The arrival of September typically gets snow sports enthusiasts’ juices flowing as hot daytime temperatures start giving way to chilly nights in some parts of the U.S. A few snow dust sightings out west start making the social media rounds further pumping up the adrenaline. The unusual summer 2021 may provide some hints for what is in store for ski resorts, shops and consumers as winter becomes a reality. Out of control fires like the one near Lake Tahoe, lack of water at resorts due to an on-going drought in the western part of the country and increased concern over climate change are adding to the concerns of industry professionals along with securing adequate staffing and housing for staff, the resurgence of Covid and how it may affect business.
In early summer, Alterra Mountain Company, Boyne Resorts, POWDR, and Vail Resorts have joined forces to develop the Climate Collaborative Charter, a unified effort to combat climate change through shared sustainability and advocacy commitments. According to Ski Area Management magazine, “all four companies have agreed to operate their combined 71 North American resorts with sustainability in mind and to use their collective voice to advocate for effective public policy on climate action.”
The ski industry has tended to low-key the climate change issues partially because it is so weather dependent especially when it comes to investments.
Resorts and shops throughout the country are experiencing difficulty hiring qualified staff or any staff at all. Alan Davis of Princeton Sports in Baltimore recently noted “We have never had this big of a problem hiring, it’s just nuts”. Princeton is looking to fill a variety of positions. “The only requirement is they have a passion for skiing or snowboarding”, said Davis. “Pay is excellent, benefits rock.” Destination resorts in particular are feeling the pinch as well and it is compounded by a lack of affordable employee housing that is crucial for attracting and sustaining staff. The elimination of J1visas has hurt many aspects of the tourism industry including ski resorts.
Despite these concerns, season pass brokers continue to add new locations to their lineup. Indy Pass just announced the addition of four more resorts. According to a press release that was issued recently, “The Indy Pass is expanding beyond North America with the addition of four Northern Japanese resorts: Geto Kogan, Tazawako, Okunakayama Kogen, and Shimokura/Panorama. Indy Pass holders receive up to eight free days of unforgettable skiing and riding on some of the best powder in the world. Local experts from Japan Ski Tours will provide optional guide and concierge services in an exclusive partnership with Indy Pass”.
Ikon Pass today added Italy’s Dolomiti Superski and Austria’s Kitzbühel for the 2021-22 ski season, giving full passholders seven unrestricted days at each mountain. Base Pass holders will receive five days with blackouts. Combined with Switzerland’s Zermatt resort, which joined the pass in 2019, Ikon passholders now have up to 21 days of skiing across the European Alps, and access to 47 total destinations across nine countries on five continents.
One question that has consumers and industry personnel scratching their heads in regard to season pass sales. Will they again lead to over crowded slopes like last winter or was last winter an anomaly?