Industry Expert: 32% of Ski Resorts Won’t Last

ameliatraynor | | Industry NewsIndustry News
Ski Areas in the US (Google Maps)
There are 470 ski areas in the US (Google Maps)

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)

Vail, Colorado | Photo: International Alpine Design
An “uber” ski area: Vail, Colorado | Photo: International Alpine Design

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.

Ascutney Mountain Resort, VT closed in 2010 (Unofficial Networks)
Ascutney Mountain Resort, VT closed in 2010

“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!


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6 thoughts on “Industry Expert: 32% of Ski Resorts Won’t Last

    1. Hi Kip,
      Jensen wasn’t talking specifics, so there is no “list” – he’s just segmenting resorts into 5 groups, likely based on variables like attendance, revenues, and infrastructure. He spoke at the Assembly, and hasn’t made any more public statements on the subject, so I’m not sure if there’s a tangible list of resorts that he’s placed in this “sunset” stage.

  1. Found this list on NELSAP of 119 resorts closed in VT (source: http://www.nelsap.org/vt/vt.html) … could be some trends here that would show the rate of closure vs weather and accessibility. Food for thought…

    Current Vermont Lost Count on NELSAP: 119, plus 8 reopened ones

    Northern Vermont (40 areas)

    Barton Valley View ~ Barton
    Brighton Outing Club ~ Island Pond *New Jan 21, 2014
    Bristol~ Bristol
    Brownell Mountain ~ Williston
    Chamberlin Birch/Newport Outing Club Part 1 ~ Newport
    Chamberlin Birch Part 2~ Newport
    Eagan Farm ~ Underhill Center
    # F. Duncan Case # ~ Essex Junction
    Foot O’Mount Lodge and Ski Tow ~ Waitsfield *Updated Jan 21, 2014
    Gilman Tow ~ Gilman *totally updated March 19, 2013
    # Glenn Skiff Farm # ~ Jeffersonville/Cambridge
    Hardwick Ski Tow ~ Hardwick
    Hillside Ski Slopes ~ Milton
    Hinesburg Ski Association ~ Hinesburg
    Hurley Hill Training Center ~ Jericho
    Jeffersonville Tow ~ Jeffersonville
    Johnson State College ~ Johnson Future
    Lyndon State College ~ Lyndonville
    Marshall Hill ~ Stowe
    Newbury PTA ~ Newbury
    North Country Ski Park ~ Morrisville area
    Orleans Ski Club ~ Orleans
    Oxbow/Eagle Rock Mountain ~ Jonesville *Totally updated Feb 22, 2015
    Peacham Slopes ~ Peacham
    Perry Hill ~ Waterbury
    Pinnacle Park Skiland ~ Waterbury
    Portland-Lincoln PTA ~ St. Johnsbury
    Richford Lions Club ~ Richford
    Samoset Country Club ~ Morrisville
    Ski-Morr ~ St. Johnsbury *Totally updated Jan 1, 2015
    St. Michael’s College ~ Winooski
    South Burlington Tow ~ South Burlington
    Sterling School ~ Craftsbury
    Town and Country Motor Lodge ~ Stowe
    Tucker Hill Lodge ~ Fayston
    Turner’s Rope Tow ~ Charlotte
    Underhill Ski Bowl ~ Underhill
    Waterbury Village Area ~ Waterbury
    Webster Hill ~ Danville
    Wildwood Valley ~ Morgan Center
    # Wolf Run Ski Area # ~ Bakersfield
    Central Vermont (50 areas)
    Ascutney ~ Brownsville
    Altow/Cemetary Hill ~ Norwich
    Barre~ Barre
    Birdseye Mountain ~ Castleton
    Braintree Valley Lodge ~ Braintree Valley
