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Independence is Ingrained in Holiday Valley’s DNA

Dash Hegeman

A Rich History of Family-Based Values has Allowed Holiday Valley to Thrive

Like any industry, the ski industry is predicated on evolution. At its heyday in the 60’s and 70’s there were approximately 725 ski resorts in the United States. Today, only about 470 remain. Those who have been able to adapt have persevered, while those who have not now only exist in the stories of yesteryear told by your resident ski bum who still swears by his 210 K2’s and insists on reminiscing about $10 lift tickets. 

Established in 1957, Holiday Valley has a proud history of growth due to smart, strategic decision making and staying true to its core set of family-based values. Since day one, Holiday Valley has been an independent ski resort, focused on growing the sport of skiing (and eventually snowboarding) while also being a part of the transformation of Ellicottville into a one of a kind ski town and year-round destination. 

The Early Years:

Opening day of its inaugural season was January 7, 1957. But the story of Holiday Valley began years earlier. In the early 1950’s a small group got together to explore the hills of Ellicottville for a spot to build a ski hill that would be open to the public. The group, made up of Bill Northrup, Dick Congdon, Bob Stubbs, Bob Siemer and a few others, had been skiing in Ellicottville on Greer Hill for years but felt that Greer was getting too crowded and they had a vision for something different. 

Throughout 1956 and 1957, the group would gather on the weekends to plan out the lifts and trails. Their wives sold shares of Win-Sum Ski Corp stock for $100 from a card table that they set up on a dirt road across from the proposed ski trails (Yodeler and Edelweiss). They would eventually purchase 30 acres of land for $1,050. Joining the group of fundraisers was Bill Northrup’s wife, a young woman whose passion for skiing began when she was 14 and watched Sun Valley Serenade. That woman’s name; Edna Northrup. 

Present Day:

Today, Edna Northrup is the last remaining member of the original group of investors and while she said, “In my wildest dreams I never could have imagined what Holiday Valley would become”, her passion and enthusiasm for Holiday Valley is the same today as it was 64 years ago. In fact, it is safe to say that Edna Northrup is symbolic of the Independence that makes Holiday Valley so successful today. Family values, grit, determination and a passion to see a dream come to fruition are attributes that drove Edna. And those attributes became ingrained deeply into the DNA of Win-Sum Ski Corp. 

Being a thriving independent ski resort is a bit of a rarity in today's landscape. The ski industry has become a place where bigger is perceptively better and where strength in numbers provides fiscal security and efficiency. But while larger corporations have focused on buying up resorts in hotspots like California, Colorado and Utah, this side of New York State has remained relatively untouched by the industry heavy hitters. Little known fact, New York State has more ski areas (51) than any other state in the country. Of those 51 ski areas, Holiday Valley prides itself on being near the top of the list on a year-in, year-out basis.  

This year, for the 14th time since 1999, SKI Magazine readers ranked Holiday Valley in the top 10 of its Reader Resort Survey. The #6 in the East rating that the Valley received this year made it one of only two resorts in New York to make the Top 10 and it was also the only resort in the top 10 to operate with less than 1,000 vertical feet. This is a testament to how the guests of Holiday Valley admire the continued investment into the resort. And investing back into the resort is one of the many reasons why Holiday Valley has been able to make such a good name for itself in the ski industry. 

In 2008, The New York Times published a piece that talked about how Ellicottville, NY was the “Aspen of the East”, a phrase that focused on both the on-hill fun and the apres ski options throughout the Village of Ellicottville. Since that article was published, Holiday Valley has continued to flex its muscle in the ski industry by investing a substantial amount of money back into the resort in order to improve amenities in both the winter and the summertime experience. 

In the past year alone, the resort invested $2.9 million in various improvement projects to enhance the guest experience. Some of the improvement highlights include the purchase of a new Pisten Bully 600 Grooming Tractor, upgrades to the snowmaking system, phase II of the LED slope lighting project, expansion of the SNOWSat snow depth system, purchasing new Snowsports uniforms and planning for two new lifts to be installed in the next few seasons. 

One of the most significant benefits to being independently owned has been the ability to cultivate and maintain a strong relationship with the Village of Ellicottville. The growth of the Village has essentially mirrored the growth of the resort. Boutique shops and top-notch eateries line the streets of downtown Ellicottville; making the village a true ski town experience for guests of all ages and backgrounds. Holiday Valley’s management believes that an authentic Village with independent owners is key to the resort’s success and that by keeping everything local, the resort is able to adapt quickly to the needs of the surrounding area; as opposed to having to run things up the flagpole of a much larger entity and being forced to spend precious time waiting for approval to get things done. The management team is local, invested in the area and the devotion that they have given to the resort over the years has directly resulted in the skiing and resort experience that you see today. 

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