Top Five Fridays - September 29, 2017 // Ski Industry News
#1: 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympic Schedule and Visa Team Athletes Announced:
Well, we’ve been talking about it for years and now it’s almost here: the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics are under 140 days away. As such, we’re about to be in the thick of “Olympic Lead Up Season” as teams are finalized, venue and course details are released, and commercials start popping up in the middle of football games. This week, the ball got rolling with the announcement of the official 2018 Winter Olympics Schedule. There’s honestly quite a bit to unpack here, but a couple of quick highlights include the introduction of a Snowboard Big Air event, as well as the decision to host all alpine skiing events during the daytime. To take in the full schedule, visit the official PyeongChang 2018 website.
In addition to the full event schedule, we also caught our first glimpse into the U.S. Olympic Team. While the full team has yet to be finalized and the lead up to the games will be chock full of qualifying events for ski racers and freestyle skiers alike, Visa did announce the official 2018 Visa Olympics Team which gives us an idea of which athletes are nearly guaranteed to be at the games. On the Visa team roster you’ll find athletes like Mikaela Shiffrin, Gus Kenworthy, David Wise, and Maggie Voisin. So, no real surprises there, but it is notable as the start of the U.S. Team. For more info, check out the writeup on the U.S. Ski Team website.
#2: Concerned with Safety, Multiple European Nations Might Bail on the 2018 Winter Olympic:
Of course, all of what we just said may be totally overshadowed by international politics. This week, Austria, France, Germany, and Lithuania all voiced concerns over the safety of their teams at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics. As you likely know, the games are to be held in South Korea, creating an environment in which representatives from the world’s biggest nations will all be located just hundreds of miles from arguably one of the most dangerous and disgruntled nations in the world (North Korea). This creates the perfect conditions for a global catastrophe, and while most believe the games will remain safe, the concern may be enough to cause some countries to withdraw.
One interesting idea that has popped up regarding the dangers of North Korea is their involvement with the games. Previously, South Korea has made mention of allowing North Korea to co-host the games, using Masikryong as a host for some of the alpine event. While this doesn’t seem likely now with the release of the schedule, it does raise the idea that including North Korea in the games may actually heal international tensions. Another possible way to include the country is to simply compete against their athletes. At the moment, there are no North Korean competitors listed, but some experts believe that the inclusion of North Korean athletes would actually go a long way in making the games safer. After all, it’s easier to carry out an attack on something you’re not directly involved in. For more on this issue, give this article from the Washington Examiner a read.
#3: Aspen CEO Frustrated with Decline in Mexican Tourism, Points Finger at President Trump:
Ok, enough Olympic talk. Let’s get into an issue that might get some of you riled up. Earlier this week, Aspen Ski Co.’s CEO Mike Kaplan penned an opinion article for the Wall Street Journal. In it, he addresses a decrease in Mexican tourism to Aspen Resort. According to his figures, there was a 30% drop in Mexican customers at Aspen in the 2016-2017 season. The interesting part, and where he’ll likely anger some, is that he’s placing the blame squarely on “xenophobia radiating from the Oval Office.” He goes on to say, “If President Trump is as concerned with the U.S. trade deficit as he says, he should recognize that tourism to the U.S. is a type of export to other countries.” In other words, Kaplan is saying that from an economic perspective, Trump’s take on immigration may help reduce illegal migrant workers, but what’s more valuable for the economy is positioning the U.S. as a tourism destination for those south of the border.
For his part, Kaplan is doing more than simply writing letters. Recently, Aspen launched a new marketing campaign called The Aspen Way which spreads a message of inclusion that the company hopes will help them regain some of their lost customers. It’s ultimately a very complex issue and we’re certainly not going to jump in the ring for either side, but it’s one that’s worth mentioning and sharing with our readers. If you’re a Wall Street Journal subscriber, you can read Kaplan’s letter here. Otherwise, we suggest catching the recap over at the Aspen Times.
#4: Vail Turns in an Impressive Financial Year:
Finally, let’s round out this week with a topic you all know and love: Vail News. This time around, we get a glimpse into the mega company’s financials as they’ve just released their fiscal report for the previous year which ended on July 31, 2017. First things first, let’s talk money. Despite a slow start to the season in Vail’s home state of Colorado, the company still reported a revenue increase of 40%. Of that increase, a full 17% is attributed to season pass sales, while the remaining 23% is divvied up amongst categories like real estate, retail, ski school, restaurants, etc. While impressive, those numbers are also accounted for in much the same way that any resort would account for its yearly revenue. What makes Vail’s case particularly interesting though, aside from their enormous influence on the ski industry, is that the company’s underlying strategy is clearly working. As you may have read here on Chairlift Chat, Vail’s current resort buying spree is the result of their vision to create a geographically diverse network of ski resorts to help mitigate the negative impacts of a less than ideal winter season in any given region. This year, that hypothesis passed the test with flying colors as Colorado’s slow start was negated by quality snow conditions at some of Vail’s other resorts. All in all, the fiscal report from Vail is pretty interesting stuff for those with an interest in the the business side of the ski industry. You can see Vail’s full report right here.