CCSAA has been collecting ski area data for more than 20 years and has recently reinvigorated that effort. Following is a discussion of the data collected from the 2018/19 season.
Length of Season
The North American region had a strong season with great snow early, throughout the season, and staying long into the spring. Ski areas had one of their longest seasons in years, up 8% over the previous season to an average of 108 days, and up 30 days from the 2016/17 season. Much of this increase is due to a strong winter and increased snowmaking.
Skier visits hit a 4 year high with 6.2m days at areas that track skiers. This number was extrapolated from the 57 ski areas across the U.S. and Canada that completed the survey. The 31% growth over the previous season, can be attributed to the strong winter and growing interest in cross country skiing as a winter sport.
- Non weighted calculation
- 350 total ski areas
- Average season pass = 12 visits
Adding snowmaking is a conversation taking place at many cross country ski areas. 21% of the survey respondents indicated that they are considering snowmaking. From the interest in snowmaking presentations at the CCSAA Meetings and Conferences, this number will continue to grow.
CCSAA has been discussing the importance of rental fleet upgrades and the need to have current and well maintained equipment to enhance the beginner experience. 80% of reporting areas plan to replace part or all of their rental fleets in the next 2 years, many of them turning over 30-50% annually.
Grooming continues to be an important element for ski areas and a source of pride for operators. CCSAA continues to see investment in grooming equipment including snowcats, smaller machines including snowmobiles and side by sides and implements. Just over half of respondents indicate they will make a new grooming purchase in the next 2 years while just 27% indicated they purchased something new in the last 2 years.
Over the past 3 years, CCSAA has been leading a conversation on revenues. The goal has been to identify revenue sources specifically highlighting categories that are not being optimally explored by member ski areas. Although the numbers of skiers and skier days have been increasing, there is an opportunity to encourage skiers to spend additional dollars at the area.
Trail Passes – Trail passes continue to be the leader in revenue at almost every ski area. Although trail access and grooming are the main drivers of attracting customers, there are other profit centers that can produce incremental revenue and also contribute to a successful guest experience.
Lessons – Lessons continue to be an under supported category at most operations. Successful areas in this category are promoting their instructors and creating women’s programs, learn to ski packages and other creative ways to entice more guests to take a lesson. Many respondents mentioned turning away potential lessons because no instructor was available.
Food and Beverage – Food and beverage are also categories where many areas leave money on the table. Areas work incredibly hard to get guests to the ski area, they must be given a reason to stay and relax by offering a comfortable space to sit and enjoy some simple food. Offerings from many ski areas range from fresh baked muffins and delicious coffee to full blown waiter serviced restaurants. There is a huge opportunity to create revenue from this category.
There are more challenges with offering alcohol, but the craft beer excitement is a big draw for skiers. Having a beer or other drink after skiing helps create a reason to stay longer and contributes to the revenue stream.
Retail – Many respondents do tens of thousands of dollars in accessory sales, including gloves, hats and logoed items. This can be a great revenue generator and can represent significant dollar loss to ski areas that do not have a retail component. Guests frequently arrive without proper accessories or have forgotten articles, plus impulse buy retail items are a great income producer.
The 2018/19 season saw great snow in almost every region of the U.S. and Canada as well as central Europe. Snow, along with the media buzz it created and the long winter, created significant increases in skiers and interest. Not only were more skiers on the trails, but they also were purchasing new gear either as an upgrade or for the first time. At the end of the season, both supplier and retailer inventories were at a multiyear low, a great position to be in.
Ski areas are investing in the future! They are spending money on large ticket items including groomers, snowmaking and rentals. This indicates confidence in the market and that operators believe in the future.
Ski areas are also looking for incremental revenue through their existing operations, but also through biking, summer activities and weddings. Many have access to their complete infrastructure year round and are looking to keep the operation going in the non-winter seasons.
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