The RRC Associates April newsletter is out!
New U.S. Forest Service Guidelines
The U.S. Forest Service just released its directives for ski areas to expand use and infrastructure on federal lands for non-winter operations. There are currently 122 ski areas on approximately 180,000 acres of forest service land, and according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture news release, “early estimates by the agency indicate that expanding ski area recreation activities will increase by 600,000 the number of summer visits on national forests.” The new guidelines, which are to take effect immediately, will clearly help mountain communities increase their levels of summer tourism. For more on the new Forest Service guidelines for year-round tourism, click here.
RRC Summer Visitor Research
Many resorts have redoubled their focus on summer tourism. Special events, on-mountain zip lines and mountain coasters, downhill mountain bike courses, and hiking trails are just a few of the many offerings adopted by resorts across the country to grow summer business. Any resort destination is well-served to understand its existing and potential summer market, which can differ dramatically from the winter market. Through an understanding of the characteristics, interests and preferences of visitors, resorts can better position themselves to stay competitive within this market.
Concurrent with the growth in summer business at mountain resorts, RRC Associates has expanded its research and intelligence services for summer activities. We have standardized bike park and special events surveys that can be adapted to different mountain resorts, and we are working with numerous communities and industry associations to measure and understand customer segments and activity opportunities related to summer business. Please contact us f you would like to learn more about our offerings.
RRC is currently working on several studies with a focus on ski area summer operations:
- National Consumer Summer Travel Survey A national survey documenting consumer sentiment and preferences towards vacations in the mountains, contrasted with the appeal of beach, lake, and other popular types of summer destinations.
- NSAA Summer Operators Survey. A survey of ski area operators that takes a detailed look at the performance of existing summer operations and potential for future activities and amenities at ski areas.
- National Ski Town Survey. A research project aimed at documenting the relationship between summer and winter tourism in mountain towns across the US. This research effort is aimed at getting beyond the ski area company and understanding the importance of summer and winter tourism from the town’s perspective.
We look forward to synthesizing the results of these survey efforts for presentation at the NSAA National Convention and Trade Show in Savannah, Georgia, as well as articles in the NSAA Journal and other follow-up meetings.
Traveler Perceptions and the I-70 Corridor
RRC has conducted multiple survey-based studies during the winter of 2013/14 that track issues and traveler perceptions related to the I-70 road corridor in Colorado. Crowding on this roadway has long been a problem as recreationists move from the population centers east of the mountains to the Colorado resorts located on the West Slope. The problems are present in summer and in winter, and while they are greatest on weekends, they can occur at any time during the week. Made worse by frequent road construction, and the presence of trucks that often have problems during snow events, the roadway has become a source of major concern and complaint by residents of Colorado and destination visitors alike.
One RRC study in 2014 looked at use of the Dinosaur Parking lots in Morrison on behalf of the I-70 Coalition. The three parking lots, (T-Rex, Stegosaurus and Wooly Mammoth), serve as a meeting place for large volumes of carpooling skiers and riders. Research conducted in 2014 and 2012 allows use patterns and opinions to be tracked over time. Findings show that use of the lots has grown over time and the lots come close to filling on peak weekends in winter. A careful analysis of use of the lots at different times of day, number of persons per car, time of arrival and departure, purpose of trip, and opinions on various aspects of mountain travel, have provided the I-70 Coalition with insights to help target problems and opportunities associated with the roadway. One topic of exploration through the research centered on “strategies” that snowsports enthusiasts use to avoid congestion. Results show that the top five identified strategies include: 1) Stay at or near the resort, 2) Arrive early at the resort and leave early, 3) Check CDOT’s real-time information or Go170.com before traveling, 4) Avoid skiing/snowboarding on Sundays, and 5) Avoid weekend travel and ski/board on weekdays.
The research also explored what types of improvements travelers would most like to see pursued to deal with the traffic using open-ended questions. There were a wide range of suggestions and the most identified included: Create additional lanes (including either toll-free, tolled, HOV, or ZIP/Flex lanes) or build a train. Both of these categories of improvement received almost equal mention. Next most identified, but with far less frequency were restriction on commercial truck traffic during peak travel periods and improvements in bus service along the I-70 corridor.
