Is ski resort ownership and management a proper function of state government?
SILVER CITY-People who ski the Porcupine Mountains Downhill Ski Area call it
a unique experience, with its breathtaking view of the world’s largest
freshwater lake. So popular has the resort become that last winter “the Porkies”
had its third-best season ever in terms of revenue.
It only lost $140,000.
Why the poor performance? It may be because the Porkies resort is state-owned
and operated. Any privately owned resort that posted such results might go out
of business or be taken over in short order by somebody who could run it at a
profit. But when the state mismanages matters that properly belong in the
private sector, its government-owned status makes change easier to put off.
Yet, the realities of the marketplace can’t be completely ignored, and to the
state’s great credit it is looking at ways to make the resort more solvent. For
instance, state officials have considered closing the resort on weekdays,
cutting costs, and raising ticket prices.
At Indianhead Ski Resort, tickets are $36 on weekends or holidays; at Boyne
Mountain, they cost $43 on Saturday and $45 on holidays. At the Porkies, the
price is $28, and the price last year was $25. Indianhead charges for children
older than six; at the Porkies, children ski free until age 12.
Of course it’s nice to go to a ski resort that costs much less than usual.
What skiers-and the rest of us who don’t ski-tend to forget is that state
ownership of such recreational facilities are precisely the kinds of investments
that make our tax bills go up.
The state might consider privatizing the resort as a way to save money and
ensure that people get access to the ski area. Greg Hokans, tourism director for
the Western Upper Peninsula’s Big Snow County studied privatization of the
“Porkies” ski resort and concluded that its management might be best placed in
the hands of a private vendor. “Does the state really belong in the ski
business?” he asked.