    Bradford/Fairlee Tow ~ Bradford/Fairlee
    Bradford Tow ~ Bradford
    Buena Vista Farm Tow ~ South Strafford
    Burnham Hollow Ski Tow ~ Middletown Springs
    Central Vermont Ski Tow ~ South Royalton *New Jan 21, 2014
    Dick’s Tow ~ Killington
    Farr’s Hill ~ Randolph
    Fiits Valley Ski Tow ~ Chelsea
    Green Mountain College ~ Poultney
    Frederic A. Webster Tow ~ S. Pomfret
    Hartford School District ~ White River Jct
    Harwood Union High School ~ South Duxbury
    High Pond Mountain ~ Hubbardton
    Hitching Post Farm ~ Royalton
    Huntington Ski Area ~ Huntington (Exact name unknown)
    Hyde Manor ~ Sudbury
    Judgment Ridge ~ Vershire
    Lincoln Sports ~ Lincoln
    Lundhugel~ West Hartford
    Maplewood Winter Sports Area ~ Fair Haven
    Moretown Recreation ~ Moretown Coming soon!
    Morse Farm ~ Montpelier
    Mount Aeolus ~ East Dorset
    Mount Tom ~ Woodstock
    Mountain Top Inn ~ Chittenden
    Northfield Jaycees (Cook’s Hill) ~ Northfield
    Norwich University ~ Northfield
    Peru Mountain ~ East of Manchester
    Pinnacle Skiways ~ Randolph
    Proctor Tow ~ Proctor
    Prosper Ski Hill ~ Woodstock
    Pulsifer’s Tow ~ Woodstock
    Retreat Tow/Bart’s Tow ~ North Sherburne
    Rochester Tow ~ Rochester
    Rutland Jr. College ~ Rutland
    Rutland Recreation/Country Club ~ Rutland
    Sabin Pastures ~ Montpelier
    Savage Ski Tow ~ E. Randolph *New Jan 21, 2014
    South Barre ~ South Barre
    Shrewsbury Mountain ~ Shrewsbury
    Ski Haven ~ Shrewsbury
    The Gully ~ Woodstock
    Valley Junior Racing Club ~ Waitsfield Future
    Warren Outing Club ~ Warren *Updated Jan 21, 2014
    Whirlaway Tow ~ Chelsea
    White Cupboard Inn ~ Woodstock The Ultimate Lost Ski Area!
    White River Junction ~ White River Junction
    Southern Vermont (29 areas)
    Bennington Rotary ~ Bennington
    Big Prospect ~ Dummerston
    Bondville Tow ~ Bondville
    Bonnyvale Area ~ Brattleboro
    Buckturd Basin ~ Townshend
    Burrington Hill ~ Whitingham
    Campbell’s Tow ~ Bennington
    Chester Ski Area (The Pinnacle) ~ Chester
    Dutch Hill ~ Heartwellville
    Glendale ~ Newfane
    Hogback~ Marlboro
    Horst Farm ~ West Bennington
    Jennings Family Tow ~ Pawlet
    Latchis Ski Park ~ Brattleboro
    Leake Farm ~ East Bennington
    Little Prospect ~ Dummerston
    Maple Valley ~ Dummerston Buy the Mountain!
    New England Kurn Hattin Home ~ Westminster Future
    North River Trails ~ Halifax
    Pine Top Slope ~ South Vernon
    Prospect Mountain ~ Woodford
    Putney School at Elm Lea Farm ~ Putney
    Ski Bowl Inc ~ Saxtons River
    Snow Valley ~ Winhall (Update Pre 2004) Snow Valley Reborn! (2004 Update)
    Springfield Ski Club ~ Springfield
    Sugar Bush ~ East Jamaica
    Taterlane Tow ~ Brattleboro
    Vermont Academy ~ Saxton’s River *new history Mar 7, 2014
    Winhall Snow Bowl ~ Winhall
    West Mountain Farm ~ Arlington Coming soon!
    Windham College ~ Putney Coming soon!
    Woodford Tow ~ Woodford

    1. What does a little State like from Mont need over a hundred ski resorts for anyway? I don’t think we have 20 in Montana.

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