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Snowhaven books strong season

GRANGEVILLE — With a typical number of tickets sold — about 6,000 tickets of all types — Snowhaven Ski and Tubing Area manager Scott Wasem reported strong numbers for last season, which ran Dec. 22-March 8.

“My dad taught me ‘When you borrow something, take it back better,’” Wasem said. “That’s what I’m trying to do with the opportunity the city has given me.”

In addition to regular ticket sales, last season saw about 200 ski lessons given — “about twice normal,” Wasem said. “That’s our next generation coming up.”

Opening before Christmas allowed the facility — which is backed by the city of Grangeville, but operates on its own revenues — to get back in black after running deep in the red following a couple of seasons marked by bad weather.

Snowhaven’s pre-Christmas opening tapped what history suggests are crucial days for the facility’s operating budget.

“The 14 days before Christmas, we bring in more than we get after Christmas,” Wasem said. “It’s when families are home and everyone is excited about the ski season.”

With mid-January openings in 2011-2012 and 2012-2013, Snowhaven pushed into minus territory — nearly $50,000 in the hole. But following an earlier start, Snowhaven reaped about $110,000 in revenue and closed the gap to minus-$5,000.

“This wasn’t our best year,” Wasem said. “When we can get up and running by mid-December or before, that’s when we hit our big revenue.”

The 2009-2010 season produced Snowhaven’s biggest year ever. The ski area was open Dec. 11-March 13 that year, selling about 6,500 tickets and generating $122,000 in revenue.

That marked three straight seasons in the black, during which “we ran an additional five or six days,” Wasem said.

The coming year will mark Wasem’s 16th season at Snowhaven.

“My wife [Audrey] is a real key person helping me out,” he said.

He said several of last year’s employees have recommitted for next year, and said that getting more adults on the crew of about 25 seasonal employees would be an improvement.

He’d also like to enlist a grant writer to help find funding to add an on-site shop for the groomer, which underwent urgent repairs last year.

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