Mid-Season Report: As Snow Goes, So Go Resorts
SAM Magazine—Martinsville, N.J., Feb. 4, 2014—As the wintersport season nears its midpoint, several sources are weighing in with their projections for the season. RRC estimates resort visit totals will range between 51 and 53 million, depending on weather and other factors over the season’s second half, while destination lodging visits appear to be on the upswing, according to researcher DestiMetrics.
Thus far, the 2013-14 season has seen widely divergent performance across regions. Many areas from the Rockies to the East Coast have enjoyed robust snowfall, though frequent thaws have damped business on occasion in the East. Many West Coast areas suffered from a historic dearth of precipitation early in the season, though resorts in Oregon and Washington especially have been getting snow of late. Even so, in Oregon, Hoodoo Ski Area and Mt. Ashland have yet to open for the season.
According to Condor Capital, through January, California's 25 ski resorts saw the lowest snowfall totals since 1971-72. The state's snowpack was only 12 percent of normal for this time of the year, the lowest level recorded since data collection began in 1960, according to Condor. Through January, Mammoth Mountain had received just 48 inches of snow; its yearly average is 400 inches.
Due to the low snowfall, resorts in California have experienced declines of up to 50 percent in skier visits. Mammoth, which has recently received enough snow to open the majority of its terrain, is now forecasting 950,000 visits this season, down from an average of 1.3 million. Condor predicts that the struggles in California will likely strain the finances of some smaller resorts and could spark a wave of takeovers and consolidation.
On the other hand, through December, Colorado visits were nearly 7 percent above the five-year average, according to Colorado Ski Country USA. Results for many areas in the Northeast and Midwest have been favorable as well.
From a lodging perspective, DestiMetrics data show that occupancy at mountain resorts was up 6.2 percent nationally through the holidays. At The Assembly, held in Denver Jan. 31 during the SIA Snow Show, DestiMetrics forecast a 7 percent increase in overnight stays for the full season, and an 11 percent increase in lodging revenues.
Retailers have also benefited from cooperative weather in most areas of the U.S., including a strong finish to last season. SnowSports Industries America (SIA) and the Leisure Trends Group's RetailTRAK said that snow sports retailers enjoyed a record holiday season, with sales through December hitting $2.2 billion, beating last year's $2.01 billion and 2010-11's record $2.17 billion. The drought in California, however, will likely impact retail sales in January and into February.