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We’d like to thank Deer Valley Resort for hosting the event and Myles Rademan, director of public affairs for Park City, for moderating the discussion.
I’d like to start out by talking about the ski season, because that has been such a driver of what we do.
SMITH: Well, it was a unique season. We had one of our lower snow totals. It ended up being around 274 inches, where we usually average over 300 inches. It started out slowly with no snow until mid-December, but the way the holidays fell impacted us a little bit. The crowds came a little differently at Christmastime than we expected. They stayed longer than we expected, which was great. The rest of the season was fairly strong. Revenues were up as well as skier base.
But it was a tough year. The snow did not come as often as we expected or wanted. Guests came at a little bit different pace, maybe did not spend as much time here as they have in the past. But overall it was a real strong season, and we’re pretty happy with how it turned out.
WHEATON: For us, weather-wise, it was very similar and just as challenging. We’re going to end up with our second-best year ever. Our best year so far was ‘07-’08, just before the crunch. Up until the last week we were on pace to have a record year, and then the last week we got a couple feet of snow and powder skiing—and we had the place to ourselves. People didn’t turn up. Locally, people got a little taste of spring and decided that enough is enough. On the destination side, it was a little bit too far past Easter, so a lot of people were back to school and work.
But for us it was a good, solid year, one that we’ll take anytime, and thank God for snowmakers. We have reinvested a lot, especially in the last several years when the whole technology changed in snowmaking. We can make a lot more snow now in a shorter period of time because of the equipment that’s available, and so that’s what really made the difference to us.
What do the two of you think about how the snowfall this year impacts future reservations? We always run into that issue—do people look at this year and then book based on that the next year?
WHEATON: Absolutely. When we don’t get a lot of early snow, the following year there’s not a lot of early reservations, typically. People will wait longer and see where it snows around the country and then book. If it doesn’t snow early anywhere, then they go to the beach. So we’re definitely expecting an impact on early reservations. But here in Park City, people have come to know that even if we don’t get a lot of natural snow, skiing is still going to be good.
SMITH: The pattern of how people book has changed anyway. They’re booking later in the cycle than they used to. But I definitely think that’s what happened to us last December. People saw that we didn’t have a great season previous years and waited to see what happened. And when our snow was late in arriving, they pushed off their decision making even longer.
Even though it was an early season this year, we had great skiing. But trying to get that message out when the national media is talking about no snow, that’s really difficult.
Let’s talk about the transportation business, which is a great bellwether of who’s really coming up here and what they’re saying.
NOVELLE: Transportation depends a lot on our resort and lodging partners, and this year in particular corporate travel was better. We had a larger Sundance group. We had spring breakers. Easter was far better than last year. The collective brands of the all-resort group actually broke records this year, so we’re really proud of that.
The only market share we missed is the spur-of-the-moment powder hounds. Even though we had $400,000 in walk-ons at the airport, they were coming here for the great spring skiing in February. Everybody left happy. Our philosophy is the vacation begins and ends at the airport. And so when they’re driving up the canyon and they’re seeing no snow, even into Park City, we have our drivers doing cheerleading like crazy. “Wait till you get on the slopes. It’s going to be great.”