It’s a winter weekend and Art Chapman is sitting in traffic on Highway 89.
After nearly an hour of waiting, the founder and chairman of JMA Ventures gives up. Defeated, he spins around and heads back to his home in Truckee.
Not being able to reach Homewood, which was purchased by JMA Ventures in 2006, has been a major hurdle for the resort, according to Chapman, leading to a 40% dip in visitors in the last 10 years and a 35% dip in season passholder sales. Additionally, Homewood sits in a market that includes major players like Alterra Mountain Company and Vail Resorts.
“The small ski areas throughout the country are all suffering from the same malady and that is the very large ski corporations are kind of strangling them,” said Chapman.
The resort, which sits on Lake Tahoe’s West Shore, has been plagued by traffic created by skiers and riders trying to reach Palisades Tahoe on Highway 89, and those looking to reach Northstar California Resort on Highway 267. The two highways provide access to the West Shore for those living in Truckee or driving up to ski via Interstate 80. During winter weekends and holidays, however, Homewood is “just impossible to get to,” said Chapman.
In the past 10 years, the resort has seen its season passholder sales decrease from 2,800 in 2012 to 1,800 last ski season. Chapman said after reaching out to the resort’s passholders, that dip in pass sales is due largely to traffic on the surrounding highways, stating “people can’t even get to Homewood to ski.”
Additionally, he said the resort had several days with little to no day-ticket sales, while other days only around 100 skiers showed up to the mountain.
With daily ticket sales of skiers and riders falling, Chapman said the resort in the coming years will shift to a model that gets rid of day passes, and adopts a members-only approach.
“We’re going to get out of that business,” said Chapman on selling day passes. “The day-skier model doesn’t work for Homewood just like it isn’t working for a lot of small ski areas across the country, and so we’ve had to come up with a new model to sustain Homewood.”
The plan, according to Chapman, will allow the resort to have a more reliable, consistent revenue source and will offer members a year-round experience that includes summer hiking and mountain biking.
Guests to Homewood won’t see any changes in the resort’s pass structure this upcoming ski season. Changing to a members-only resort will take place gradually, said Chapman, who added that there would be slight changes to the passholder program for the 2023-24 ski season and major ones the following year.
Chapman said that the resort is still working on the program and is seeking community input throughout the process. He said that there’s also been a misconception that Homewood would only be open to those living in the surrounding communities. While nearby homeowners may end up receiving a discount, Chapman indicated the resort will be open to anyone seeking membership.
“Homewood has been around 60 years. It’s an iconic part of the history of skiing in this area and we want to keep it as such. We’re going adjust to the times. We’re trying to do the right thing here.”
Justin Scacco is a staff writer with the Sierra Sun, the Truckee newspaper