Summer Snapshot: Historical Trends in Year-Round Ops
By Kara Snawder, Data Analyst, RRC Associates
IN NOVEMBER 2011, THE SKI AREA RECREATIONAL OPPORTUNITY ENHANCEMENT ACT granted ski areas operating under a United States Forest Service (USFS) permit the permission to expand year-round operations and promote summer recreation opportunities, such as mountain biking, zip lining and disc golf (although summer activities might have been taking place prior to that, the building of summer structures was not; the USFS finalized policy guidelines in 2014). The recent 10-year anniversary of this milestone prompted a look back at summertime economic growth in the ski industry. Using data from the NSAA 2020–21 Economic Analysis of U.S. Ski Areas, we set out to understand how macro-level economic metrics and specific summer revenue sources have changed over the last decade, and which summertime attractions are the biggest moneymakers for ski areas.
While ski areas operating on public land have only had permission to expand recreation offerings for just over 10 years, areas on private land have done so for decades. Therefore, to best examine growth, data were parsed to compare findings between ski areas operating on public land and those that operate fully on private land. Several key takeaways about the state of summer business are apparent from these data. At the foremost, growth in summer revenue has been particularly obvious for ski areas operating on public land, indicating that these resorts have taken their opportunity to expand seriously. This trend was particularly true as of 2019, wherein total summer revenue for public-land ski areas had doubled from 2011 before inevitably slipping in 2020 during the onset of the pandemic.
Despite COVID-19’s undeniable impact on travel and business, summer resort activities such as golf, mountain biking and chairlift rides generated hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue for both public and private-land ski areas in 2020, all exceeding 2011 revenue. As travel gradually recovers, it is reasonable to expect that the summer will continue to offer economic opportunity for resorts.back to blog