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Are ski resorts defying the current economic downturn? The Mountain Travel Research Program (MTRiP) has recently released information that suggests yes, based on summer lodging occupancy numbers at ski resorts across the west.

The numbers state that although rates for services have remained stagnant, occupancy numbers continue to rise, and are almost at the level they once were prior to the recession. The data released by MTRiP was taken from over 260 properties across 15 different resorts throughout the American western states. Total occupancy in June 2011 was up 10.5 percent when compared to total occupancy in June 2010. From January to June occupancy was up 4.7 percent.

When looking ahead through the summer months, trends show occupancy growth should outpace last year’s numbers. This July looks good with a 9.5 percent increase when compared to the same period last summer. Moreover, the following six months, from July to December, look to be 7.2 percent up from the same period last year. While the average daily rate is not rising similarly, these actual and total occupancy numbers are good signs for ski resort economies.

Raif Garrison is the director for MTRiP. He shared, “As we predicted last month, despite ongoing turmoil in the broader market and more negative than positive economic news, we’re still seeing that mountain vacations this summer are a good match for consumers.”

He continued, “The relatively steady lodging rates from last summer to this summer seem to be attracting financially sensitive travelers.” “Even though we are seeing minimal increases in the average nightly rate, the strong gains we are seeing in occupancy are giving a healthy boost to the bottom line.”

By definition, tourist driven economies, like those found in Lake Tahoe, are among the most variable and unsustainable economies for communities to rely on. The nature of variability that’s attached to seasonal work, and seasonal income is why some resort communities struggle during the off-season, or struggle even more when visitors are detoured from visiting a resort during season due to poor weather, sketchy driving, and lack of affordable lodging.

As the summer continues ski resort management teams will be closely watching what happens at the federal level regarding raising the debt ceiling, a rising inflation rate, a falling Dow Jones Industrial Average and Consumer Price Index, and controlling the Nation’s unemployment rate.

Although the economy continues to remain turbulent, Garrison believes people will continue to allocate their money to mountain resort vacations. He believes off-season mountain specific events as well as a stagnant increase in rates for lodging at mountain resorts are helping ski resorts maintain economically.

More specifically he stated, “Occupancy continues to increase over last year, in some cases now reaching or exceeding pre-recession levels as marketers successfully attract travelers with discounted rates and value-add propositions.” “On average, we’re seeing double-digit increases in occupancies without further discounting in many destinations, but results do vary. On the whole, we anticipate the remainder of the summer to deliver more of the same, led by the established mountain destinations that are within a ‘one tank trip’ from urban locations”.


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