ABCs of ski: What consolidation means to you the agent

More than a quarter of all ski visits are to resorts owned by four megaresort companies that have formed in recent years.

Some people regard this with misgivings. For instance, Craig Cook, president of Travel Organizers, a wholesaler-retailer based in Englewood, Colo., foresees resorts behaving much like the airlines: Investing heavily in the product but charging higher prices.

But agents should view this development as good news, says Bruce Rosard, president of Moguls Ski and Snowboard Tours, an operator in Boulder, Colo. "Consolidation gives resorts more marketing clout to compete with other leisure products. They're buying real estate, so they don't have to make money by raising lift ticket prices. They can do better with hotel rooms and restaurants."

A spokeswoman for one of the megacompanies agrees. "We are expanding beyond owning ski areas," says Kathleen Willis of American Skiing Co. "For instance, we now have five of our own Grand Summit Resort hotels at various areas. These are luxury hotels with restaurants, lodging and conference facilities."

Willis says consolidation has been around for years -- "usually 'mom and pops' owning two or three areas." The more recent consolidations, she says, can mean "an extremely large amount of cost saving across different regions. It also gives us the opportunity to create new products -- like multimountain passes and so forth."

A positive effect of consolidation, and one agents should be aware of, says Willis, is that the megacompanies are seeking the kind of consistency that was never a force in skiing -- quality of snow, efficient lift services, good guest service -- all within the context of resort individuality.

Willis says agents and consumers should be aware of the brand names of the big ski companies so they know what to expect when they visit a new resort.

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