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So how'd resorts do in 20/21?

ski diva

Administrator
Staff member
In case you're wondering how the pandemic affected US ski resorts, here's an interesting press release put out by the National Ski Area Association:

The State of the Ski Industry:
NSAA releases skier visit numbers & other metrics for 2020-21 season


LAKEWOOD, Colo. – The National Ski Areas Association (NSAA) announced today that skier visit numbers to U.S. areas totaled 59 million for the 2020-21 ski season, the 5th best season on record and a strong recovery from the pandemic-shortened 2019-20 season. A skier visit is counted every time a skiing or snowboarding guest visits a ski area or resort; these numbers are compiled annually as part of NSAA’s Kottke End-of-Season and Demographic Studies. NSAA began surveying visitation in the 1978-79 season.

"What a year it has been. From utter uncertainty to a top 10 season in terms of participation - it shows the wide spectrum that our industry bridged this year,” said Kelly Pawlak, NSAA President and CEO. “We are proud of the collaborative adoption of COVID-19 best practices that all ski areas implemented and diligently followed from opening to closing day. Americans yearned for safe outdoor recreation, and ski areas across the country delivered."

"We are very appreciative of the support and cooperation of our customers, and the tenacious and diligent work of our staff, the combination of which resulted in a successful season,” Pawlak said.

Additional data shows that the average U.S. ski area was open for 112 days this past season, up from 99 days in the pandemic-shortened 2019-20 season. While forced closures impacted many ski areas last season, this year that was not the case – ski areas, for the most part, remained open for their planned season duration.

Small and medium-sized ski areas (defined by lift capacity) performed well this winter, with more guests choosing to stay close to home for ski trips, and increased local demand for outdoor recreation in general.

The pandemic affected both ski areas operations and guest behavior. Among responding ski areas, the most common COVID-19 adjustments were skier capacity limits (both indoor and on-mountain), advance purchase or reservation requirements for both lift access and rental equipment, and changes to or elimination of group lessons. Despite these challenges, 78% of ski area operators said this season exceeded their expectations.

"People had to change their habits during the pandemic, and ski areas were no different,” Pawlak said. “We tried new things and quickly learned that not only did they function as planned but many of these ‘work arounds’ improved the experience for our guests and staff members. Ski area operators will use this experience to continue trying new techniques and technology."

These new technologies included online reservation systems and updated ecommerce solutions as many ski areas required advance purchase of lift tickets to ensure compliance with local capacity restrictions. This resulted in the decline of window ticket sales from 46% in 2019-20 to 17% in 2020-21. As expected, the percentage of visits from season pass holders rose to 51% from 45% in the previous season.


In previous seasons, guests skied most often on weekends and holidays, making it a consistent challenge to fill the slopes midweek. This past season, weekday visitation was responsible for 48% of total visits, a 27% increase from the previous season. Capacity restrictions, remote work and school flexibility allowed for more skiers and riders to visit ski areas midweek.

The implementation of public health best practices kept guests, staff and communities safe, but also posed challenges for the industry. Lessons decreased in number by 30%, owing to the prohibition of group lessons which are traditionally popular. Conversely, participation in a solo activity like snowtubing – which can be enjoyed by a group, but in your own tube distant from others – doubled.

These same public health practices led to the cancellation of large-scale events and imposed severe limitations on dining service. As a result, it is expected that revenues in these ancillary lines of business will be down in 2020-21; that data is still being analyzed. However, ski areas adapted to these changes with 41% implementing online ordering for food and beverage outlets.

Like many industries, ski areas struggled to find workers this season. Sixty percent of responding ski areas stated that they were not fully staffed this winter. The pause on J-1 and H-2b international worker visa programs was a contributing factor; the average ski area was short 55 employees, half of whom would have come on an international work visa.

-------------------------


I, for one, found this particularly interesting:

This past season, weekday visitation was responsible for 48% of total visits, a 27% increase from the previous season. Capacity restrictions, remote work and school flexibility allowed for more skiers and riders to visit ski areas midweek.

It confirmed my feeling that midweek ski days were substantially busier than they'd been in the past.
 

Christy

Angel Diva
I, for one, found this particularly interesting:

This past season, weekday visitation was responsible for 48% of total visits, a 27% increase from the previous season. Capacity restrictions, remote work and school flexibility allowed for more skiers and riders to visit ski areas midweek.

It confirmed my feeling that midweek ski days were substantially busier than they'd been in the past.

Yeah, it's nice to see that quantified. Most of us felt it for sure!

