Park City businesses optimistic for late-season surge after low sales so far
In a city whose winter economy is almost directly associated to the amount of snow falling, a dry season can prove difficult for businesses. But despite sales being low for many businesses, companies are hopeful to see upward growth in the next month.
Tom Foley, vice president of business intelligence for the national ski area database Inntopia, said that resorts across the West have had low occupancy throughout the winter and that those numbers have been falling over time. But if snow continues to fall as it did last weekend, there is still a chance that the trend could change direction.
“The season started strong and hopeful and came off of an extremely strong summer,” he said. “That momentum carried over into the early part of the winter booking season.”
As snow was delayed in December, he said that few were worried about the season, but then the snow continued to evade the West and occupancy numbers dropped.
Reports that show 60-day projections indicate that March is trending either even or below the numbers from last season, according to data from DestiMetrics.
This is the first time in seven years that occupancy at Western mountain resorts has been down from year to year, Foley said.
Karl “Jake” Jacobsen, a hard goods buyer for Jans Mountain Recreation Experts, said that there are less people in Park City purchasing gear. For the last two months, sales have been slow.
He said that even though the ski resorts have been making snow, when the temperatures are higher than normal, few come to his shop to buy extra layers or warmer gear. Instead, they just need sunscreen.
But Coleen Reardon, director of marketing for Deer Valley Resort, said that because of the resort’s snowmaking abilities, business is pacing even with last winter. The resort reached skier capacity last Saturday and Sunday.
“We have developed a reputation among our visitors for snow quality, even in the years when Mother Nature doesn’t entirely cooperate, due to these efforts,” she said.
Steve McComb, owner of Bistro 412 on Main Street and Baja Cantina at the base of Park City Mountain Resort, said that considering the poor snow conditions, business has been OK. But overall, both places were down for the month of January. Still, he is hopeful that business will pick up during the rest of the season.
Jim Bizily, owner and CEO of Park City Rental Properties, said that he has spoken with several property rental owners who are struggling this season. He, however, heard predictions before the season that snow would be low and immediately started discounting and incentivizing his properties. Although his marketing cost increased by about 30 percent, he was able to increase his occupancy from last year. He said that he will continue the incentives throughout the rest of the year.
Foley, who said that many destinations are getting creative in order to maintain revenue, said that long-distance travelers have already planned their trips well in advance and are not as affected by snow for the rest of the season, but locals and regional visitors are. If the snow continues to fall, those visitors could fill up rooms, hit the slopes and open their wallets around town.
“We would hope that the February snows that have come will be positive and help overall on the numbers,” he said.
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