Top Five Fridays - May 3, 2019 // Ski Industry News
#1: Preliminary Reports Are in: Ski Resorts Accumulated Over 59 Million Visits This Season, the 4th Most Ever:
This week, we have the pleasure of starting on a high note as the National Ski Areas Association has released preliminary figures regarding this year’s skier visits. As it turns out, the season was a smashing success, with North American ski resorts welcoming a preliminary grand total of over 59 million visits. That number represents a nearly 11% increase in last year’s ski resort traffic, which clocked in at 53.3 million visits. Even better, this year’s figure is the fourth highest ever recorded, and could even move up the rankings depending on how the rest of the season plays out for the ski resorts that remain open. Ultimately, more than anything what this year’s results show us is that, as simple as it is, snow matters. Compared to last year, this year’s snowfall was up a full 31%, with most regions receiving at least periods of significant snow. With promising conditions across North America, skiers felt compelled to head to the mountains.
While this year’s results are certainly worth celebrating, it’s equally as important to not lose sight of the overall trends affecting the ski population. As we’ve noted before, the average age of skiers is increasing while active participation levels amongst the youth are decreasing. That lack of early-age engagement paired with increasingly unpredictable weather team up to cast a shadow on the overall trend of skier participation. Still, this week’s news is a big win for the industry for the time being. To learn more, checkout the official press release from the NSAA.
#2: Ski Area Management Shares the Best & Worst in Ski Resort Marketing This Season:
In other end of the year ski news, Ski Area Management (SAM) Magazine, a professional trade publication for ski areas, released their annual Best & Worst of Marketing Awards. Now, as you browse their lengthy list of awards, keep in mind that this is the magazine that nearly all ski areas receive on a bi-monthly basis, and is one of the ways they’re able to keep a pulse on the industry while simultaneously noting what their competition is doing. As such, this list has predictive relevance for consumers as it can be a look into what’s working well in the world of ski resort marketing, which can ultimately lead to significant trends. Take for example their award for Best Uphill Ski Resort, which went to Sugarbush, VT. That award was won because Sugarbush hosted two different uphill skiing events, one of which took place on a weekly basis after the resort had closed on Saturday evenings. In doing so, the resort was able to keep people on the mountain and in their lodges well after typical business hours. As we’ll see in this week’s third highlight, the early adoption of the uphill ski community could pay dividends in the long run. In addition to Sugarbush’s award, there are a ton of other “Bests” and “Worsts” on the list, amongst which is everything from Jackson Hole’s Kings and Queens of Corbet’s, to the misguided use of January as “Learn to Ski Month.” All in all, it’s a very interesting list to scroll through, and something we’d recommend doing for anyone interested in the marketing efforts that help steer the ski industry.
#3: Excellent Popular Mechanics Article Expertly Captures Spring Skinning Vibes:
The last time we checked in with Popular Mechanics, we shared a borderline insane article that more or less argued everyone should be on mogul skis. This week, we were pleased to see the publication redeem themselves as they published an article that’s quite a bit more in touch with modern ski culture. If you’ve been keeping up with Top 5 Fridays, then you’re well aware of the fact that uphill skiing is one of the fastest growing trends within the sport. Between company’s like Bluebird Backcountry exploring new options for safe backcountry ski areas, and competitions like Red Bull Raid drumming up more competitive interest in the sport, there’s no doubt the subgenre is on the rise. Still, it would be tough to suggest that touring has gone full mainstream, which is why this article caught our attention.
In this first person account of a typical post-season skinning excursion, author James Lynch does an excellent job of capturing the appeal of the activity. Although it can be assumed that Mr. Lynch has plenty of experience with touring (he is wearing Salomon S/Lab X-Alp touring boots after all), his first person storytelling approach really helps sell the elements of what makes alpine touring so appealing. No, it’s not the amount of fast paced skiing you achieve. It’s the whole thing: the sunsets, the camaraderie amongst skiers and snowboarders you’ve never met, the free range dogs, and of course the celebratory summit beer. All told, it’s an entertaining read, and one that makes a great introduction to the sport for the uninitiated skier. If you have a minute and are interested in learning more about what makes climbing a mountain in heavy ski gear, only to ski subpar conditions on the way down, we highly recommend checking it out!
#4: New World Record Set: Fastest Marathon in Ski Boots:
Finally, let’s round things out with a bit of hilarity and charity. As we browsed this week’s top headlines, one story stood out in stark contrast to the rest: a London man has just set a new record for the World’s Fastest Marathon in Ski Boots. No, we’re not kidding. To accomplish this feat, Paul Harnett had to finish the 26.2 mile race in 5 hours and 52 minutes. As it would turn out, Harnett crushed the record, finishing in just 5 hours and 30 minutes, or at an average pace of 12 minutes 36 seconds per mile. While that’s not exactly a jaw dropping pace for most runners, it is quite exceptional given the well known discomfort and awkwardness of simply walking in ski boots. Factor in the distance, and you’re looking at a legitimate nightmare-scenario for many people.
With those facts in mind, it’s crucial for us to point out that, while Paul Harnett is undeniably at least a little crazy for doing this, he was propelled forward by his drive to raise money and awareness for a noble cause. In his efforts, Harnett raised just over $8,800.00 for the British Paralympic Association, as well as plenty of attention. In his words, Harnett figured, “If I can help raise money and awareness for their amazing resolve, and I’m just going to have a fraction of what they go through for a living…”
So, while borderline insane, the feat was also both impressive and noble, leading to a mandatory, “way to go, Paul!” Before we wrap things up, we also need to mention that Mr. Harnett wasn’t the only athlete attempting to break a wacky world record at this year’s London Marathon. Amongst other records set at the race were, “Fastest marathon dressed in a tent (male),” as well as, “Fastest marathon dressed as a landmark building (male).” To read the full list of weirdo records (which we highly recommend doing), click here. For more on Paul’s accomplishment, check out the recap from TGR.