In part 2 of the CCSAA COVID-19 Impact Survey, ski areas were asked about their thoughts on the future. As many states are beginning to discuss and forecast a reducing of the state at home mandate, we begin to speculate about the cross country ski area of 2020-21 and what it may look at. It is understood that it is still early in this pandemic and we know well this situation is incredibly fluid.
34 ski areas responded to the survey. It is important to note the date of the survey was 4/24.
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Q2 – Do you feel your ski area operation for next season will be affected by COVID-19?
91% of respondents feel their ski area will be affected by COVID-19. Only 3 ski area did not feel that they would be impacted.
Q3 – What areas of your business do you feel will experience a negative financial affect from COVID-19 next season?
Day ticket sales emerged as the sales area that would be most affected by the COVID-19 with 76% checking that box. With the exception of lodging, which many ski areas do not have, the respondents felt the season pass holders would see the least negative impact at 44%.
With very few of the cross country ski area operations automated, ski areas are concerned about what social distancing guidelines will be in play at the beginning of the ski season and what the general outlook of the population is.
Q4 – Do you feel it will be important to create new safety protocols for your ski area next year due to COVID-19?
94% of the respondents felt that they would be opening with new safely protocols in place widely sharing the belief that all businesses will be operating under new guidelines.
Q5 – If you are budgeting for reduced revenue for next season, what percentage?
This was a difficult question to answer at this early stage of the virus. 15 respondents said they are not budgeting for next year yet.
Of the 13 that have considered their budget, the percent drop ranged from 10-60% with 6 respondents being in the 20-25% range.
1 respondent did see a positive glimmer as seen in the comments below stating that COVID-19 could help his business.
- Not sure we have to wait to see what we are allowed to do in NY
- A little early to say, we do expect a drop in numbers do to fear of safety as well as many the weak economy will have less ppl spending money. maybe down 20-50%? All depends how things play out.?
- Very hard to estimate
- We don’t start budgeting until the fall.
- Unknown (2)
- Online reservation and payment will be very important. Lodge operation will be limited to social distancing.
- Guestimate and it’s 40% since season pass sales are half our revenue and I don’t think they will be impacted.
- Could actually help our business, who knows
- also, have more gear left over this season than others. Due to abrupt closing.
- Events/Races are a huge part of our revenue, and the continued loss of this will be detrimental to staffing
- Probably shut down all rentals and trail head presence to collect trail fees
Q6 – Does your ski area have the capability/resources to make the needed changes to operate safely next season?
73% of the respondents feel they have the capacity/resources to make the needed changes to open safely for next season.
This indicates a positive reference and an understanding that the changes needed may not be that stringent.
In looking at the comments, many ski areas believe there will be some form of social distancing and the parameters around those restriction will determine the level.
Just under 30% are uncertain if they will be able to make the needed changes.
- Yes, but our main chalet is medium sized and we wont want too many ppl inside, so weekends could be a challenge to handle rentals, food and retail too, but rentals is a very large part of our winter income.
- Greatly depends on what changes would need to happen. We operate out of a small space. Social distancing for example, for rental and retail operations in our current space would be nearly impossible.
- All we can do is guess that the virus is still with us and skiers will few. How do you provide Restrooms and food is out.
- Everything depends on the State Park System and what they decide
- If a second wave of the virus occurs during the Fall, it will cause a health crisis and we will not open for the safety of our customers and our employees.
- Uncharted territory but I’m counting on us having time AND the “scare factor” Diminishing.
- Social distancing when taking care of retail customers will be difficult
- We would have to reduce capacity at our facilities in order to operate safely.
Q7 – Does your ski area have the capacity to handle more customers?
A solid 85% said their ski area could handle more guests than they currently have in the non-peak times such as mid week. One of the limitations to more guests is the constraints of the indoor elements of operating a ski area.
- Yes more members or guests who have their own gear, but about 50% of our guests rent.
- We could handle more customers if they didn’t need to be funneled through the shop. Online sales of day tickets would be once way to manage. That would have a negative impact on retail though, as a lot of our retail purchases are impulse buys.
- Especially during the week.
- Yes, during the week
- Trail space yes, parking gets tricky on weekends, probably no rentals due to social distancing. Although we may just move it all outside to make room.
Q8 – What do you feel will be the biggest challenge to operating next season?
Respondents felt the biggest challenge to operating next season will be operating while practicing social distances. Many of our ski areas experience crowded situation in the retail/rental/lounge areas of their indoor space.
Challenges also involved finances as many ski areas pre sell seasons passes and use that cash flow to cover early season expenses and having the cash due to the abrupt season end to complete summer maintenance.
Read all the comments below.
- Social distancing and having large groups of people in the ski lodge. Large groups are needed to make money though is social distancing is still being enforced then it will be tough to draw people in and get them to buy retail and food items.
- the inside space. rentals and controlling amount of ppl inside
- Lack of snow – Connecticut
- Getting rentals to people who are trying to maintain distance
- Covid does not reappear!
- To be able to sell season tickets in pre-season in order to have the cash to start the season without having to borrow.
- being allowed to open, even with distancing measures; people with a lack of funds to come skiing
- Space in our shop if we have to maintain social distancing of any kind.
- Completing the necessary repairs and maintenance needed before next season with the loss of income at the end of this season.
- Keeping guests apart
- Sanitating rental gear and social distancing in the cafeteria.
- Restrooms, base lodge contact with people.
