“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”. That opening line from Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities might just sum up the start of the 2021-22 ski/snowboard season. Warmer than normal temperatures during December in much of the country have impacted snow making opportunities in the East and New England resorts are still playing catch-up. A quick review of Vermont resorts trails open tells a tale: Bolton Valley with nine of 71 open; Killington with 66 of 155 open; Okemo with 50 of 121 open, Stowe with 36 of 116 open and Sugarbush with 37 of 111 open as of 12/29. One questions to ask is are resorts limiting customers? Midwest resorts are doing marginally better.
On the other hand, what was becoming a crisis situation on the West Coast – water shortages and lack of snowfall – has suddenly turned into a tsunami of snow in Oregon, Washington and, especially California. The Sierra Nevada range is reporting 17 FEET of snow in just a couple of days. Some resorts have been forced to close, at least temporarily, due to too much snow. Headlines are screaming about the snow totals and the NBC-affiliate in the San Francisco Bay area has been providing a rundown on openings and closings.
Snow in the news always gives skiing and snowboarding a boost. It energizes those already involved and motivates those interested in trying the sports. And that brings us to another “Tale of Two Cities” comparison.
A recent post from Storm Skiing Journal chronicles how Vail Resorts, and Rob Katz in particular, have revolutionized the ski industry. It’s a long article but a fascinating one and worth a read especially for those who consider themselves dedicated skiers and snowboarders. One major point among many is the fact that Vail’s business policies have benefitted greatly those already involved but have perhaps discouraged those who are new potential customers. And the sale of “affordable” season passes that are contributing to long lift lines is only part of the equation. And, by the way, Vail’s stock price now exceeds $300 a share compared to its opening price of around $30.00.
According to the Storm Skiing Journal: “Vail wrapped its 2021 Epic Pass sale earlier this month with a record 2.1 million Epic Passes sold, an increase of 700,000 from the previous year, a 47 percent jump that translated into a 21 percent sales-dollars bump”.
And how does all of this impact newbies”? Storm Skiing Journal cites this: “Skiing’s best story – cheap multi-mountain season passes – has spawned its worst: walk-up day tickets that drop a hefty penalty on the unprepared. Up until a decade ago, no single-day lift ticket in the country cost more than $100. Then, partially to drive skiers toward the Epic Pass, Vail began aggressively raising window rates. Peak-day walk-up lift tickets run $239 this season at Vail Mountain and Beaver Creek, $229 at Park City, and $219 at Breckenridge”.