The travel market may be in the tank, but things are looking good for Vail Resorts. Season passes for their slopes were up 13 percent last month. Sure, some of the deals have probably helped, but the market has definitely changed over the past year. In 2008, travelers were feeling the fresh sting of the financial crisis, and job cuts were looming. Everyone became more cautious, because they didn’t know if they’d fall victim to the cruel lottery to come.
Now, it looks like the worst is behind us (though nobody can be sure), and we’re all looking for a little bit of relief. For skiers, this means biting the bullet, paying what’s necessary and hitting the powder. Mark Kelley, a 59-year-old skier and real estate broker from Denver put it best: “I have always gone skiing, even during difficult times.” He continued, “I am more inclined to cut down on my spending on the mountain than to not go skiing at all.”
Ski resorts are predicting an increase in bookings this season, thanks to eager skiers who were stuck at home in 2008. And, since flights are still fairly inexpensive, they hope to draw city-dwellers from across the country. Vail Resorts, which has five ski properties, is hoping they’ll succumb to their urges.
Robert Katz, the CEO of Vail Resorts, told Bloomberg News, “This year the economy is still struggling but there is more confidence that it’s not getting dramatically worse.” He explained, “The economic issues that we faced last year started right at the beginning of ski season and got worse until the end of the season.” Now that conditions have turned, he’s hopeful that skiers will end their hibernation.
Starwood Hotels, the third largest U.S. hotel company, reports an up-tick at its ski resorts from 2008, with its St. Regis Aspen Resort “pacing better” and holiday bookings “close to being filled,” according to K.C. Kavanagh, a company spokesperson. The Dakota Mountain lodge in Park City, Utah, a Hilton Waldorf Astoria property, is also looking good.
Meanwhile, the rest of the lodging industry continues to suffer, with occupancy in the United States down 57 percent through August this year, its lowest level since at least 1987.