said the cost of a new lift would most likely be too expensive for the ski area to afford.
At the end of the presentation, the council agreed with the strategy the city was taking in regards to Hogadon
"You guys are the professionals, you guys are the experts, and you know how to best move forward with that. So when we see these types of things, we can give recommendations, but I mean quite frankly we sit in these chairs and you guys are the ones that do the day-to-day work and doing the work to do that. So I feel good about this process and the strategy that you guys are moving forward with."