The lesson part is interesting too. My husband talked to a Crystal employee his last day there and they said lessons were in demand except for kids multi-week lesson programs--that was the one area demand had fallen.
 

liquidfeet

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
I find this part interesting:

"Like many industries, ski areas struggled to find workers this season. Sixty percent of responding ski areas stated that they were not fully staffed this winter. The pause on J-1 and H-2b international worker visa programs was a contributing factor; the average ski area was short 55 employees, half of whom would have come on an international work visa."

Only half the shortage in workers was due, industry-wide, to international workers prohibited from coming into the US. That means half the missing employees were locals who chose to not work. Like me. Lessons were down since group lessons and kids' programs were eliminated (at least around here), so maybe those reduced services synchronized with the staff shortages.
 

Jilly

Moderator
Staff member
Quebec was a winner too!

From SAM -
SAM Magazine—June 7, 2021—Despite significant pandemic-related operating constraints, Quebec resorts recorded 6.1 million skier visits in 2020-21, exceeding the province’s 10-year average of 5.9 million visits, according to preliminary numbers from the Quebec Ski Areas Association’s (ASSQ) Economic and Financial Study.
Tremblant.jpg
Tremblant, Quebec
Passholders played a key role in that visitation figure, accounting for 61 percent of total skier visits this season, up a whopping 30 percent year-over-year. The study also showed a slight increase in midweek visitation; it was up 3 percent, quantifying that forecasted trend.
While total visits exceed expectations, restrictions on travel (Quebec was closed to out of province visitors), ski schools, and day tickets impacted revenue substantially. Day ticket revenue fell by 23 percent, and ski area membership revenue decreased by 9 percent. Ski schools were hit hard, reportedly down 62.3 percent in revenue.
Nonetheless, Yves Juneau, AASQ CEO, declared the season a win. “The fact that skiing was allowed all season long in the province of Quebec by the government and that sanitary measures were embraced equally by ski areas’ staff and visitors made all the difference for us. When we compare ourselves to other tourism and leisure industries, it feels like Quebec ski areas experienced a miracle during the Covid-19 crisis,” he said.
 

kiki

Angel Diva
Yes, I see Vail profitability is surprisingly good. See article from Pique magazine:

Quarterly numbers up across the board for Vail Resorts​


Lift revenue, net income, pass sales way up in company’s rebound year even as WB was hampered by COVID-19
Vail Resorts continued to rebound from a dismal 2020, with strong quarterly numbers across the board for the Colorado company—even as its largest ski resort, Whistler Blackcomb, was hampered by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and related travel restrictions.

For the third quarter ended April 30, 2021, the Broomfield-based company posted US$274.6 million in net income, an 80-per-cent jump compared to the same period last year. For comparison, Vail Resorts posted $292.1 million in net income for the third quarter of fiscal 2019, prior to the pandemic.

Total net revenue increased $195 million, or 28.1 per cent, to $889.1 million for the quarter.

Resort reported Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation and Amortization was $462.2 million for the quarter, compared to $304.4 million for the same period last year, and $480.7 million for the third quarter of 2019.


Lift revenue, meanwhile, rose 54.1 per cent for the quarter, to $577.7 million, which the company primarily attributed to strong pass sales growth, as well as “improved non-pass visitation due to the Company operating for the full U.S. ski season in the current year,” with particularly strong demand at its Colorado and Utah resorts.

Excluding its 17 Peak Resorts, which were acquired by Vail Resorts in 2019, the company said total visitation to its American destination mountain resorts and regional ski areas for the quarter was only down three per cent compared to the same period in 2019. That’s even taking into account Whistler Blackcomb’s almost 60-per-cent decline in visitation when compared to Q3 2019, as the resort dealt with the continued closure of the Canadian border and the early shutdown of operations in March.

Pass sales through June 1 “increased very significantly” compared to sales in the same period last year, although there were no spring sales deadline in 2020 due to COVID-19. Even compared to Vail Resorts’ pre-pandemic year of 2019, however, sales for the quarter were up approximately 50 per cent in units and 33 per cent in sales dollars, the company said.

For the full selling season through Dec. 6, 2020, pass product sales were up roughly 20 per cent in units and 19 per cent in sales dollars when compared to the selling season ended Dec. 8, 2019.

“We are very pleased with the results for our season pass sales to date, with guests showing strong enthusiasm for the enhanced value proposition of our pass products, driven in part by the [20-per-cent] reduction in all pass prices for the upcoming season,” said Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz in an earnings call Monday, June 7.

