It’s “The Perfect Storm”. Spring-like temperatures in the Mid-Atlantic have prevented resorts from making snow even at night putting the kabash on holiday revenue, New England is on-again, off-again, Lake Tahoe and other west coast areas have unprecedented amounts of snow, Covid is rearing its ugly head and just about everyone is experiencing labor shortages. What a topsy-turkey beginning of the ski season THIS has been.
Virginia’s Massanutten and Wintergreen resorts and Vail’s southern PA resorts – Liberty, Roundtop and Whitetail all were forced to close during the holidays because of “weather conditions”, putting a dent into crucial revenue. In fact, Liberty opened on 12/28 for the season and closed again on 12/30. New Year’s Day and day after temps hit in the mid-60s. Not to add insult to injury, a near blizzard on 1/3 is dumping buckets of snow with a weather forecast promise of colder night temperatures to keep snow cover manageable in the near future. Just a few days ago, the Lake Tahoe area experienced almost 17 feet of snow and resorts were forced to close for a completely different reason. Too much of the white stuff. New England is somewhere in between.
But, snow conditions (or lack thereof) aside, bigger issues at resorts continue to be dealing with Covid and lack of resources, especially staff. One of the industries behemoths – Vail Resorts – is under the gun for numerous challenges as outlined in a recent article by the Colorado Sun’s Jason Blevins. Vail owns 34 ski resorts in 14 states and Canada, not to mention their holdings in other places abroad. The company sold 2.1 million pre-purchased Epic passes this year, a 17% increase over the 2019-20 season. There are only around 10 million skiers and snowboarders in the U.S. (depending on who you believe) so Vail controls about 20 percent. Photos of long lift lines during the holidays at mostly major resorts, and especially Vail properties, visually depict that this has meant.
What Vail is doing via its business model has changed the paradigm of the ski industry but more seems to be at stake. A former ski industry veteran named Alex Kaufman actually bought a web site URL called Epicliftlines.com in an effort to monitor via social media what is happening at so many U.S. resorts. The Instagram account is exploding. Blevins cites this in his story.
At the end of the day, the “ski and snowboard product” is a business and it means something different to those charged with delivering the product and those who sample it.
Perhaps the lesson is to research thoroughly where you are going and when to make sure that you get the biggest bang for your buck.
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