Ive Stay Alive and Survive ‘: Ski Resorts Brace for a Pandemic Season

Olympic Valley, California. – A trick of skivers recently slammed down the slopes at Squaw Valley Ski Resort. Couples and families wandered out of the resort’s village, which was decorated in Christmas lights and frosty with snow.

It looked like the start of a Mira season. But a closer inspection revealed that it was anything but

The restaurant slabs were nearly empty as masked workers swept away with a lime-green disinfectant sprayer tied on their backs, which the Squaw Valley spent on equipment and other safety measures. In ski lifts, sparse groups waited in socially distant lines. The resort felt “so dead,” said one skier, Sabrina Nottingham, partly because it was limiting ticket sales to less than 50 percent of the standard.

Squaw Valley, a marquee destination for winter sports enthusiasts, is one of many ski resorts across the country for an unpredictable season. Forced to reconsider to operate in Coronavirus epidemic And vaccines are still rolling, with resorts offering Aspen, Colo .; Park City, Utah; Taos Ski Valley, NM; And Killington, VT. Many visitors are imposing restrictions and ticket reservations are required; New Mexico has resorts up to 25 percent capacity.

Resorts are reducing in-person interactions by installing kiosks for ticket pickup, adding people to the line for ski-lifts and gondolas, requiring masks, reducing the number of people on the lift at once Limiting, and in some places, turning down indoor food. .

While there is an epidemic Shocked the entire travel industry, Ski resorts may feel an adverse effect this winter due to the small window of their business. According to the National Ski Area Association, a trade group, the ski industry had already taken a hit in the spring when the epidemic had spread and many resorts had to close early, causing a loss of $ 2 billion and layoffs of thousands of employees or furloughs Happened. The association said the industry made the least 51 million trips since the 2011–12 season.

Now resorts like Squaw Valley are lowering their expectations for the new ski season.

“I don’t think anyone in the business is having their best year,” said Ron Cohen, president of Squaw Valley and neighboring Alpine Meadows. “We want to preserve our businesses, so that, over the Kovid, we don’t have the opportunity to do so much damage that we might not be able to stand back.”

Mike Nevus, spokesman for Mount Nev Ski Tahoe, a resort in western Nevada, said the mind-set was “only to maintain and survive the status quo.” He refused to provide any financials, but said, “If we break even, it’s almost considered a success.”

Even before the epidemic, the ski industry was laboring to create interest in the sport. According to the National Ski Area Association, the number of skiers has stabilized over the past decade. Adrienne Issac, a spokeswoman for the trade group, said the resorts have tried to make skiing and snowboarding more accessible to newcomers, but have struggled with perceptions that cater primarily to the wealthy and whites. Climate change too Snowfall affects, He said, which could lead to shorter seasons.

How ski resorts do this winter will have a domino effect on tax revenue for the state’s economies. In New Mexico, the ski season waned last winter and generated $ 41 million in taxes this spring, but the state ski association’s executive director, George Brooks, said he received more than 40 percent of that number in the coming months Is not expected to happen.

Well Resorts, the world’s largest ski company with 37 resorts worldwide, including 34 in the United States, reported in an earnings call on December 10 that it incurred losses of $ 153 million from October to October, with losses of $ 106.5 million. Same period as one year ago. Well Resorts chief executive Rob Katz said season pass sales were up about 20 percent, but he expected there would be fewer visitors and less income this year than last season.

For smaller resorts, the pain may not be as severe. Diamond Peak Ski Resort, in Navaline Village, said it surpassed estimates by about $ 1 million after the spring shutdown. As resort general manager Mike Bundelin said, small resorts often operate at a loss in the final weeks of the season, so actually saving money stops early.

Many resorts said they still expect some dead-hard skiers and powderheads to show up this winter, along with locals and those who have moved to other homes nearby. Winter Park Resort West of Denver, A Crush of keen skiers The lift lines were crowded in the opening week of this month. Resort Quick measures A spokesperson for Jane Miller said that to allow for more vacancy.

But visitors who won’t come, resorts and other ski experts said, are most likely casual skiers and people traveling long distances.

“We’re going to lose the mom and pop who want to bring their kids up,” Mr. Brooks said.

In Colorado, the Aspen Skiing Company, which operates four ski areas, has had steady business since its reopening on November 25, but will miss 20 percent of its annual visitors who come from other countries, a spokesman, Jeff Hanley said. . He said that Aspen could also see fewer out-of-state passengers, especially if they live in places where they have to separate on their return.

“You’ve become too dedicated skier to say, ‘I’m going to ski, and I know that when I get home, I’m quarantined,” he said.

Even if resorts make it through the winter, small businesses that rely on skiers coming into the city – such as restaurants, hotels and retail stores – probably won’t be so lucky.

At Stratton Mountain Resort, Vt., In Stratton, an Irish pub called Mulligan has laid off half of its workforce. Because visitors to Vermont, who receive 80 percent of their ski traffic from other states, To quarantine Either can go anywhere before a week or two, Mulligan’s owner, Tom Rose, said he expected to lose up to 60 percent of his normal winter sales.

“We survived Hurricane Irene. Our sales took a real dive after 9/11. We have made it through the Great Recession, ”Mr. Rose said. But “this epidemic is the worst so far.”

There are some bright spots. Backcountry skiing, Or ski touring – which often involves climbing secluded, snowy mountain ranges – is booming. According to the NPD Group, sales of backcountry equipment increased 76 percent from August through October compared to a year earlier.

“Kovid’s climate that favors outdoor, socially distant recreational activities combined with restrictions at ski resorts has led to a rapid interest in skiing this season,” Eric Henderson, a business group, a member of Snowsports Industries America The spokesman said.

Who has Trips to the resorts said they were happy that they made the attempt. Recently in Squaw Valley, the 21-year-old, Ms. Nottingham, who was visiting California State University, San Luis Obispo, along with other students, said that even though the resort was quiet, the experience “felt more secure than going to the grocery store” All done because everyone was covered anyway. “

Square valley, Which opened in 1949 and hosted the 1960 Winter Olympics, has undergone significant changes in recent years. In 2010, it was purchased by a private equity group called KSL Capital Partners, and merged with neighboring Alpine Meadows the following year. Combined, the two resorts are spread over 6,000 acres, the highest in the Lake Tahoe area, and have 42 lifts and over 270 trails.

In August, Squaw Valley said It will change its name By 2021, because “squaw” is considered a racist and sexist term for Native American women.

But nothing that has been done through the Sahara rivals the chaos of the epidemic, Mr. Cohen said. Although he refused to disclose financials for Squaw and Alpine, he described the losses in the spring as “disastrous” and said the resorts were “running at a low profit margin” with weak sales this winter.

The disruption doubled this month when A. Order to stay at new home The area had an impact, forcing resorts to cancel hotel stops and add another wrinkle for potential visitors.

For ski resorts, the mantra right now is “live and survive,” Mr. Cohen said.

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