January started bringing an abundance of snow to many ski resorts and especially to many western mountain slopes. And, news about a drop in both COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations is a positive sign.
That combination gave a boost to lodging properties in 18 mountain destinations across eight western states, according to the mid-winter report distributed by DestiMetrics,* the business intelligence division of Inntopia, at their monthly Market Briefing. While properties gained some ground, seasonal deficits remain substantial according to aggregated data regarding occupancy, daily rates, and revenues through Jan. 31.
And, like the Titanic, things are not likely to turn around quickly. Despite the positive signs of increased snow and declining COVID, traffic to the high country in Colorado over the Presidents Day weekend was down significantly as compared to that holiday weekend in 2020, according to The Know Outdoors.
For the four-day weekend that began ran last Friday 2/12 and concluded Monday night 2/15, 152,999 vehicles passed through the Eisenhower-Johnson tunnels, a decrease of 16% compared to the same four-day period in 2020. Presidents Day weekend is typically the busiest of the ski season.
According to the article, Summit County locals chalked it up to extremely cold temperatures. “It was a good holiday weekend, but not quite as busy as we expected it to be,” said John Sellers, marketing and communications director for the Loveland ski area. “The snow has been great the last few weeks, so I think the cold temperatures in the Front Range were definitely a factor.”
Other worrisome issues for western destination resorts are the frequent occurrence of avalanches this winter and visuals of long lift lines especially on weekends. Both are contributing to some negative media coverage. The avalanches are due to unstable snow conditions and the lift lines to safety precautions regarding COVID.
Since the start of 2020-2021 season, Utah has had 356 back country avalanches, according to Nikki Champion, a forecaster with the Utah Avalanche Center. The most frequent avalanches are happening in the Central Wasatch Range.
All things considered, few recreational skiers and snowboarders would venture into avalanche-prone areas anyway. They more likely would be more concerned with safety protocols within bounds.
Comments on various Facebook pages indicate that most resorts are doing a good job of enforcing mask wearing and physical distancing. Lift ticket, restaurant and parking reservations have also helped with crowd control. Ski Utah Marketing VP Raelene Davis noted that “restaurant reservations have been a hit with most people and parking reservations have also eliminated the fear of not having a place to park once arriving at the resort”.