Conversation with Jeff Moeckel

Jeff MoeckelJeffrey Moeckel is the outspoken leader of the movement to convince Gore management to rethink paid parking. He’s put this issue in the public eye and in many ways Jmokes has become the face of the issue.

After talking to him, it’s clear to us that he loves Gore, and wants to see the mountain thrive. Our interview with him follows.

NYSkiBlog: Jeff, how long have you been skiing Gore?

Jeff Moeckel: I’ve been skiing Gore since 1994 when I moved here with my wife from Massachusetts. I was looking for a local, friendly mountain with some great terrain. Gore fit the bill.

NYSB: How many years have you been a passholder?

JM: Ten years – since 2000.

NYSB: Why did you chose Gore as your home mountain?

JM: Originally it was proximity to home in Saratoga. Then it was about the local feel, the friendliness, the fact that it was state run, the challenging terrain, those little idiosyncrasies like having to “cloud out” if you were skiing the top… the High Peaks double… it just had a groovy, throwback feel.

NYSB: How many passholders are in your family?

JM: All of us (wife, 2 kids) although my 5 year old son doesn’t quite count yet…

NYSB: How many days a year do you ski Gore?

JM: 35, maybe 40 days a year. Every chance we get.

NYSB: Can you estimate the amount your family spends at Gore?

JM: Including lessons, food, the occasional beer, locker rental, etc. maybe $2000 annually.

NYSB: You must be underestimating. We spend $1800 on passes alone and there are three of us. What other mountains do you ski?

JM: Religiously??? My wife and I go to Tremblant just about every year for about a week. I try to get up to Stowe, Smuggs and Jay once a year. I get out West about every other year … this year it’s Jackson Hole, Targhee and some of the Utah areas. I’ve skied just about everything in the Northeast (VT, NH and Maine) but I haven’t skied the Catskills yet.

NYSB: What are your favorite things about Gore?

JM: Tough question…great cruisers like Showcase and Twister. Great fall line skiing like Hawkeye and Chatiemac. Super steeps like Rumor and Lies. The funky front four off the High Peaks double. Epic glades like Dark Side, Tahawus, Double Barrel when it’s open.

NYSB: Sounds like you like the whole damn mountain.

JM: I do. Most of all I really like the “feel.” I consider myself a local even though I live in Saratoga. Someone from North Creek called me out on that once, and I guess they were right.

Gore really is a skier’s mountain. To me that means incredibly diverse terrain. You can always find an empty trail even on the busiest days. I also know so many people that I’m constantly running into friends on the hill.

And I like the fact that it’s run by the state. As a taxpayer I feel a strong sense of ownership and pride in the product that is usually available. You just don’t get that “feel” skiing most Vermont areas … sure Mad River, Smuggs and Jay … but outside of those I really don’t get the vibe I’m trying to vocalize.

NYSB: Outside of the parking issue … if you were the GM of Gore what would you do differently?

JM: I’ve met with Mike and I think he’s a good guy. As I said on my Facebook Group, on Skiadk and other forums, I think Mike has a gag order from ORDA. He’s under incredible pressure to operate a big business on a shrinking budget. He’s trying to increase revenue any way he can.

I think the real culprit here is Ted Blazer and the rest of the ORDA board. I’ve emailed the guy more times than I can count. He refuses to answer some basic questions and pushes those questions downhill to Mike. Does Mike always answer? Absolutely not. If I were the GM, I’d be a much better communicator explaining as much could, without getting fired.

Why is the paid parking so much more substantial then originally stated? Why has snowmaking been so poor? Why don’t we have a half pipe? What ARE the “subtle changes” to paid parking that you’ve mentioned? Why is the ski bowl expansion is so critical to the long term success of Gore? He’s not getting his message out.

HR: Explain your opposition to Paid Parking at Gore.

JM: Get comfortable. First and foremost, the paid lot is substantially larger than Mike stated back in July. In an email to me he specifically said 25% of the upper lot would be paid. If that’s 25% then I picked the wrong day to quit sniffing glue.

Second – why does Gore have nearly 3 times as much paid parking as Whiteface? We’ve got the same number of skier visits and 3 times as much paid parking.