Katz went on to say that, while visitation and lift revenue figures improved throughout the quarter, “our ancillary lines of business continued to be more significantly and negatively impacted by COVID-19 related capacity constraints and limitations, particularly in food and beverage and ski school.”

Ski school revenue rose a modest $3.8 million, or five per cent, for the quarter, while retail and rental revenue rose $13.2 million, or 16.8 per cent. With capacity restrictions in place, dining revenue was way down, falling $16.3 million for the quarter, or 26.5 per cent.

Operating expenses increased $38.4 million, or 11.5 per cent, for the quarter, which was primarily due to operating for the full U.S. ski season this year.

As of April 30, Vail Resorts maintains $1.3 billion in cash on hand and $621 million of availability under its U.S. and Whistler Blackcomb revolving credit facilities.

To read the full earnings report, visit investors.vailresorts.com.
 

mustski

Angel Diva
I don't think this is surprising. Skiing was one of the activities that we could all still enjoy because of the outdoor, fresh air, nature of the sport. When coupled with the flexibility of working from "home," good unemployment compensation for those who were unable to work, and the fact that parents were basically "home schooling" in a good many cities in the nation, mid week day trip skiing was bound to increase. We were super busy in Big Bear all season. Since Mammoth would not allow lodging for a good part of the season, we were inundated both with STR and day trippers. I'm really glad the resorts did well interns of skier visits, but I'm assuming they lost a lot of revenue from food and beverage sales. Personally, I'm hoping next season will be a little bit more sane.
 

Amie H

Angel Diva
Also, airfares were quite low (or required very few frequent flyer miles) throughout most of ski season so that offers some incentive for skiers, too.
At the Vail-owned property I stayed at in March, I got a tremendous discount booking directly through them (like, about the price of a national chain motel per night for slopeside/top shelf accommodation.) PLUS I only paid **$254** for a 4-day Epic pass last season bc of their pandemic pricing (credited back a portion of what I spent in 19-20, even though I used all my premium ski days (but not the "urban" ski days at Wilmot.)
Now I'm trying to build back up my airline mile reserves for the 21-22 season! Fingers crossed I can get nice deals on lodging this year, too. The way I did my Beaver Creek trip was the most convenient and effortless ski trip I've ever taken. I probably would have never considered it but it was well within my budget this past season.
 

marzNC

Angel Diva
Also, airfares were quite low (or required very few frequent flyer miles) throughout most of ski season so that offers some incentive for skiers, too.
Are you thinking about the 2020-21 season? That was completely atypcial. Having booked flights for mutltiple trips out west in the past decade there is a lot of variation based on dates, destinations, and starting airport. Deals for Denver are much more common than for Big Sky or Albuquerque. Far fewer options from RDU than NYC or Boston.
 

Amie H

Angel Diva
Are you thinking about the 2020-21 season? That was completely atypcial. Having booked flights for mutltiple trips out west in the past decade there is a lot of variation based on dates, destinations, and starting airport. Deals for Denver are much more common than for
Yeah, I should have said "for the 20-21 season." ALTHOUGH since ORD is my home airport, over the years I've noticed there are often fares on direct flights to places like Aspen, Vail, and Steamboat in the $200-$300 range BUT those nice fares seems to always coincide with very high lodging prices in my experience.
 

Amie H

Angel Diva
Yeah, I should have said "for the 20-21 season." ALTHOUGH since ORD is my home airport, over the years I've noticed there are often fares on direct flights to places like Aspen, Vail, and Steamboat in the $200-$300 range BUT those nice fares seems to always coincide with very high lodging prices in my experience
*direct flights out of ORD, I should have specified.
 

marzNC

Angel Diva
Yeah, I should have said "for the 20-21 season." ALTHOUGH since ORD is my home airport, over the years I've noticed there are often fares on direct flights to places like Aspen, Vail, and Steamboat in the $200-$300 range BUT those nice fares seems to always coincide with very high lodging prices in my experience.

*direct flights out of ORD, I should have specified.
Lucky you. I end up flying from MDW half the time when going to the Rockies on Southwest. Except for DEN, I pretty much have to change planes from RDU.

Have flown in/out of ORD many times. My BIL lives pretty near there. Although he tended to drive to Colorado or Utah for spring break ski trips with his son and another father/son when the boys were in high school or college. He doesn't really ski that much.

Do seem to be more flights into the smaller airports that are an easy shuttle ride to destination resorts. I'm paying attention to what schedule Southwest comes up with to Steamboat this winter for future reference. Even flying there during the summer in 2021.
 

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