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Condor Capital Management's 2016/17 Ski Season Wrap-Up: Ski Resorts Gear Up for a Multi-Pass Showdown
Although there are still some slopes to be conquered, many skiers and snowboarders can agree that the 2016/17 season turned out to be quite a success. According to Ken Schapiro of Condor Capital Management, resorts across the United States were able to benefit from a flurry of winter storms that arrived just in time for the holidays, translating to 30% and 4% increases of total skier visits from last season for the months of December and March, respectively. Overall, average resort snowfall increased 36% from last season. Accordingly, recent figures by the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA) showed that nationwide skier and snowboarder visits rose to 54.7 million, a 1.5% increase from 53.9 million during the 2015/16 season.
The majority of ski regions throughout the U.S. posted solid skier visits, with the Pacific Northwest having its best season on record (4.4 million skier visits). Similarly, the Rockies region ended up having its second-best winter in terms of skier visits (21.7 million). However, not every resort in the area was able to weather the lack of early season storms, with Vail Resorts (Vail) posting a 2.8% decline in skier visits for the season (while revenue was up 7.4%). Interestingly, the dearth of early winter weather in the Northeast staged a major turnaround, with 27% growth in skier visits from last season. In the Midwest and Pacific Southwest regions, there were slight declines in skier visits. In spite of this minor drop in visits, resorts surrounding the Sierra Nevada have been pummeled with snow storms, leading to snowfall totals of over 500 inches in many resorts, and prompting Californian resorts such as Mammoth Mountain and Squaw Valley to extend their seasons.
While weather has certainly been an important aspect of the season, it has arguably been overshadowed by recent developments regarding the consolidation of some of the most notable resorts in the U.S. On February 21st, Colorado-based Vail Resorts acquired Vermont's Stowe Mountain Resort, one of the oldest and most prominent resorts in America. This acquisition further enforced Vail's intent to grow its resort portfolio and will give owners of Vail's Epic Pass access to yet another premier skiing destination. Owners of the Epic Pass have unlimited access to several of Vail's premier locations, including Park City in Utah and Colorado's Breckenridge, as well as five complimentary days to Whistler Blackcomb in Canada, a world-acclaimed resort that Vail acquired in the summer of 2016.