COVID-19 pandemic control measures have made driving bumpy for most of the ski and snowboard industry in Canada, as revenues plummeted even at resorts that were able to maintain ticket sales. almost normal recovery in a season that is drawing to a close.
While some stations are reporting an increase in visits thanks to local support, most have been affected by the loss of well-heeled international customers as well as COVID-19-related disruptions in catering and guest services, said Paul Pinchbeck. , CEO of the Canadian Ski Council.
“Across Canada, we’re probably looking at a 35-40 percent drop in our total revenues,” he said in an interview, while noting that the impact varies widely from region to region. other.
Western resorts cater to a destination traveler who spends more money, “whereas eastern resorts and smaller resorts tend to have a local who comes in all the time, but whose expenses are lower.
He said the worst-hit stations were by far in Ontario, which was only running an average of 47 days compared to what is typically a 100-day season thanks to a provincial lockdown that ran from the end of December. in mid-February and another that has barely started. before the Easter weekend.
“It was devastating for us. We have always believed that skiing was part of the solution, not the problem, ”said Kevin Nichol, President of the Ontario Snow Resorts Association.
The industry adopted new security protocols, reduced food operations, limited the sale of daily tickets, and invested in new technologies such as online ticketing and contactless transactions, but was still closed twice without warning. , resulting in thousands of layoffs and thousands of dollars wasted, he said.
Closures at Ontario’s 50 resorts have likely wiped out more than $ 160 million of the $ 420 million the industry generates in winter and summer activities in a typical year, he estimated. He added that it could take five years for the stations to recover financially.
“Provincial updates were often on short notice with a lot of uncertainty as to when or if the season could continue,” said Tara Lovell, spokesperson for Blue Mountain Resorts about 150 kilometers north of Toronto.
She said the resort only had 53 days in the snow, the shortest ski season on record for the hill.
Resorts in Western Canada and Quebec generally fared better than Ontario, Pinchbeck said.
In Quebec, destination ski resorts like Mont-Tremblant and Mont Sainte Anne suffered from a lack of tourist clientele, but other ski areas had strong local support and season pass sales were higher, a declared Sophie Leblanc-Leroux, spokesperson for the Association des stations de ski du Québec.
She said ski and snowboarding lessons were down by around 40%, however, and daily lift ticket sales plummeted as ski resorts cut back, leading many to rely on the programs. federal wage subsidies.
Meanwhile, on the west coast, the Whistler Blackcomb ski resort was forced to close earlier than usual in late March when British Columbia declared a new lockdown due to an increase in cases pandemic.
But Colorado owner Vail Resorts, Inc. said its performance has already been negatively affected by the Canadian border closure. He estimated that the proportion of international visitors in the quarter ended Jan. 31 fell to around 15% of visitors, from 48% the year before.
All six ski areas owned by resorts in the Canadian Rockies – one in Alberta, three in British Columbia and two in Quebec – have closed for the season, spokesman Matt Mosteller said.
He said that the number of visitors to the hills had increased this year thanks to local skiers, but that income was down due to the decrease in the number of international and long-haul skiers who tend to spend more on the accommodation and other services.