What does the economic downturn mean for skiing? Love your locals. While you might see miles of empty condos in Vail or Big Sky this year, some smaller resorts located nearer to a population base are enjoying record numbers. High-priced trips to destination resorts are out. Daily or weekend trips to resorts closer to home are in. And, as always, deep snow can trump location and the economy.
At California’s Mountain High Resort, John McColly, director of marketing, reported that Mountain High was “looking to scoop up the people who might normally be traveling.” McColly reported that “visitation increased more than 40% over last year for the two-week Christmas break.” In addition to the 4 1/2 feet of snow they received the week prior to Christmas, McColly credits strong early-season advertising and trade-down vacation scenarios for the strong increase in skier visits.
Taos Ski Area’s Marketing Director, Adriana Blake (granddaughter of founder Ernie Blake), reported that “people were staying a little closer to home” for their ski vacations this year. Located in New Mexico, Taos’ proximity to Texas and other large southern markets combined with 90 inches of snow in December helped the ski resort enjoy a 10-year high in visitors over the Christmas season and the busiest New Year’s in the resort’s 50 year history.
The story is the same for skiing in the eastern US as well. The Massachusetts Patriot Ledger reviews how the struggling economy is keeping skiers close to home this year. So while airlines and destination resorts feel the economic hit, local ski areas like Blue Hills have experienced a marked increase in sales of season passes, ski lessons, and business in general this season.
According to a Reuters report, skier visits at Vail Resorts Inc. (which operates five ski resorts including Vail, Breckenridge and Beaver Creek in Colorado) so far this season were down 5.8 percent, with lift ticket revenue down 7.5 percent. Vail’s advanced bookings from out-of-state and international destination visitors were down 23 percent compared to this time last year. Aspen Skiing Co. reported a similar decline in visitor numbers, down 8 percent in the two weeks over Christmas and New Year.
Vail Resorts Inc. has responded with a more competitive pass program targeted to Colorado skiers which sold a total of 204,000 passes earning $90.9 million, a nearly 29 percent increase in pass earnings compared to last year.
Skiers are taking a closer look at nearby ski areas and their local ski resorts are courting them. How does that old Crosby, Stills & Nash song go? If you can’t be at the resort you love, love the one your with.