In analyzing survey results, it is apparent that individual ski areas are impacted differently by several factors including State or Province COVID protocols, weather, drive or fly markets, and operational changes enacted at the ski areas. Certain ski areas with a heavy retail presence saw high retail sales but lower rental sales. Similarly, some operations with high season pass sales saw a reduction in day ticket sales. Conversely, areas in large resort communities saw increases across the board.

Despite dramatic decreases in dining and event participation, our pass sales, rentals, and community programs have more than made up for any lost revenue. We are having a banner year and can’t believe how many people are out nordic skiing!

Christie Hicks

Executive Director, Crested Butte Nordi

In analyzing survey results, it is apparent that individual ski areas are impacted differently by several factors including State or Province COVID protocols, weather, drive or fly markets, and operational changes enacted at the ski areas. Certain ski areas with a heavy retail presence saw high retail sales but lower rental sales. Similarly, some operations with high season pass sales saw a reduction in day ticket sales. Conversely, areas in large resort communities saw increases across the board.

More than one-third reported increased revenue for retail sales and lesson sales, and a third reported declines in retail sales and lesson sales. Food and beverage revenue is down at 60% of respondents, due primarily to a reduction in offerings or the change to grab-and-go only.

71% said preparations for a season during a pandemic were “sufficient,” in part due to industry efforts, and 27% said that preparations for this season were good but required some adjustments.

More visits happen on weekends at most ski areas, but at 12% of respondents, weekday visits are outpacing weekend visits.  One area in a large resort community was heard to say that “every day is Saturday”.

Equipment sales are off the charts, pass sales are record setting, snow has settled in deeply after a bumpy early season, private lessons are fully booked and flocks of people have started or returned to cross country skiing.  But more importantly, locals, new locals and visitors have helped us stay safe and open by wearing their masks and following our protocols for health and safety.

Richard Hodges

White Pine Touring

Season Pass Sales

Season pass sales increased at 75% at reporting ski areas. Some reported season pass sales up in excess of 200-300%. Some of this increase is due to skiers looking to avoid having to purchase day tickets or not being able to due to restrictions in numbers.

There has also been an increase in new skiers and lapsed skiers that planned early to make cross country skiing one of their regular outdoor activities this year.

Day Pass Sales

Day pass sales increased at 59% of areas reporting. There are operations where day pass sales were impacted due to high season pass sales, but many other drive and resort based ski areas are seeing strong day pass sales.

Retail Sales

Retail sales are split almost evenly between those where sales are up vs. those where sales are down. Ski areas that are selling skis and boots are generally doing well, and those that have indoor restrictions or are only selling accessories are even or down.

Equipment Rentals

Demand for rental equipment is up 76% at reporting ski areas, with demand up at least 20% at 1 in every 3 ski areas. Although they prepared for a strong rental season, 38% have run low on rental equipment at some point so far this season. Heavy retail sales of entry-level equipment have eased the stress on several rental departments.

Food & Beverage Sales

Food and beverage sales took a hit this season, as expected. With many ski areas opening when the pandemic was near its peak, indoor dining was being discouraged in much of North America, and the grab-and-go replacement was not able to keep pace with previous sales. Almost 60% of respondents indicated a sales lag of 20% or more.

Lesson Sales

Lesson sales were evenly split between those up and those down.  This is somewhat surprising, as many new and lapsed skiers are coming into the sport.  In speaking with many operators, several were concerned about offering lessons due to the COVID Protocols and others had staffing issues.  Many eliminated group lessons and are now offering only private and family/pod lessons.

Revenue vs Projections

A key indicator of how this season is shaping up is how total revenue is comparing to projections. A whopping 52% of ski areas reported that they are exceeding projections despite what may be happening in certain profit silos.  The season is still young, with 12% unable to estimate revenue at this time and 10% saying revenue is tracking downward.

Below are some comments from reporting ski areas:

  • “We have limited offerings this season. We are offering only private lessons, no group lessons, no food and beverage sales.”
  • “Lots of season pass purchasers. Rentals and classes are at 30%-40% of capacity due to Covid-19, occupancy limits in rental shops; revenue will be proportionately lower.”
  • “Season pass sales have been way up. Day tickets might be up or down just too few days open with decent snow to tell yet.”
  • “Only profit centers available are Facility fees (day passes, seasons passes) and Retail. Programs and Rentals are not allowed here right now. Despite that, overall revenues are higher than ever on the back of retail.”
  • “Having to cap day visitors due to strong season pass use and parking capacities. This is also affecting rentals significantly. Also in Dec – we were not allowed to sell day tickets. That’s changed now – so expecting better midweek numbers / non capacity day numbers”

Notable Ski Area Comments

  • “Demand for our backcountry (non avy terrain) tours are through the roof. Especially for snowshoe tours.”
  • “Much quieter in the lodge. Busy in the parking lot. Extended night skiing hours a little to help spread out skiers.”
  • “With new knowledge and policies arising constantly, we have found that less is more. We have outlined the basic procedures and have done the most we can to get people out skiing/snowshoeing. Ultimately, folks want to get out on our trails. Once they have a pass, they’re free to enjoy and the worry is lifted.”
  • “More new skiers than ever as well as first time purchasers of gear.”

This survey will be followed by a second retail survey that is closing shortly. Look for those results in the next two weeks.

For more information or for clarification on anything presented here, please contact:

This data is the result of collaboration between the Cross Country Ski Areas Association and Snow Sports Insights. Consumer-facing websites include xcski.org and The Nordic Approach.

 

Categories: Research