Millions of Americans would love to bust out of pandemic isolation and go skiing.
The $20 billion U.S. ski and snowboard industry hopes the coronavirus lets them.
Lockdowns starting in March wiped out spring break, the second-most lucrative period of the season, and with it an estimated $2 billion from industry revenue. The most profitable time is Christmas vacation, coming soon, and the resurgence of Covid-19 has slope operators nervous that another shot at decent earnings will be lost at a time when pent-up demand is reaching a bursting point.
“It’s just going to be a very different year for all of us, an interesting year, a stressful year,” said Jeff Hanle, vice president of communications for Aspen Skiing Co., which owns the Aspen Snowmass resort in Colorado. “People are very excited to be outside, to be up on the hill.”
With wide distribution of a vaccine still months away, different mountains have different reasons to worry. Aspen Snowmass, which caters to the jet set with more than 350 trails on four peaks, expects to lose 80% of its international business as pandemic travel restrictions remain in force. At smaller, family-owned slopes, such as Minnesota’s Lutsen Mountains and Nub’s Nob in Michigan, the challenge is more to keep customers and staff safe while they gear up, take breaks and refuel with chili and hot chocolate.