Diversification is the Key for Ski Resort Hotels
By Simon Hudson Endowed Chair in Tourism & Hospitality, University of South Carolina | March 2015
Over the last decade or so, mountain resorts have made significant capital investments in developing alternative activities to downhill skiing and snowboarding. These activities range from the high-energy (like ice-skating, fat biking or snow-tubing) to the more passive (such as moonlit snowshoeing or hot air ballooning).
Three factors are driving this diversification of winter sports. Firstly, an analysis of market trends suggests that an increasing percentage of those who take winter sport holidays on a regular basis do not ski at all. Secondly, even avid skiers are typically skiing less. On average, they are somewhat older and new high-speed lifts enable a skier to attain his/her physical stamina quotient much more quickly. Lastly, climate change is having a negative impact on snowfall for many resorts, especially those at a low altitude.
In fact, the National Resources Defense Council argues that without any intervention, winter temperatures are projected to rise an additional four to 10 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century, with subsequent decreases in snowfall amounts and shorter ski seasons. Given the predicted and increasingly serious effects of climate change after the 2050s, downhill skiing and snowboarding may become niche products in the second half of this century.
As a result of these changes, winter resorts, as well as the hotels operating in them, have realized that they have to offer more activities than just skiing, both on and off-snow, and on a recent visit to the ski areas of Utah, I was fortunate enough to stay at a couple of quality hotels responding to these trends.
The first was Washington School House, in Park City, one of the town's newest luxury boutique hotels. The hotel's website features 18 winter sport activities (see table below), ranging from the high-energy sports of bobsledding, ziplining, heli-sking and dogsledding to the more sedentary activities of yoga, hot-air ballooning and a therapeutic soak in 'The Homestead Crater' a 55-foot tall, beehive-shaped limestone rock that nature has hollowed out and filled with 90-96°F water.