Top Five Fridays - July 5, 2019 // Ski Industry News
#1: Bloomberg Reports on the Growing Impact of Climate Change on the Ski Industry:
First up this week is an article from Bloomberg that discusses the impact climate change likely had on this past ski season. While you may have a pretty good grip on this story already, we always like sharing reports like this from mainstream news outlets as it helps give us a wider view of the ski industry, and from the perspective of non-skiers in particular. In the report, which you can read here, author Kyle Stock takes on the difficult problem of weaving this year’s incredibly snowy weather in with economic factors such as consolidation, as well as the longterm outlook for the industry. First, he sets the scene: a number of western ski areas are still open, thanks to winter full of snowfall. For multi-resort owners such as Vail and Alterra, the combination of long seasons, excellent conditions, and increased number of ski resorts under their umbrellas has meant undeniable financial success. We won’t give away too much here as the article is full of fun facts, but one number to consider is that Vail’s total revenue rose 14.5%, to $1.8 billion total this season. With the stage set, Stock turns to climate change.
At first Stock’s take on the matter seems almost too positive as he credits climate change as a key factor in the record setting season for many areas in North America. The thing is though, he’s right. In the article, scientist Cameron Wobus cites a polar weather system that became stuck in North America as the cause for seemingly endless storms this winter that brought substantial snow to ski areas. After citing a number of rosy facts about this season’s success, it’s almost worth wondering if Stock is about to be caught up in short-sighted thinking. But then, to close out the article, he delves into a discussion of the future outlook for the industry, which proves he is in fact in tune with the pulse of the industry. All in all, it’s an interesting read, and one that’s filled with plenty of great stats and insights from this past season. To check it out in full, click here.
#2: Vail and National Forest Service Shut Down Idea of EagleVail to Beaver Creek Chairlift:
Speaking of Vail and climate change, an article regarding Vail’s decision to deny EagleVail Community chairlift access to Beaver Creek caught our attention this week. As you might recall, it was just last week in which we shared Vail CEO Rob Katz’s response to Utah Governor Herbert’s inquiry as to whether or not Vail was concerned with having limited access to national forests with which to grow their ski resorts. Katz, strategic as ever, declined Herbert’s bait and instead suggested that the answer to growing his business isn’t in expanding the footprint of his resorts, but in reaching out to new demographics, and non-caucasians in particular.
Circling back to this week’s news, this one simple announcement puts weight behind both of the points made in that response. First, by simply declining to grant direct chairlift access to Beaver Creek from a well-to-do neighborhood, Katz is deciding to maintain the size of the footprint of the resort, and not expand it. This is a core belief of his as climate change and land conservation have been recurring ethical themes with both Vail and Katz’s charitable donations. The second way in which Katz affirms his previous statements, is that he’s not bending over backwards to court skiers of the same demographic that already populates the slopes. In other words, adding chairlift access to a neighboring community would likely do little to bring new skiers to Beaver Creek. Instead, Katz would presumably prefer to attract skiers from new markets, ideally introducing new demographics to the sport of skiing. While we’re still eager awaiting to hear what Katz might have up his sleeve to make that goal a reality, for now we simply applaud the man for sticking to his morals and running a massive organization that does the same. To learn more about this specific story, check in with Vail Daily.
#3: Michigan’s Pine Mountain Ski Jump Area’s Lease Extended by 99 Years:
In other, non-Vail or climate change news, we caught wind of a positive story out of Northern Michigan this week as Dickinson County has announced that it will be renewing the lease for Pine Mountain’s ski jumping venue for 99 years, at a rate of $1.00 per year. If Pine Mountain sounds vaguely familiar to you, it’s because it wasn’t so long ago that it made one of our Top 5 Friday reports. Back on January 4th, we shared the news that Pine Mountain, along with Copper Peak (also in Northern Michigan), was awarded millions of dollars to invest in turning its currently aging venue into a state of the art host that would rival the venues at former Olympic sites in Salt Lake City, UT and Lake Placid, NY. Between January’s news as well as this week’s news, things are looking pretty darn positive for ski jumping culture in Michigan. Providing that Pine Mountain can maintain its non-profit status in Michigan (the only clause on it’s 99 year lease), and the funds are put to good use, it could be just a matter of time before Pine Mountain returns to the status it had during its glory days of the 1940’s. For more on this, check out the report from Iron Mountain Daily News.
#4: A Look at Winter Conditions in the Southern Hemisphere:
Finally, let’s conclude this week with a checkin on ski conditions in the Southern Hemisphere where, as you know, it’s currently winter. Let’s start with the good news: if you’re a skier living in or traveling to South America in the near future, you’ve got some excellent early season conditions in store for you! There, according to OnTheSnow.com, a number of ski resorts opened for the season within the past week or so, with strong natural snowfall. At the top of that list is Nevados de Chillan, where lifts began turning on 6/28/19 with well over two feet of natural snow, and is currently reporting 62” of snow on the upper mountain, with 39” on the lower mountain. For an opening week, that’s not so bad! Elsewhere in South America, resorts like Ski Portilla, Caviahue, and El Colorado are posting similar totals, and have also recently opened for the season. To get a full run down of which South American resorts are open, and with how much snow, check out the South American Ski Report from OnTheSnow.com.
In other Southern Hemisphere ski news, things aren’t quite so incredible over in Australia, or New Zealand in particular. In Australia, a number of ski areas are open, although seasonal snow totals are low, even for this time of year. Currently Charlotte Pass is topping the list with 21” of snow, with a number of other resorts like Perisher, Thredbo, and Mt. Buller reporting closer to 15”. In New Zealand, things are even worse as approximately just 35% of ski resorts are currently open. Of those that are open, The Remarkables is reporting 14” - 31” of snow, while the rest of the resorts are reporting snow totals in the teens or less. In other words, it’s been a slow start to the season for the area. Still, as we learned in update #1 this week, the climate is changing, which can result in unexpected weather patterns. As such, here’s to hoping that things turn for the best for our fellow skiers in New Zealand and Australia! To learn more about conditions in the region, check out OnTheSnow’s snow reports for Australia and New Zealand.