- Amount of snow
- Being able to handle rentals in a timely fashion, if we have to only allow a certain amount of people in the shop at one time, and cleaning time in between those customers. Possibly lessons will be affected as well, since we have a small staff & may have difficulty having smaller classes with just family members only.
- Sanitation and safe social distancing at the ski area will be a huge issue. If a second wave of virus occurs, we will shut down for the safety of customers and employees.
- The economy is unsettled (at best) thx to pandemic
- Limiting the numbers of guests to adhere to physical distancing regulations balanced with the number of parks users (we operate in a provincial park).
- getting the guests to come travel and visit
- Lodging booking and revenue
- Limiting indoor activity
- people not wanting to be in the chalet
- The ability to host races.
- The challenge will be the virus itself if it hasn’t gone away yet and if there are government restrictions applied.
- We will follow the Chief Medical Officer directions. The size of groups will impact operations, the cleaning of rental gear, and the availability of a vaccine for the general public are key factors. If social/physical distancing is still in place, it will impact lesson participant management to stay 6 feet apart, use of lounge areas. Increased cleaning and cleaning staff will be required.
- lost revenue from trail fees if we have to close our trail head operations; rentals, fee collection, socializing.
- Covid – rental shop, lessons & programs. Keeping staff & customers safe. Climate – will we get snow
- lodging and food service around skiers coming to experience our trails
- making decisions on where to invest given uncertainty in the marketplace now and expected into the winter for travel
Q9 – What do you feel is the biggest opportunity for next season?
The biggest opportunity for the next season, based on the comments, is an offshoot of the packed trail heads we have seen around the country. The population is looking for outdoor activities that are considered safe in this post COVID-19 world.
- Capitalizing on recent infrastructure improvements at the facility regarding lodging. Not yet realized to date.
- Hopefully good snow on Tughill and getting back out doing what they missed out on this past year.
- Well, at least we are an outdoor sport with tons of space on the trails, plus we’re not as expensive as downhill skiing so we are a more feasible option for families/ppl to save money. Our membership has already sold more than last year and maybe more will buy season passes so they don’t have to enter the building to ski or snowshoe.
- People need to be outside and getting some exercise.
- People are desiring outdoor recreation.
- In the best of worlds if the season tickets have not sold, perhaps the daily ticket if there is traffic, will offset losses from the beginning.
- people wanting to get outside
- A lot of people have seemed to have turned to outdoor recreation (walking, hiking, biking) as a means to cope with this situation. Perhaps a opportunity to convert some people in Nordic skiers. Also may be able to convert some alpine skiers to Nordic as they will not want to wait in lift lines or sit in crowded base lodges.
- We continue to have a longer than normal season. People ski here in December and still in April… we lost our spring ski season. Getting people back on the trails.
- Being more in tune with our guests
- More people will feel safe doing outdoor recreation with plenty of room on the trails.
- Sell tickets and Provide no services except grooming .
- People are ready to be outside
- Possibly more business, since xc skiing has always offered “social distancing” opportunities, anyway.
- Promoting an affordable outdoor activity that is healthy exercise.
- Downhill is scarier – sad to capitalize on others’ losses but that is an XC opportunity.
- Innovating the business. When one is forced to operate differently, exciting opportunities often arise.
- sales and rentals and promote a safe environment
- Capture increasing demand for recreation/vacation opportunities that do not involve large concentrations of people or long distance travel
- Capturing a larger percentage of outdoor exercisers since alpine skiing cannot safely operate without limiting lifts to one rider
- Getting more members of the community outside to ski! Also, Online pass sales and rentals- probably something we could have been looking at already.
- People want to get out in the fresh air and ski in your own space with your companion. I believe it might be very busy because we are not dealing with huge crowds like in alpine. Our customers are more spread out although they seem to all come in at the same time sometimes. Our cabins could be busier because people want to get away and be with their family in a remote setting.
- Promote xc ski as a perfect physical distance sport: the equipment and setting of tracks helps people stay fit and stay apart. “Healthy outdoors”. If the aggregate size of groups is less than 250, it will be difficult to manage operations on weekends. Gate keepers will be needed. We may be looking a plastic screens at -in-person service counters.
- I think many more folks will be interested in getting out and finding the glide. I see it as a growth opportunity.
- Natural social distancing activity once folks have gear. Lots more folks getting outdoors at the moment which will hopefully carry over to winter
- focus on increasing guest satisfaction by putting attention on resort cleanliness and making that a new way to talk about your product.
This COVID-19 virus is still a very fluid situation changing hourly and daily. Forecasting for the future is incredibly difficult at this time, but CCSAA feels it is important to start the conversation. We must begin looking at key areas that will be impacted and identifying best practices to return to operation as safely as possible.
There are specific areas of running a cross country ski area that are unique to cross country including the equipment rental operation as well as retail and instruction. We are very different than the Alpine discipline, mostly as we do not process as many people as they do. We are similar in that many of our ski areas have some form of food service and lodging.
From this survey, we do see that there will be operational modifications needed for next year, but we also see some optimism and opportunity. There is a strong case to be made for a new normal presenting itself next year that may allow us to operate with moderate changes needed. How this will affect the potential revenue at ski areas remains to be seen.
CCSAA has created a COVID-19 Task Force to begin discussions about what the post COVID ski area will look like and begin to define some operating parameters for next season. Our goal is to assist our member ski areas with new protocols needed for next season. That group is meeting on a regular basis and outcomes from those meetings will be shared with the membership.