Ski-fields await snow bonanza...
The impact of a global recession on international tourism has sent shivers throughout the New Zealand tourism sector except, it would appear, in the ski industry.
Skiers and snowboarders with "snow interwoven in their DNA" will limit any impact the recession will have on South Island ski-fields this year.
The economic value of the southern ski-fields cannot be underestimated. A New Zealand Tourism Research Institute study on the economic benefits of the 2005 winter found an estimated $92.8 million was spent in the Southern Lakes region in that year's ski season, with a further $68.1m spent elsewhere in the country by those visitors.
With skiing being an expensive activity, it is one sector that could expect to see a decline in times of economic woe. Souhern ski-field operators could be expected to be concerned about the coming season.
Far from it. It could be part of a marketing strategy to put a positive spin on any situation, but operators say they are "positively optimistic" about the year. They say that while the season's fate hinges on snow quality and quantity, several factors could boost skier numbers this winter.
The value of the New Zealand dollar could force New Zealanders to take a winter holiday at home while also attracting Australian boarders and skiers, many of whom could not afford a northern hemisphere trip.
"We see Australia as being an opportunity to protect our winter. A lot of Aussies this year have elected not to go to Japan, the United States, Canada or Europe, but are still intending to go skiing somewhere," Ovendale said.
Australians would be tempted by a combination of a favourable exchange rate, more flights and cheaper accommodation, he said.
"We're not petrified about the winter. We're somewhat protected because for many of our customers, this interaction and engagement with the sport is part of their social fabric," he said.
"You don't give up part of what identifies you. If you're a skier, you're a skier. "If it's going to cost a little more, you'd look at other ways to save money rather than stepping away from skiing."
Mt Hutt manager Dave Wilson is also bullish about the low exchange rate.
"It's much cheaper to come to New Zealand than it probably ever has been. From that point of view, I don't think we'll lose people who have come in the past," he said.
Wilson was confident any international decrease would be offset by local regulars buying season passes, which were a "must have" for many. "A lot of people still want to ski. They just may not end up spending on extras," he said. "If you can buy a season pass and get out every weekend in the winter, then it's a great way to get out and enjoy the day."
Treble Cone chairman Nat Craig believes Tourism New Zealand's campaign will bring more Australian skiers.
"We've got a captive market sitting in Australia and they're making a decision now about where they're going to go for winter," he said. "The local Australian players are spending millions of dollars in marketing to hold them in Australia because they know we are a significant threat because the product and experience we can offer is far better than what they can get at home," he said.
Craig is optimistic about the coming season, even though 2008 was not a good year for the Wanaka ski-field. Not only was capital expenditure of nearly $2m needed, but the number of skier days was 13,000 below the budgeted 87,000, leading to a $486,000 trading loss. Those factors, combined with this year's recession and problems with securing additional financing, left the field's future in doubt well before the first snow flurry.
But a $2m cash injection from shareholders and the prospect of more Australian skiers has improved the outlook. Craig said the industry was facing an economic climate that it had not experienced before. More than half of the skier days in the Southern Lakes region come from overseas visitors, along with high numbers from the North Island.
Cardrona sales and marketing manager Nadia Ellis said anecdotal evidence from Australian travel agents confirmed many keen skiers and snowboarders had cancelled winter trips to Japan and North America but still wanted an overseas ski holiday.
"A lot of our skiers and boarders are absolutely dedicated and would probably go without food before sacrificing their ski holiday. Given a good winter, we have every right to be positive," she said.
"It won't be the end of us if we don't get a good snow season, but if we get good snow we've got every opportunity of a stellar year."
All that remains is for the snow gods to do their job.
source MARK HOTTON - The Press Last 07/03/2009
Locally, Manganui Ski Area relies heavily on regional patronage to keep us going. Being a non-profit organisation, SMC requires the cash flow patronage generates to keep in a sound financial position. A good snow season (like that of 2008) obviously helps us balance the books.
