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Ski Industry Expert Says 31% of Today's Ski Areas Are Dying

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The entire ski world has convened on Denver, Colorado this week for SIA (the Snowsports Industries America trade show) for a few days of non-stop gear, ski, and snow talk. And yesterday, industry leaders gathered at The Assembly, an event sponsored by Denver's lodging analyst DestiMetrics that brought together 350 of the best and brightest to discuss the future of mountain resorts. According to the Denver Post, there was plenty of good news in the mix: the economy is better, lodging occupancy is up, and people are buying more gear and outdoor apparel than last year. But the biggest bombshell of the meeting was dropped by Bill Jensen, a well-known industry exec who has worked at the biggest names in the business, from Vail Resorts to Intrawest. The ski resort industry is facing huge challenges, he said, and at least 150 of the current 470 ski resorts in the United States are going to fail and turn off the lifts.

Bill Jensen separated the 470 ski areas in the United States into 5 tiers:

1. Uber: 10 ski areas
2. Alpha: 35 ski areas
3. Status Quo: 125 ski areas
4. Survivor: 150 ski areas
5. Sunset: 150 ski areas

Without naming specific ski areas, Jensen said there were 10 Uber resorts and 35 Alpha resorts. Combined, these 45 ski areas account for approximately 40% of all ski business and are the only resorts with climbing revenues. These are the winners of the industry, the Intermountain West destinations close to urban centers with large lodging operations and annual earnings growing 20-30%. And while Jensen refused to talk specific ski areas, Curbed Ski won't be shy: these facts certainly sound a lot like Vail, Park City, and Whistler.

He went on to say that there are 125 Status Quo ski areas with flat revenues, and another 150 so-called Survivor resorts who will likely do just that: survive.

But the final group in Jensen's hierarchy of doom? One hundred and fifty Sunset resorts who simply won't make it. These ski areas may have the lifts on this season, but with declining revenues, a reliance on snow, minimal investment, and no destination traffic, the Sunset resorts are dying.

And while the industry has discussed the difference in types of ski areas before (like in the breeder-feeder-destination resort model), Jensen's breakdown is different. It doesn't just distinguish the resorts on top, it clearly states that 31% of our current ski areas will close in the future.

What do you think, Curbediverse? Does Jensen's model seem correct? If so, which resorts are the "Sunset" resorts? Who isn't going to make it?

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