Third – when I ski with my kids and my wife stays home, I like to leave early and park close to avoid having to walk far with two little kids in tow. I can’t do that now. Now I park in the back half of the lot (or in lot D or E) and walk with my kids, and all our gear, through a nearly empty “premiere” lot where I used to park for free. Mike said parents could drop their kids in “short term” day care, but that’s never been fully explained.

Fourth – I pay taxes in NY State so I already pay to park there.

Fifth – it rewards the people who have the extra cash to spend. They can sleep in, knowing full well they’ll get rockstar parking. We save every penny to pay for our passes.

Sixth – it’s just flat out wrong. Name another ski area where nearly 1/2 of their main lot, occupying the entire space from left to right, is reserved for those with an extra ten spot.

For those of you who are golfers…imagine having to pay an additional $10 to park close to the clubhouse. Same dynamic, you have to lug your clubs to your cart, but if you wanna pay ten bucks more you can park real close so it’s not as much of a hassle.

And with all of Gore’s other shortcomings … lackluster snowmaking, no half pipe, limited mid-week lift operations … this is even harder to swallow.

NYSB: Why do you think this issue has resonated with Gore skiers?

JM: I think a lot of the Gore loyalists have the same feelings I have for the mountain.

NYSB: What kind of comments are you hearing from people on your Facebook Page and through backchannel PMs?

JM: Most are what you would expect … dump Pratt, rampant profiteering, no respect for passholders, etc. I think a lot of it is reactionary.

NYSB: What has surprised you most about the effort you are leading?

JM: I expected the negative backlash. I’m surprised by the lack of activism from a “grassroots” stand point. I started this Facebook group and I’ve been vocal because I feel very strongly that this is just wrong. I think the majority of skiers feel the same way.

But very few skiers have gone much beyond joining a the Facebook group or slapping a sticker on their helmet. I guess I’m calling out Gore skiers out…if you disagree with paid parking let Mike, Ted, and Betty Little know about it. You can find their contact info on our webpage. Tell the news media and the ski press how you feel. Don’t shrug your shoulders say “oh well, nothing we can do about it.” This is a big deal.

NYSB: If you were given the task of raising an additional $80,000 from a new revenue source, how would you do it?

JM: Well … I’ll suspend my disbelief and assume that parking will generate $80,000 this year. I don’t see it, but for the sake of argument, let’s use that number.

How about I quadruple that? I’d take over all of the concessions from Centerplate, and take 100% of the profit instead of whatever percentage Gore currently gets. I know the argument … how do you run a restaurant? A bar? What about the employees? I bet running a restaurant is a cake walk compared to running a mountain. Keep the employees that are already there.

Here’s another idea … Gore has maybe 300 lockers at $250/year rental fee. That’s $75,000 in revenue with absolutely no overhead that currently goes to Centerplate.

If Gore would simply own and rent the lockers, the mountain could clear $80,000 much more easily than trying to do it with parking. There’s almost no overhead with the lockers. You’d get zero pushback on it. And how much liability is there in renting lockers vs. running a parking lot??

Combine that revenue with the bar, all the food concessions, ski and snowboard rentals? That’s some serious cash.

NYSB: Are you going to be a Gore passholder next year if paid parking continues? If it doesn’t?

JM: Most likely. I’m a glutton for punishment. That’s sarcasm Harv. But yeah, I’ll be back. I just want Ted and Mike to listen. After all, I pay their salaries.

NYSB: Jeff, thanks for the time and the straight talk. I really appreciate it.

JM: Thanks for the help getting our side out there. See you on the hill.

Facebook Page: Skier’s Against Paid Parking @ Gore

21 comments on “Conversation with Jeff Moeckel

  1. I think Jeff is a reverse snob. Many of us aren’t lucky enough to Live in North Country. Our ski days and hours are precious. On MLK weekend we schleped 6 adults and 2 babies to the mountain in a tightly packed old SUV. We were ecstatic about the paid parking. Ten bucks was way less than the cost of our 4pm beers and maybe a good mountain like Gore made a little more snow with the revenue. Have a little empathy for us touristas who keep the sport alive.