Offering great value and being close to New Plymouth and Hawera, we think we are in a good position in the market to weather the financial downturn.
Tamarack Resort To Close - a victim Of economic times...
It had such a bright future. Now, Tamarack Resort, 90 miles north of Boise, Idaho, is about to take a siesta; possibly for good. One of the west's newest resorts has notified employees that they would close up shop Wednesday March 4.
In receivership since last fall, the resort faced a mountain of foreclosure lawsuits and bankruptcy and just couldn't get in front of the eight ball.
It opened with promise in December 2004, but Tamarack, relying on real estate sales to grow and thrive, fell victim to the hard economic times. They defaulted on a $250 million loan last year but continued to operate on funds provided by the lender group that has been attempting to foreclose on the resort said news reports. But the well's run dry and Credit Suisse reportedly refused to reach a financing agreement that would keep the resort open.
Though the ski area itself will rest, some amenities like the public mountain bike trails, condos, and homes will be maintained. According to KTVB in Boise, the $6 million Osprey Meadows golf course at Tamarack will not reopen this spring, but to preserve the course for the future, the greens and fairways will be tended.
Tamarack's lenders, owners and manager will visit a judge to discuss its future Thursday, March 5. New owners have been sought since last year but so far no one has stepped up.
Resorts like Tamarack, essentially in the middle of no where, cannot survive in today's economy without selling real estate. Had it begun life about three years earlier, it might have been able to weather then next 18-months of recession. But the start-up costs for a place that large necessitated robust real estate sales.
The sad fact of the matter is that we will see a number of small to mid-sized resorts and ski areas in dire financial shape next season. It's tough to pay the bills with lift tickets and over-priced food.
There are only so many securely rich people to go around. Most of them already have their second or third homes in places like Stowe, Jackson Hole, Telluride, Vail, Aspen or Sun Valley. The rest of the resorts have to fight over the crumbs. The aspirational rich, the mid-level investment bankers, doctors, non-partner lawyers, etc., the people who might decide that a place like Tamarack was an affordable and acceptable alternative to one of the legacy resorts, have or will take a financial hit sufficient enough that medium sized places like Tamarack, Northstar and Schweitzer Basin will suffer for lack of real estate sales this year and next.
Tamarack's failure was in motion far prior to the economic downturn. Nice hill but when what will it take to make it operate profitably? It seems they have tried to make it into a Sun Valley quality destination which is doubtfull it could ever be. Hope this closure isn't permanent.
Tamarack is a relatively new - but growing - resort located in the small town of Donnelly, Idaho, about 90 miles north of Boise. Situated on the shores of Lake Cascade, Tamarack is well on its way to becoming a four-season destination resort, offering 700 acres of skiing on 25 trails, with five lifts up and running over 1,100 acres of varied terrain and an additional 5,000 acres of expert backcountry terrain open under a special use permit granted by the US Forest Service.
Sixty-four resort-built, ski-in/out mountain Chalets and Cottages, offering 200 rooms, will be available to rent. Additional ski-in/ski-out luxury lodging is available through Tamarack Lodging Services, with more than 140 total units available for guests. New units include resort-built two-and-three-bedroom townhomes just to the north of the Tamarack Express high-speed quad. Variety of lodging options in nearby McCall.
The Pioneer Village at the base of the Tamarack Express chairlift offers restaurants, retail shops, and a ski school. Snowcat skiing offered through the resort.
Days Open Last Year: 160
Years Open: 5
Average Snowfall: 762 cm
Beginner Runs: 20%
Intermediate Runs: 45%
Advanced Runs: 25%
Expert Runs: 10%
Total # Of Lifts: 7
Gondolas & Trams: N/A
High Speed Quads: 3
Quad Chairs: 2
Surface Lifts: 2
Elevation Top: 2347 m
Vertical Drop: 853 m
Bottom: 1494 m
Source - On the Snow news, 3 Mar 2009 Jill Adler, Associate Editor