National Ski Industry group report: Western resorts offset near record downturn in East | SteamboatToday.com

National Ski Industry group report: Western resorts offset near record downturn in East

Staff report

While ski resorts in the East struggled with record high temperatures during the winter of 2015-2016, Western resorts notched gains in revenues and skier visits.

— Ski resort operators at the national convention of the National Ski Areas Association this month heard a robust ski season in the West was offset by one of the worst seasons ever — in terms of skier visits — in the Northeast and Southeast.

The Kottke Study, commissioned annually by the NSAA, reflected that Western regions tallied record and near-record visit totals, while the Midwest and East recorded worst and near-worst visitation numbers. The Midwest was down 17 percent, the Northeast 28 percent and the Southeast 30 percent, according to the report.

Colorado resorts fared much better.

Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp.'s parent company, Intrawest, reported Feb. 11 that, at that point in the the ski season, its eastern resorts had experienced temperatures in the neighborhood of 50 percent of 100-year historical averages. In the same timeframe, its Western resorts (Steamboat and Winter Park) had seen above-average snowfall.

Intrawest CEO Thomas Marano said during an early May earnings call that the quarter ending March 31, representing the heart of the ski season, saw growth "across all lines of business" at its Colorado resorts. Average revenue per visit for the company was up 11 percent.

The Kottke Study noted the number of people taking beginner (level 1) ski and snowboard lessons continues to decline. Probably due in part to the poor season in the East, that figure dropped nationally by nearly 10 percent, despite the overall flat visitation numbers.

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It was a more positive story on the West Coast. The Kottke study reflects the return of skiers and riders all along the West Coast after four years of sub-par snowfall and weather. The Pacific Northwest even set an all-time visit record, with more than 4.8 million guests.

With the ski season still underway in Colorado (Arapahoe Basin intends to operate into June and has a mid-mountain base of 58 inches), Colorado Ski Country USA has yet to release final skier visit statistics. But the outlook was optimistic March 15, when the ski industry advocacy organization reported skier visits were up by 6.2 percent for the season, as compared to the 2014/2015 ski season.

“Our Colorado resorts experienced growth across all lines of business due to strong visitation and growth and yield-driving average revenue per visit for the company up 11 percent and effective ticket price up 13 percent,” Marano said.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email tross@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1