  2. “Gore made a little more snow with the revenue.”

    That’s highly unlikely. You clearly haven’t been at the mountain much this year.

  3. It’s no cake walk running a food service. I bet it’s equal to or harder than running the mountain. That said, a well run food service will throw off a large profit…

    Like james said, great interview..

  4. What gets my shorts in a bunch is the lack of compromise from Gore management. In any other situation where the core customer is upset, a good, a pro-active, management team would be bending over backwards trying to accomplish their agenda without the indifferent alienation. All I get from this management is: “We are sticking with the plan.” It wouldn’t matter if Jeff had 2000 like thinking members to his Facebook group, Gore won’t budge.

    One other point that needs to be elaborated is the upfront cost of the Premium lot that needs to be retired before a profit can be tallied. There are the Normandy beach barricades, chains, poles, signage, the attendant’s cabin, and the additional labor to man the lot and bucket loaded snow removal. I think the cost is significant and the money could have been better spent on making snow. More snow always makes everyone happy!

  5. Be careful what you wish for on the food service. ORDA began discussions to dump (not renew) Centerplate last Fall. As it is, they have renewed the contract for one year. There is a reason that other venues (ballparks, race tracks, universities) stick to their core competencies and outsource their food service. It’s a very tough business. Gore would lose money and the quality would likely suffer. OTOH, taking the lockers out of the contract and, maybe, the retail ski shop could increase revenues. However, it may be too late to get Centerplate to go for those changes.

  6. Harv, that was a very interesting interview.

    I think this has become so controversial because it’s just so damn visible. I am interested in hearing what Jeff Moeckel (and other HR readers) thinks of alternatives to the current configuaration: valet parking, a new separate dedicated (and presumably much smaller) lot, adjust the size and location of the current lot so that it is not edge-to-edge and is more appropriately sized (i.e. smaller). I’m also interested in what “subtle adjustments” have been made or are under consideration by Gore mgt. I suspect that Moeckel and others don’t have much objection to the concept of paid parking – it’s more the way Gore has executed it that has so many people po’d. Moeckel is correct on the communication issue: an appropriately worded communication from Gore could really help to dissipate the ill will that has gathered around this issue.

    One final thought: There’s a lot to be said for sticking to one’s core competencies and outsourcing the peripheral stuff. A lot goes into the management of the food service that could easily become a distraction to management of the ski area.

    Thanks again Harv for a very interesting piece.

  7. Wow, I’ve never been called a reverse snob before… As far as how precious your snow days are, I sincerely doubt paid parking added much more than 1 run to your day & the ten spot you paid to park probably provided for a 6″ x 6″ square of snow approx. 1/4″ deep…hope you found it.

    And no, I’m not necessarily against paid parking, I’m against paid parking taking up the entire lot from left to right & the fact that we were lied to in regard to the scope of what it would actually be.

    Finally, as far as running the concessions go, here’s an easy solution to making sure it’s run properly & profitably, which I’m fairly certain it is now…go to Albert, Mike & the rest of the management & key employees of Centerplate & offer them the job of running it just like they do right now. I don’t know how much easier it could be. Problem solved.

  8. Jeff hiring key employees away is not that easy..I have a management job at a college food service. I had to sign a non-compete agreement. If the school I work for throws out my company and goes self-op, I can’t work for the college..Just some food for

  9. I understand what you’re saying jason, i’ve dealt with non-competes before…but 1 thing they can’t do is deny you the right to work even if ORDA throws them out. Centerplate, legally, wouldn’t have a leg to stand on & it’s not as if north creek is a bustling economic powerhouse with thousands of jobs to offer.

  10. Jmokes Just your take on being called a reverse snob shows you that you may be one. Simply it’s the guy in North Country or Colorado who can justify the season pass, while us peasants for whatever reason are stuck 150 miles South or 6 hours by plane and are damn lucky if we get a decent 10 days. Meanwhile the lucky ones look down their nose at us, yet we pay the bills that allow the mountain to remain open and to do that all important expensive snowmaking. We still love to ski but reality bites. By the way I’m not trying to remain anonymous but can’t seem to comment any other way. Maybe my techie son will tell me how to name myself.