For further information on studies and available information on I-70 related research feel free to contact Sarah at RRC Associates.
Kottke End of Season Survey & Snow Recap
The 2013/14 ski and ride season is coming to a close, which means responses to the Kottke End of Season Survey are flowing in fast to RRC’s office. While we’re still a little more than a week away from presenting final results at the NSAA National Convention and Trade Show in Savannah, Georgia, we continue to see ski areas note how important the relationship is between snow conditions/weather and visitation. Generally, snowfall was strong this season through the north and central Rockies, while falling well below average along the Pacific coast and southwest, with visits tracking accordingly.
Several recent articles in the national press have highlighted the potential future impacts of climate change on ski areas, including this New York Times piece from Porter Fox.And this panel discussion with several leading ski area CEOs.As well as a recent panel at the Mountain Travel Symposium in Breckenridge that talked about the challenges of bringing new participants to the sport, another ongoing issue documented in the Kottke End of Season Study.We’ll soon know how such conditions may have impacted numbers of visits all over the country. Keep an eye out for the Kottke results for the final word on the 2013/14 season.
Rob Linde Joins RRC Associates
RRC is pleased to announce that Rob Linde is joining the RRC team as our new Director of Business Development. Rob has served as Senior Manager of Marketing, SnowSports and Skier Services at Eldora Mountain Resort for the past ten years, and before that he was with the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA). He is currently the Past Chairman of the Boulder Convention and Visitors Bureau Board. Rob brings a wealth of experience to RRC where he will be involved in a wide range of recreation and tourism projects. Look for Rob in Savannah at the NSAA annual meeting, and at other upcoming shows and conferences.
Representatives from RRC will be attending and speaking at a variety of upcoming tourism and ski conferences. Below are some of the conferences we will be attending:
NSAA National Convention and Tradeshow, Savannah, GA, April 30 to May 3, 2014
Canada West Ski Areas Association Spring Conference, Whistler, BC, May 12 to 14, 2014
Destination Summit, Denver, CO, May 13 to 15, 2014
Quebec Ski Areas Association Annual Convention and Tradeshow, May 27 to 29, 2014
Colorado Ski Country USA Annual Meeting, Copper Mountain, CO, June 12, 2014
International Mountain Bicycling Association 2014 World Summit, Steamboat Springs, CO, August 20 to 24, 2014
From the Data Desk
As the season winds to a close, what do we know about the skiers and riders still making turns? Multi-season results from the NSAA Demographic Research give us insights on April visitors. We’ll focus on visitors to the Rocky Mountain region in particular. April visitor profile: Perhaps surprisingly, the profile of resort visitors for the month of April resembles the overall season profile in many respects, albeit with some differences:
- Overnight visitation remains robust (accounting for 63% of visitors in April, vs. 67% for the season overall).
- International visitation is elevated (11.4% in April, vs. 8.7% overall), as is regional visitation from the Rocky Mountain Census Division (46.8% in April, vs. 41.8% overall).
- Ability levels are somewhat elevated (54% advanced/expert in April, vs. 49% for season overall).
Key differences as April progresses: Not surprisingly, as April progresses, the slopes increasingly (but by no means exclusively) become the domain of hardcores from nearby markets:
- The proportion of visitors on day trips from home rises from 33% in the first week of April to 40% in the second week and 51% in the third week.
- Similarly, the proportion of in-state visitors rises from 39% to 47% to 55% across the three weeks.
- The proportion of advanced/expert participants rises from an average of 52% to 54% to 61% across the three weeks.
- The median age drops from 40, to 38, to 36 across the three weeks.
- Median household income drops from approximately $129,000, to $119,000, to $83,000 across the three weeks.
More opportunities? April skiers clearly enjoy their experience, giving resorts an average NPS score of 83% (vs. 82% for the season overall), and rating the overall skiing/boarding experience an average of 9.0 out of 10 (vs. 8.9 for the season overall). In a strong snow season such as 2013/14 (for the Rockies at least), what can we do as an industry to better get the word out about the joys of spring skiing?