Top Five Fridays - May 12, 2017 // Ski Industry News
#1: Aspen Building Upon Tiny Home Success:
Let’s start this week off with an update of a story we first presented back in January when Aspen decided to test the idea of using tiny homes for employee housing. At the time, Aspen was investing in 6 individual tiny homes that they would use to test the value and practicality of a larger investment. Well, the pilot appears to have gone well as Aspen announced this week that they will be building an additional 34 tiny home units in the Aspen Basalt campground. While the new homes will be built by the same manufacturer (quick shout out to Sprout Tiny Homes), they will also be slightly upgraded from the initial 6. To accommodate more employees, the new homes will be larger, and suitable to accommodate up to 3 adults. In addition to more room, the new tiny homes will also be 1.5 bath rather than just a single bathroom. When all is said and done, the 40 tiny homes are expected to house up to 102 seasonal staff members. For more details, as well as a bit more backstory regarding the conflict this investment is causing in the campground, give this article from the Aspen Times a read.
#2: Italian Dry Slope Company Introduces Novel Urban Skiing Concept
Here’s a cool news story: an Italian manufacturer of dry slope surfaces announced this week via Youtube that they’re embarking on a plan to introduce year round ski slopes to city centers within range of ski areas in an effort to encourage people to learn how to ski or snowboard. The most intriguing part of this plan to us, is that it plays off the idea of a feeder hill in a new and exciting way. As you know from our semi-constant promotion of community ski areas and feeder hills, most skiers learn to ski at small, family owned resorts. When they’re old enough, they outgrow their roots and become some of the most dedicated skiers at destination resorts in places like Utah, Colorado, or Vermont. With this new idea, Neveplast aims to recreate a feeder-hill like experience in metro areas by making skiing more accessible than ever. While the above video shows a relatively tame experience, we’re willing to bet that as this idea develops, freestyle features will also be added to the parks as there is clearly a market for such a thing. You can learn more at the Neveplast website, right here.
Lastly, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention that there’s a company in the U.S. called Urban Snow that has similar ambitions. Essentially, their business model is to also build ski centers in urban areas, encouraging the growth and development of future skiers. You can check them out on Facebook here, or on their website here.
#3: Total Skier Visits Are Up From Last Season:
Well, the results are in and they’re about what we’d expect: skier visits were up in the 2016-2017 U.S. ski season compared to the numbers from last year. According to the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA), there were 54.7 million skier visits to resorts this winter, up from 52.8 million and representing a 3.7% increase. As you could probably guess, the jump in visits is largely being attributed to better snow conditions across much of the west as many resorts went from below average snowfall last year to exceeding expectations this year. While this is certainly a positive bit of news, cynics will also likely point out that this year’s 54.7 million skier visits was still below the 20 year average of 56.1 million visits (dating back to 1997). While there’s some validity to this distress, the ski community should remain optimistic as new innovations in ski technology and ski surfaces (see news item #2) continue to make skiing more accessible than ever. For more information, check out the full writeup from the Aspen Times.
#4: Vail and Aspen Are Growing, But is it Legal? :
Alright, finally, the most exciting news of the week (assuming you’re a business nerd as well). As you undoubtedly know, Vail’s been scooping up ski resorts left and right for over a year now. Last month, Aspen Ski Co. decided to get in on the action by partnering with KSL to purchase six resorts from Intrawest, as well as four more resorts from Mammoth. While this was clearly a move meant to keep Vail’s western properties limited and to remain competitive, it’s also raised legal questions regarding whether or not the ski industry is becoming a duopoly with just two parent companies owning a majority of the sport’s resorts. Put simply, the concern is this: with a majority of the resorts combined under just two owners, it presents the possibility for collusion that results in the coordinated raising of lift ticket prices. This is the exact reason why anti-trust laws are in place, and could become a factor in the further consolidation of the ski industry. At present, there are no actual lawsuits or complaints underway, but the likelihood is increasing and is also not without precedent. A similar situation occurred back in 1997 when Vail attempted to buy three ski areas from Ralston Resorts that would’ve given them control of over half the market in a geographic area (Colorado). As a result of an official complaint, Vail was ordered to sell Arapahoe Basin in order to avoid monopoly issues. Again, there are no actual complaints or lawsuits at this time, but the Denver Post published a fantastic piece this week that dives into some of the legal questions that are arising, as well as connections to the 1997 incident. If you’re interested in digging deeper into this story, we urge you to give this article from the Denver Post a read.