Condor Capital Management’s 2016/2017 Mid-Season Ski Industry Update: A Strong Rebound in Weather Leaves Many Resorts Thankful
MARTINSVILLE, N.J. – (ACCESSWIRE) – March 13, 2017 – So far, most skiers and snowboarders can agree that the 2016/17 season has shaped up to be much better than last. Despite an unseasonably warm start to the season, many regions such as the Pacific Northwest have since experienced significant snow accumulation, bringing forth a solid number of visitors to the country’s major resorts. However, much like last season, the weather story has not been consistent across both coasts, which has many skiers on the East Coast wishing for next season already. Even so, healthy performance across the majority of resorts in the United States points to a strong finish for the ski industry, according to Ken Schapiro of Condor Capital Management.
Throughout both the Rockies and Pacific, warm temperatures and a lack of snowfall in the start of the season caused many resorts to delay openings, alluding to a possible decrease in visitors at resorts in the areas. Fortunately, substantial storms began to hit both regions in late November, leaving Colorado’s statewide snowpack level at 157% of its normal level and many resorts west of the Rockies with snow levels in excess of 500 inches. These favorable conditions have fueled significant business for many companies in the snow sports industry, particularly firms such as Canadian Mountain Holidays, which has been able to take guests on some of the best heli-skiing experiences available in recent years.
Despite the slow start to the season, resorts in the Rockies have managed to attract a solid number of visitors thus far. As per Colorado Ski Country USA (CSCUSA), total skier visits at its 22 member resorts for the first period (October 21-December 31) were down single digits compared to last year’s first period visit numbers, but still 3% over the five-year average. Resorts in the Pacific and Pacific Northwest have also fared well, recording increases in both occupancy and revenue for the season so far. According to DestiMetrics, occupancy levels at the 19 mountain destinations it tracks across the Pacific and Pacific Northwest have increased by 1.6%, while revenues have surged over 10%. As a result of the increased demand, lift ticket prices as a whole in the U.S. have grown by 5.6% from last year (according to Liftopia, a website that offers lift tickets across the U.S.), with many resorts increasing their one-day lift tickets by over 10%.
Unfortunately, not every region has been able to reap the benefits from the many storms that this season has brought forth. While visitors to resorts in states such as Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine have been able to experience solid skiing conditions since late November, many resorts in the Mid-Atlantic have had to deal with extremely poor weather circumstances. Unseasonably warm weather and severe lack of snowfall forced numerous resorts in the area to delay openings, or close their operations entirely. Wisp Resort in Maryland closed its doors on February 26th after only receiving 56 inches of snow, a dramatically lower amount than is typically expected.
While ski conditions for many individuals in the Northeast are anything but favorable, recent consolidation in the industry has given skiers in the region the opportunity to travel to more resorts than ever before. On February 21st, Colorado-based Vail Resorts acquired Vermont’s Stowe Mountain Resort, one of the oldest and most prominent resorts in America. This acquisition is significant news for frequent skiers to this premier Northeast destination, as the resort will be included in Vail’s Epic Pass beginning next season, giving skiers more freedom to potentially evade poor skiing conditions and experience a wider array of slopes. Owners of the Epic Pass have unlimited access to several of Vail’s premier locations, including Park City in Utah and Colorado’s Breckenridge, as well as five complimentary days to Whistler Blackcomb in Canada, a world-acclaimed resort that Vail acquired in the summer of 2016. However, those looking to secure a pass for next season should do so soon, as prices of the Epic Pass have been steadily increasing. Since the 2014/15 season, early bird (before April 9th) pricing of the Epic Pass has increased by $40 each season, now costing $859 for 2017/18. Given the success that Vail Resorts has had with its pass (i.e. 24% growth in season passes sold during fiscal 2016), it is safe to assume that these price increases will continue going forward.
On the retail front, data from early winter months point to a weakness in sales of cold weather apparel. According to the NPD Group, October 2016 sales of many cold weather retail categories decreased by double-digits, with cold weather boots down over 20%. While these figures are certainly not positive, it can be expected that sales have and will increase following the improved weather and increased resort visitors levels in many regions, resulting in relatively strong overall sales come season-end.
Looking forward to the final months of the season, forecasts by the Weather Company indicate that weather trends thus far are likely here to stay, suggesting that occupancy levels at resorts west of the Rockies will remain strong, while those on the East will continue to face the woes that unseasonably warm weather brings. The Rockies and Northwest are poised for continued cold and snowy weather, while areas east of the Rockies are forecast to experience warmer-than-average temperatures up to spring. Given this generally positive weather forecast and the strong visitor trends that exist in many key skiing regions, we expect skier days to grow by 3-5% for the season, or 55.5 to 56.6 million skier visits.
For more information about the ski industry, as well as other commentary from our firm, please visit our blog.
Condor Capital Management
Founded in 1988, Condor Capital Management is an employee-owned, SEC-registered investment advisor based in Martinsville, N.J. employing 16 professional and support staff. Since Condor is a fee-only investment management firm, its fees are based on portfolio size, not sales commissions or number of trades. For more information on Condor Capital Management, please visit www.condorcapital.com or call 732-356-7323.