Last season was a year unlike any in skiing history. Ski resorts worldwide implement many changes to adapt to COVID-19, but how many of those changes will stick around for next season? Today, we are looking at what to expect for the 2021/2022 season.
We were extremely fortunate to spend three days in August at the MSAA conference, an industry conference specific for Midwest Ski Resorts. Resorts from all over the Midwest states attend classes and open discussions to help our areas grow and give us the best experience possible. That said, this conference gave us a good idea of what resorts are preparing for the upcoming season.
First, we want to preface and let you know that some of this is still very much up for debate - depending on what happens with the Delta Variant. The good news is that ski resorts are well prepared from last season's protocols, so the worst-case scenario is we go back to the operational standards we had last season.
Last year we saw a lot of resorts move to online ticketing. And this was something that I found pretty shocking. The ski industry, especially in the Midwest, has been a little slow to adapt to technology, but last year they did - and it worked exceptionally well. Resorts that had online ticketing last season are going to stick with it.
Along with that, many resorts are looking to improve the ease of use for skiers and riders. Ticket pick-up windows, pick-up boxes, & even scan and print kiosks will be seen at resorts across the Midwest this season. Another thing you may notice tied in with online ticketing is reduced pricing for advanced ticket sales. Many resorts will bring back the traditional walk-up tickets but will offer a discount if you purchase yours online in advance.
Thinking logically, this makes sense. It allows for ski resorts to better gauge how many skiers and riders they will have and helps tremendously with staffing, lift operations, & other logical elements that are directly impacted by more or fewer people at the resort. All of this makes ski resorts more efficient - which is better for everyone.
Most resorts are hopeful that group lessons will comeback this season, but surprisingly many ski areas found success with smaller class sizes. These smaller lesson sizes allowed instructors to give more one-on-one attention and ultimately seemed to lead to a better experience. That said, you may see an increase and push for smaller class sizes this season as well.
Food and Beverage:
This season you can expect a lot of the same menu options that were around from last season. Last season many ski resorts decreased their menu size to improve their overhead costs and cut down on the time people spend trying to figure out what to get. Recently, we have seen many businesses cut back on options and have a ton of success and anything that improves our ability to get a beer quicker. Well, yea, count me in!
Last season ski resorts across the Midwest invested heavily in developing their outdoor spaces. This included things like additions to decks, patios, and even on-hill food and beverage locations. This trend will continue into next season; heaters, fire pits, and porta-potties will likely be making a return this season as well.
And on that same notation and a discussion that got us excited was the continued support of tailgating. This season was the first time in many years, dating back to when I started skiing that we saw a large number of skiers and riders in the parking lot tailgating throughout the season.
This vibe was exceptional, and coming into this season, I was concerned that many resorts would try to end tailgating with the more relaxed covid restrictions. However, I am excited to share most ski resorts want it to continue!
The discussion was great to hear because many of the resorts felt the same way that I did, the vibes last season were unlike any we have had in a long time, and they want to do everything that they can to make sure that continues into this season. Some resorts were even asking what else they could offer to ensure it sticks around for years to come.
This news is excellent for Midwest skiers and riders, but we also need to treat this as a two-way street. So please be respectful if you are tailgating this season, pick up your trash, don't cause a scene, & pay it forward. Next time you are at a resort bar, buy a beer before heading to the lot or if you don't want to spend money, pick up trash left in the parking lot when cleaning up your tailgate spot. These are small efforts but are huge in making sure we can continue to gain respect from our resorts.
Capacity Limits, Sell-Outs, & Masks:
And lastly, let's discuss capacity limits or sell-outs. And this topic is tricky because it will likely depend on what happens with the Delta variant, but I will say that most resorts will likely not have an issue with capacity this upcoming season.
You may see some resorts limit day ticket sales on major holidays, but I do expect the crowds to be down a bit when compared to last season's numbers. This, coupled with more relaxed covid protocols, means that most resorts will likely not have to cap ticket sales or have a reservation system in place.
If we see skier and rider numbers at the levels that we did last season, some resorts may opt to have capacity limits. The capacity limits would mainly be to increase the guest experience.
Masks will significantly depend on what happens over the next couple of months. Most likely, resorts will not require face masks while being outside; however, inside is a different story.
Some resorts may require masks while in tight indoor facilities, while others may not. Once again, a lot of this will depend on the environment at that particular time. Like last season, be sure to do your homework before you show up to the ski hill, as things will likely evolve throughout the year.
If you want to learn more, be sure to check in with your local resort as the season edges a little closer. Also, make sure you like and subscribe to all of our social media pages so you don't miss any updates.
Hope to see you out there this season!