SKI INC. 2020: The Current State & Future of the Ski Industry (Ep. 126)

  • Background: from bartender to CEO (3:26)
  • What led you to write SKI INC? (14:24)
  • Why did you write SKI INC. 2020? (26:30)
  • Chess Match: Vail / EPIC Pass vs. Alterra / IKON (35:38)
  • How will COVID-19 affect the ski industry? (44:02)
  • The future of independent ski resorts? (49:54)
  • Predictions: future acquisitions & industry trends (55:22)

The ski industry has undergone rapid changes in the past several years, and we are currently in another unprecedented moment with the COVID-19 pandemic. So to help us better understand the past, present, and future of the ski industry, we talked to industry veteran and author of SKI INC, and SKI INC. 2020, Chris Diamond, about the rise of the EPIC and IKON passes; this recent era of rampant ski resort acquisitions; the state (and fate) of independent ski areas; whether COVID-19 will likely have lasting impacts on the ski industry; and more.

Author of SKI INC 2020, Chris Diamond, goes on the Blister Podcast to discuss the status of the ski industry, the effect of the EPIC & IKON Passes, how COVID-19 is impacting the ski industry, & more
SKI INC. 2020

11 comments on “SKI INC. 2020: The Current State & Future of the Ski Industry (Ep. 126)”

  1. Very interesting interview. Thx.
    My current concern is whether we will have any 20-21 season….interested to see how things shape up south of the equator in next few months.

  2. The one thing I really missed was a discussion of why US ski tickets are so incredibly expensive compared to European ones.

    • While I can’t speak to the European perspective, if you are referring to the cost of *single day* tickets, I think the reason is that, no ski area is terribly interested in selling day tickets — they would much rather sell season passes.

      And this is most definitely true of the mega passes: Vail & Alterra very much want to incentivize you to purchase an EPIC / IKON Pass, so those passes are *relatively* cheap, while day passes are, by comparison, quite expensive.

      • I can see that day by day, walk-up tickets are undesirable for resorts. There also probably are not many people who only ski (a few) single days a season anyway. But, most people also don’t ski an entire season.
        So let’s look at a realistic scenario: someone who takes an annual ski trip for a long weekend or a week:
        If I look at a 4 day or 6 day lift ticket package, the enormous price difference still stands.

  3. Preposterously & comically expensive.
    I had a friend ski Roth me at Val last year and he had forgotten/neglected/didn’t know about the Epic Pass and bought a 5 day ticket and he said it was something like a $1000…,more than an Epic Pass for whole season…funny..,,

    Maybe it’s something somewhat similar to Costco membership or Amazon prime… Skiers provide Vail’s operating costs/capital for an entire season at no interest & no debt and then avail makes its $$$ on food, gear, real estate? If season is bad (poor snow & few skiers) then operating costs are still covered?

    Maybe you should see if you can get somebody to talk on your show in some detail about the economics of ski areas? Of course Vail is a publicly traded company so maybe the numbers are right out there to be analyzed?

    Anyway ski “business” is a fascinating subject… I found the discussion of boots (several months ago) to be similarly intriguing … I had no idea some plastics were actually fairly expensive

    • David and I suppose to Jonathan,

      I am in the middle of listing to a book by Richard Thaler, behavioral economist (I know you are already thinking of “sending it”), called Misbehaving. In one of the chapters he talks about having worked with a marketing director of a small family owned ski resort in New England. There are very interesting pricing stuff they tried and worked. Some of those things are already adopted by Epic and Ikon. Richard Thaler would be great get to address the economics of skiing and what resorts, hotels and renters could do to make the business more viable not just now but long after Covid-19. One of his findings was that if hotels and hence VRBO were to not have any price difference between X-mas/NYE weeks and throughout the ski season, they would find that they would flatten their occupancy curve. Meaning, people who ski X-mas/NYE weeks will be back in March/April to ski again. Too bad we are gouged at X-mas/NYE weeks.
      We used to live out of Geneva, CH and I would buy season passes to Grand Massif ski area for the entire family. 10 years ago I believe I paid around $1000 for a family of 4. But we skied 30-40 days/season. Day tickets were expensive hence discouraging.
      45 years ago when I started skiing in my late teens, I don’t remember thinking that lift tickets were expensive.
      BTW, I really like the boot pods. I am a big believer if you can’t afford all the equipment, you must invest in a really good pair of boots and forget about uncomfortable boots. Invest in custom liners. You’ll never want to get out of your boots.

  4. Looks like I’m a little late to the discussion and some of these comments have already been made, but…

    I always hear that the ski industry needs to get young people (kids) into skiing. But I’m having trouble seeing how the big passes benefit anyone with kids. Chris talks about the benefit of the passes for the jet-setting Australian guys who just came from skiing in Japan, and ski 80 days/yr. He also says “If you’re willing to part with your money early you get a really good deal“. But this is only true for those who have the luxury of being able to travel and ski a lot, which excludes most people with a job and kids.

    I grew up skiing in the NE (many of the same mountains as Chris), and I have a family of four with two kids (7 and 9). I would love to take them on a ski trip (or 2), but with $200/day lift tickets it’s quite difficult. Buying an Icon or Epic Pass for all 4 of us doesn’t make it any better. How does the new paradigm benefit someone in my situation? I’m sure I’m not alone.

    • Well, if you can do 2 trips, the Ikon Base(and I assume the Epic equivalent), do offer pretty good price. If you do two trips of 7 days, that’s 14 days skiing. $600/14= $43/ day for the salutes, and $13/day for the kids.
      The problem is, between work and school, there are not many people in the US that can take two ski trips.
      So more realistically, you are looking at something like 8 days of skiing max (One week of vacation).

  5. Joey311- We have a 12 and 15 year old and we take 8 weeks of ski trips every season. It really comes down to making it a priority as we forego a lot of money to do this but we realize the kids will be out of the house soon enough so memories are more important than money. Last season alone my kids skied Taos, A Basin, Winter Park, Copper, all 4 Aspen resorts, J Hole, Big Sky, Deer Valley, Solitude, Brighton, Alta, Snowbird, Squaw Valley and Alpine. We are far from rich but thanks to Ikon, we averaged $21 per day per skier so it can be done.

  6. Hello Dane. That’s exactly my point. For someone like you who takes 8 weeks (wow!) of ski trips a year, it’s a great deal. You’ve got to realize you’re at the extreme end of the spectrum. Most families probably take one week long ski trip. Probably far fewer will take 2. Above that I think you’re taking about a pretty small percentage of family ski trips.

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