Ski resort performance defies slump in snowfall totals
Ski resort performance defies slump in snowfall totals
29 MAY 2018 9:11 AM

Hotels in three ski markets performed admirably despite snowfall totals well below four-year averages, according to an analysis by STR.

BROOMFIELD, Colorado—Yet another winter has passed, and as usual, the weather was often unpredictable if not outright weird. Some of the hottest areas in the southern United States and Florida experienced incredibly rare snowfall. Parts of the Midwest and great lakes region were seemingly digging out of knee-deep accumulation week after week.

However, it was a different story west of the Continental Divide. Snow totals in the typically winter wonderland-esque Aspen/Snowmass area reached only 201 inches—the lowest November-March total since 2014-15 and a far below the average total of 260 inches in the four prior seasons. What might that have meant for the Colorado ski market overall? Moreover, what effect did we see elsewhere in the parched western U.S.?

Other ski markets in the west didn’t fare much better in regards to snowfall. The Jackson Hole area had a considerably better season with a reported 331 inches, though that was still a steep decline from the four-year average of 435 inches. The story was the same in Park City, Utah (165 inches, compared to the four-year average of 286 inches) and South Lake Tahoe, California (218 inches, compared to the four-year average of 302 inches).

Despite the decline in snow totals across the board, the individual ski area performance results are something of a mixed bag, with the Colorado ski market showing the biggest overall drop among the group.

Occupancy suffered most, dropping 5.2% from the previous ski season, while Park City and South Lake Tahoe each enjoyed modest occupancy gains of less than 1%, and Jackson posted an admirable leap of 11.9%.

Revenue per available room also lagged, dropping 2.8% from the previous season at hotels in the Colorado ski market.

Again, the results were more assured outside of Colorado. Park City and Lake Tahoe were buoyed with a healthy RevPAR gain of 3% and 1.5%, respectively, while Jackson Hole again outshined the competition with a gain of 16.2%. At first glance, it would seem that Jackson Hole is blowing away the competition while Colorado is quickly losing ground.

(Source: STR)
(Source: STR)
(Source: STR)

Certainly, this is not an indication of the impending demise of ski resort performance in the centennial state. Despite the occupancy drop, Colorado still posted the highest winter season occupancy of the group at 62.6%, which is impressive when you take into account that the Colorado ski market also boasts a higher supply (492,807 available room nights in December) than the three competing markets combined.

While average daily rate at Colorado hotels remained mostly static from the prior year, this season’s ADR of $353 would be a huge success for virtually any tourism-reliant market. Factor in a seasonal RevPAR of $232, and things suddenly don’t seem quite as bleak in the Rockies.

If anything, this highlights how unique ski markets can prove to be, as well as the unwavering dedication of skiers and snowboarders. Despite these areas relying heavily on amenable conditions, crowds still generally showed up even when the snow did not.

One would expect to see performance take a coinciding dip with the snow totals. However, most markets not only bucked the expected trend, but thrived in spite of a considerably inhospitable season. Of course, as ski reservations are often pricey and made months in advance, cancellations are less likely even if the snow disappoints.

Over the years, skiing, snowboarding and other cold weather pastimes have evolved from weekend hobbies to niche subcultures. Additionally, virtually all resorts participate in ski pass deals, which encourage customers to ski at a variety of several resorts as many times as possible for one lump sum. Smart booking, paired with a rapidly spreading enthusiasm, has played a huge role in bolstering steady performance even during some of the most suboptimal conditions.

This article represents an interpretation of data collected by STR, parent company of HNN. Please feel free to comment or contact an editor with any questions or concerns.

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