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Longer-term impacts of Coronavirus on skiing


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I was thinking about how this season will be defined in our collective memories by the Coronavirus. Long after we've forgotten about the snow conditions in Oct-March we will all still remember that crazy season that got shut down by a global pandemic. Then I started realizing that this might not be the only season impacted by it.  There's the worse case scenario that this thing is still making people sick next year. We are going to have worse things to worry about than skiing if that happens.  But even besides that I suspect we will still be feeling the ripple impacts.  Some things that come to mind....

Ski areas are going to be hurting for cash.  They are losing income for the rest of the season.  Many are even faced with having to give refunds for previously booked trips and sales. If they choose to offer vouchers and credits for next season it might allow them to hold onto some cash they took in, but it will cut into next season's sales and profits.  We all know how a low snow year hurts ski area profits.  One difference is that they may be eligible for some disaster relief that they wouldn't if it was just low snow. 

Early-buy pass sales will be way down.  Many people are going to be leary about buying next years pass right now. They will be worried about how long it will last and they will be worried about their personal finances. Ski areas rely on that early cash infusion to stay afloat. 

Pass sales overall will be down. As mentioned above, ski areas promote early-buy so that they can get some upfront cash.  But the other reason they promote early-buy is so they can get people locked in.  When people are still excited about a season in March they are already thinking about next season and they are excited to buy a pass.  Once the ski season ends and the buzz has worn off people often change their minds about getting a pass.  They may just skip it all together.  Ski areas may start needing to cut prices and offer incentives.  That's great for us as skiers in the short-term.  But it's not great for the industry and therefore not great for us in the long term as improvements are put off etc. 

Summer activities will be on hold, which will carry over into winter.  Summer recreation operations will be disrupted, which will cause even more financial hardship, which will exacerbate the problems mentioned above. Some summer improvement projects will be disrupted due to lockdowns (nevermind the money).  There are already some non-skiing construction projects being put on hold. That is bound to carry over into the ski industry this summer.  

All of things above will also impact the broader ski industry like ski shops, ski equipment makers, restaurants, lodging, airlines. Employees of the ski industry are really screwed. That probably deserves its own discussion. 

That's just a few off the top of my head.  Others you can think of?

 

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I think the impact on cash will be small. I think the masses would have given up on skiing anyway like the always do in the spring. Season passes will probably be the bigger impact, with people putting off season pass purchases till this blows over, and a recession could stop some people. On the other hand, people missing early pricing deadlines and buying in the fall is probably good for the ski area

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Posted (edited)
5 minutes ago, Benski said:

On the other hand, people missing early pricing deadlines and buying in the fall is probably good for the ski area

Fair point.  But I think that for every person who spends more by paying full price on a pass, there is another person who skips the pass altogether.

Edited by Cannonballer
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There are so many ways you could go in trying to answer your question.  Even after the medical crisis starts clearing up I'm afraid we'll be left with the effects of the attendant global economic crisis for much longer.  What happens to discretionary spending on things like skiing when millions are struggling to put food on the table?  Not good. 

I'm trying to remember what the great recession of 2008 did to the ski business?  I was a government worker living in a prosperous city and it really had very little impact on my skiing habits.  But I assume that parts of the country that were hit really hard saw a downturn in skier visits for a few years?  The current situation is quite different and has precluded everyone from skiing and may make a large percent of the skier population wait on buying passes for next year.  I believe some ski areas are already talking about continuing to offer their "spring rate" on season passes well into this fall to encourage those on the fence to buy one in September instead of not buying a season pass at all.

One positive thing I can think of is that this crisis has likely sped up the rate that places of work will embrace telecommuting/working from home.  This has been an area were government offices have lagged because either they haven't figured out an adequate way to measure and ensure good work output from home or the work product is too sensitive/classified to meaningfully work on at home.  This crisis may force offices/services/companies/schools & colleges to find better and more universal ways to allow employees/students to work remotely??  That could in the long run allow people to do more weekday skiing.

Edited by JimK
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There's a lot to get into on this topic but there's no way this doesn't have a giant impact on the ski industry. The industry is already tight for cash with a lot of operations and companies struggling to hang on even in a good economy. Local shops will be hurting....small independent ski areas and even publicly traded companies with how the stock market is crashing. 😨

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I think you will see most areas and mega passes continue to offer the eaarly pass discounts well into the summer this year due to the effects of this crisis.  Whether folks even take them up then due to the likely economic effects from this E-Barke shutdown of the economy, who knows at this point.  The world will likely feel repercussions from the economic fallout of this for years, if not a decade.  That will dampen resort business for sure.

The final wildcard will be how a rogue Pandemic virus affects the population's psyche and how that changes their traveling and vacationing habits.  I have a feeling a lot will pull back for some time from long distance travel and become much more staycationers.  The travel industry will suffer mightily from the economic disaster now and the hangover after.

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If Machski is correct and skier visits are much lower next year across the country and the medical side of this crisis subsides, then crowds might be pleasantly light when Infinite Dreams visits various Vail resorts.🤓

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On the bright side, this would be a much different situation if this happened five months earlier. This could have destroyed an entire ski season. The amusement park business (seasonal parks were supposed to just be opening now) is getting hit hard and will have much bigger long term impacts. 

Smaller areas might fare best and might even be able to make this a positive. Most smaller areas would have shut down by now anyways, so no lost revenue. And if people cannot afford the bigger resorts due to economic issues, perhaps they will turn to a value option closer to home? Smaller areas are not losing four season resort bookings and activities over the summer, either. Most likely, they will still be negatively impacted overall but surely not as much as the four season resorts.

Summer investments are going to be significantly reduced, if they happen at all. Major capital investments such as new lifts and lodges may be put on hold while resorts refill the coffers and struggle to stay a float.

Discounts will be needed to bump season pass sales since resorts no longer have a captive audience and "ski the rest of the season" benefits.

Economic impacts may not be too severe next season, though. Skiing is an expensive sport and the people that are going to feel the very worst of this economic plunge will be people without much money that are struggling, people on the front lines of the service industry that can't just work from home. People without much savings. I suspect the majority of skiers may weather the storm okay. If jobs rebound once things are under control, then people may be ready to spend next winter... especially people with cabin fever (ironically in the warmer months instead of the colder months).

Not saying there won't be a major loss of sales and income for most if not all resorts. But that it isn't going to be catastrophic like many other businesses. Big resorts that rely on year round four season lodging and activities will definitely take a huge blow.

Edited by thesnowway
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Another thing that I'm afraid is coming is a drop in real estate values.  Across the board, but especially for vacation properties, which would cause more pain for ski resort communities.

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