Condor Capital Management’s 2017/18 Ski Season Wrap-Up: Divergent Weather Leaves a Mixed Picture as Resorts Continue to be Scooped Up
MARTINSVILLE, N.J., – (ACCESSWIRE) – As the warm summer air drifts across much of the United States, many skiers and snowboarders are beginning to cross their fingers for a rebound from a somewhat disappointing 2017/18 ski season. Despite a relatively strong start and finish for ski resorts overall, with visitation up more than 52% in October and November and an increase of 18% in March, historically dry seasons for states such as Colorado and Utah lagged on the ski industry as a whole, according to Ken Schapiro of Condor Capital Management. Although the overall number of skier visits was on par with the 40-year average, National Ski Areas Association (NSAA) data shows that this past season generated the lowest amount of skier visits in seven seasons, with nationwide skier and snowboarder visits falling to 53.3 million, a 2.8% decrease from the 54.8 million visits during the 2016/17 season.
While overall skier visits failed to better that of the prior season, ski regions in the Midwest marked a remarkable 17% increase to 6.4 million visits, with ski resorts such as Jackson Hole Mountain Resort and Montana’s Bridger Bowl setting record visits upon abundant snowfall. Favorable weather trends also aided the Southeast region, which saw a 3.6% increase in skier visits to 4.3 million. Departing from these gains, a brutally cold winter in the Northeast region undoubtedly kept many skiers at home, with the region posting a decline of less than 1% from the prior season. However, much of the negative impact on overall skier visits for the 2017/18 season can be attributed to the disappointingly low snowfall amounts in many of the most popular ski destinations, as evidenced by Colorado’s Crested Butte Mountain Resort’s 145 inches of snow, an approximate 57% drop from last season’s 335 inches, as well as a roughly 59% snowfall decrease at New Mexico’s Taos Ski Valley Resort. Poor snow totals such as these led to notable declines ranging from 5% to 14% in skier visits across the Rocky Mountain, Pacific Northwest, and Pacific Southwest regions, greatly detracting from industry-wide skier visits.
From an individual resort standpoint, Vail Resorts (Vail), one of North America’s largest ski resort operators, reported a 1.9% year-over-year decrease in skier visits. Despite this drop in skier visits, Vail announced that total lift ticket revenue at the firm’s North American resorts, including a portion of season pass revenue, grew 3.7% compared to the prior year. Beyond improving conditions at the company’s western resorts after historically low snowfall for much of the season, Vail CEO Rob Katz noted that the firm’s results “highlight the stability provided by our season pass, the benefit of our geographic diversification and the success of our sophisticated, data-driven marketing efforts”. While Vail has certainly relied heavily on the continued success of its popular season pass, coined the Epic Pass, which will provide skiers this upcoming season with unlimited access to a host of resorts, such as Vail, Beaver Creek and Breckenridge for $899, recent developments have proven the company refuses to stand still as competitors bolster their own multi-resort pass offerings.
Specifically, on June 4th Vail Resorts disclosed its purchase of Triple Peaks, LLC, the parent company of Okemo Mountain Resort in Vermont, New Hampshire’s Mount Sunapee Resort, and Colorado’s Crested Butte Mountain Resort. Separately, Vail also reported its acquisition of Stevens Pass Resort in Washington, adding a total of four resorts to its noteworthy ski resort portfolio. Fortunately for skiers, all four of these resorts are now included in Vail’s 2018/19 Epic Pass, leaving a total of 19 resorts with unlimited access for passholders this upcoming season, which Vail likely hopes will firmly differentiate its pass from others, such as the Ikon Pass, released by the recently formed Alterra Mountain Co. (Alterra). Costing $999 for the 2018/19 season (early bird pricing was $899 pre-May 1st), the Ikon Pass gives passholders the opportunity to ski as much as they want at 12 of the company’s resorts, including Steamboat in Colorado, Mammoth Mountain in California, and Vermont’s Stratton.
Although Vail’s Epic Pass now commands the lead as it pertains to resorts with unlimited access, it is important to keep in mind that purchasers of Alterra’s Ikon Pass will also have the ability to ski for up to seven days at 14 other resorts, such as Colorado’s Aspen and Killington in Vermont. Similarly, upcoming season passholders of Vail’s Epic Pass will be able to ski for a limited number of days at 46 other resorts, including popular destinations like Telluride in Colorado, Stoneham in Quebec, Canada, as well as 30 European resorts.
Not to be outdone by these two resort-operating behemoths, Boyne Resorts (Boyne) announced in early May that it was closing on the acquisition of six ski resorts and a scenic chairlift attraction. In addition to the firm’s three resorts in northern Michigan and Big Sky Resort in Montana, Boyne now has ownership of Brighton Resort in Utah; Cypress Mountain in British Columbia, Canada; Loon Mountain Resort in New Hampshire; Sugarloaf and Sunday River Resorts in Maine; The Summit in Washington; and Gatlinburg SkyLift in Tennessee. Now the third largest resort operator based on skier visits, Boyne has elevated itself as a more than formidable competitor to the likes of Vail and Alterra, granting its visitors the opportunity to ski across a wide array of geographies. Clearly, ski resort operators continue to view consolidation as the most appropriate path forward for growth, a trend that will likely prove to be largely beneficial for consumers, as the potential for new experiences, at lower costs develop.
Notwithstanding the variation in weather this past season, the overall ski industry appears to be quite healthy. Although 2017/18 season’s 53.3 million skier and snowboarder visits is down from the 10-year industry average of 55.7 million, revenue for the ski industry has grown at an annualized 2.6% rate from 2012-2017 to about $3 billion per data from IBIS World, a firm specializing in industry-specific research. This positive information, the swift growth of multi-resort pass offerings, as well as a consistently improving economy, leave Ken Schapiro optimistic that a solid rebound in skier visits will take place during the 2018/19 ski season.
For more information about the ski industry, as well as other commentary from our firm, please visit our blog.
Condor Capital Wealth Management
Founded in 1988, Condor Capital Wealth 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 Wealth Management, please visit www.condorcapital.com or call 732-356-7323.
Contact: Ken Schapiro, email@example.com
SOURCE Condor Capital Wealth Management