Ski industry executives met this week at The Assembly 2015, a one-day forum that took place on the first day of the SIA Snow Show held at the Colorado Convention Center. They discussed challenges facing the industry, including climate change, an aging customer base and aging infrastructure.
The most shocking news came from Bill Jensen, former Vail Resorts exec and CEO of Intrawest. Jensen astounded the crowd when he said he believes 150 ski areas are in “the sunset of their existence”, adding that an additional 150 ski areas could be out of business within the decade.
Jensen separated the 470 ski areas in the United States into 5 tiers:
1. Uber (10)
2. Alpha (35)
3. Status Quo (125)
4. Survivor (150)
5. Sunset (150)
The 45 “Uber” and “Alpha” ski areas combined account for less than 10% of resorts, but approximately 40% of all ski business. These resorts are the only resorts with climbing revenues. While Jensen refused to name specific areas, it’s clear that these resorts include the likes of Vail, Aspen, and Park City.
“Status Quo” resorts are those with stagnant revenues, and the “Survivors” are just managing to break even.
The remaining 150 resorts are “Sunset” ski areas in their final stages of life, according to Jensen. Many of these resorts are too reliant on snow, have no destination traffic, and endure flat or declining revenues that limit investment and improvements. Jensen expects these resorts – 32% of the ski areas in the US – to close in coming years.
“My sense is that the survivors — they’ll survive because a light will go on and people will realize it’s important for their quality of life,” Jensen said.
The number of ski areas operating in the U.S. has dropped to 470 from 546 resorts in 1991, according to the National Ski Areas Association. We’re praying for the health and longevity of all resorts across the country.
Help save “sunset” resorts and show your local ski areas some love!