The North American ski community gets together each year during the Mountain Travel Symposium.
STR, parent company of Hotel News Now, has been invited for the past few years to share our insights into the trends we see in the Colorado ski area and select other ski markets.
The trends in the Colorado ski resort areas match the overall U.S. industry results. For the 2014/2015 ski season, which ended in March, revenue per available room grew 9.1%, driven by a healthy average-daily-rate increase of 5.5%.
The total number of rooms sold in the year ending in March now stands at roughly 3.2 million, basically mirroring the prior peak results of the year 2008. That said, monthly results between December 2014 and March 2015 were only slightly higher than in prior years, hinting perhaps at a natural ceiling of visitor volume.
Pricing power seems to be firmly in the hand of the operators, and room rates increased more than 6% in December, January and February. The absolute ADR for the season stands at $331. That said, during the peak season of Christmas (here defined as 20-31 December) we recorded ADR at nearly $600, up more than 8% from Christmas 2013.
Combatting climate change
As climate change continues to change weather patterns, it seems the snow results in the Colorado ski areas have been fluctuating widely as well.
Only some areas in the Northeast had snowfall that approximated “normal” snow volume, according to BestSnow.net. Because of ongoing drought and lack of snow, the website states: “The West remains on track to match its second worst snow season of 1980-81, with a few areas threatening the record lows of 1976-77.”
On the other hand, the summer season continues to be a solid revenue generator for ski areas and forces ski hill operators to be ever more inventive to get customers on the mountain through non-ski activities.
The 2014 summer showed robust demand growth in the Colorado ski areas, when occupancies reached into the mid-60% range. At the same time room rates in July and August grew at a healthy clip compared to prior years; July’s ADR topped $200.
It will be interesting to judge the mood at MTS and talk to tour operators and service providers as they plan for the coming seasons ahead given the ever greater unpredictability of snowfall. Right now prices seem to be going up given that snow levels, through natural or man-made means, are still mostly satisfactory. Let’s see what happens in the coming ski season.