  11. Wow, i didn’t mean to strike a nerve but i take offense to being called a snob. Sorry for where you have to live in relation to gore but it’s actually those of us that are fortunate to live close & are there from 1st bell to last that keep the lights on at the mountain, not you. And the fact that you seem to have a grudge toward season pass holders is really interesting. parking is a right, not a privilege. And if you do, in fact, get in 10 decent days you’re actually spending about $40 more than if you bought a pass so maybe you should consider that next year.

  12. Hey, some of my best friends are season passholders. My good ten days include one or two at Belleayre, 3 or 4 at Gore and 4 at Vail. So a season pass isn’t in the cards. Parking’s a right ok, I was hoping Health Care would become a right but if you can make Parking a right God Bless.

  13. I never heard the term reverse snob before — I had to look it up. Wiki: “Reverse snobbery is the phenomenon of looking unfavorably on perceived social elites..”

    I’m very curious about how important passholders are to various mountains.

    Mike Pratt told me passholders were 20% of total revenue. While that surprised me (I thought it would be higher) …. Tony Lanza of Belleayre thought that number sounded pretty good …. his number was 8% of total revenue from passholders. If anyone knows about the numbers for other mountains…

  14. God bless passholders and God Bless Day trippers, we all have an investment in keeping an Eastern mountain financially viable. Having skied in the late 80s I can tell you that there are only three keys to skiing south of Burlington Vt. Snowmaking, snowmaking, and more snowmaking. That costs money and takes water. Nice lodges and free parking don’t make it if you got no snow.

  15. Well, then how in the world do the other ski areas do it without charging to park or have a paid lot 1/2 the size of Gore’s? Your argument makes no sense…

    The reason behind paid parking is to make up for budget cuts from the state. Plain & simple. That money is not being used to provide additional services or increased snowmaking.

  16. You are absolutely correct, Gore is dependent on State revenue and [reality bites] Revenue is in the tank, the taxpayers are angry, so if some bennies [thats what touristas are called at the Jersey Shore by the locals] want to fork over 10 bucks and this helps Gore stay at least on status quo while the State cuts, that’s life. A walk from D lot to save ten bucks isn’t exactly climbing Mt. Washington. In the immortal words of the Stones “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you get what you need.” We need Gore to stay viable and skiable.

  17. I am a Gore passholder. Paid parking is a great idea, because someone else is paying for something I get for free. I arrive before 8am, and park just as close as the paid parking. There are less people skiing the first few hours because they sleep in, knowing they can pay to park.

  18. Basically they’re charging for unnecessary parking. A small area for “premier parking” is definitely okay, it may even entice more people to come, knowing that they will have a place to park, regardless of when they arrive. But the amount of parking they have reserved is a little bit out of the question. The money they make off the parking… is going where? Has anyone seen lodge improvements? Has anyone seen better snowmaking (check that, ANY snowmaking)?

    No, you haven’t.

    Also, what’s up with the terrain park? 2 jumps, 2 rails, 2 boxes? wow that’s some park… for the skiers: no moguls?

    I’m not against paid parking. I’m against 1/4 of the lot used for paid parking, especially when it sits empty day after day. And I’m against (increased) revenue from that parking with no mountain improvements (aside from burnt ridge, though it is never open). I say (increased) because who knows if they actually make more money since nobody is parking there.

  19. Some thoughts from a weekly Gore skier and *volunteer* employee (Patrol).

    Pratt is a pretty good guy and genuine grass roots local skier; if he wasn’t forced into this paid parking mess by the powers-that-be it’s a safe bet he would never do it.

    If you’re a genuine local and/or off-peak passholder you know that no one’s paying for the shortwalk midweek; it’s all free.

    Every weekend I’ve been at Gore that paid lot is choc-a-bloc full, it doesn’t seem that too many of the skiing public has an issue with it. If you think paid parking is an imposition, just wait until your school taxes skyrocket as your local districts start trying to make up those budget shortfalls!

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