With Snowbird soon to open its new 3,120-foot long Mountain Coaster under construction at the base of the resort’s Peruvian Chairlift, and Pennsylvania’s Camelback ski resort planning to spend an estimated $145 million to build a new indoor water park, a 453-room hotel, and new restaurants and conference areas, the fortunes of the skiing industry seem to finally be changing after 3 difficult years. With the addition of strong spring snows out west that have allowed Aspen to reopen 90 acres for spring skiing on Memorial Day Weekend, and the uptick in consumer purchases of equipment, resorts and manufacturers nationwide appear to be set for a strong comeback.
As reported by First Tracks!! Online Ski Magazine, the National Ski Areas Association has released preliminary data showing that U.S. ski areas tallied an estimated 56.6 million skier and snowboarder visits during the 2012-13 winter season, representing an 11 percent increase over the disappointing 2011-12 season and the largest year-over-year gain in 30 years. Despite a slow start to the 2012-13 ski season in parts of the country, many ski areas experienced a strong Christmas holiday period, and also reported strong visitation during President’s Day and throughout March, helping to propel the industry back into a more typical visit volume following a winter with below-normal snowfall across most of the U.S. in 2011-12.
A rebound in snowfall resulted in a rebound in skier visits across the U.S. in 2012-13. (photo: Rob Pennie; location: Crested Butte Mountain Resort, Colo.)
In another indication of the widespread rebound this season, 78 percent of reporting ski areas posted increases in visits. The median resort experienced a 10.6 percent gain in visits. Visits were up in all regions of the U.S. in 2012-13, with the biggest rebounds seen for the Pacific Southwest, up 20.5 percent. Meanwhile the Northeast was up 20.3 percent, and the Southeast was up 17.2 percent. Impressive gains were also recorded in the Midwest, up 11.5 percent, and Pacific Northwest, up 7.5 percent. The Rocky Mountain region was up 1.9 percent over the 2011-12 season.
SnowSports Industries America (SIA) and Leisure Trends Group have released SIA RetailTRAK numbers for August-January 2012/2013, with total market projections that are based on data collected from the Point of Sale systems of more than 1,200 snow sports retailers. Momentum continued in the snow sports market in January as the snow kept falling in critical regions and skiers and riders headed back to resorts and shops. Consumers spent $550M at snow sports retail shops in January alone, 7 percent more dollars than average in January. Since the beginning of this season, consumers have spent $2.6B on snow sports apparel accessories and equipment, about 1 percent more than they had spent by January 31 last season. Season-to-date (August 2012 – January 2013), all snow sports equipment sales are down 2% in units and 4 percent in dollars sold to $640M. Apparel sales have brought $1.1B into the snow sports market and are just about even with last season’s sales through January. Accessories sales are up 5 percent in dollars sold to $913M are about flat in units.
Sales during the late season (February and March) typically bring in approximately 20-25 percent more dollars into the snow sports market for equipment, apparel and accessories. Increased snowfall and lower temperatures in February and March this season are helping retailers clear out swollen inventories and should allow for a full recovery from last season’s disappointing sales and participation.