Alterra expects better-than-expected ski season

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A skier at California's Squaw Valley, one of the 15 resorts Alterra Mountain Company owns or operates in the U.S. and Canada.
A skier at California's Squaw Valley, one of the 15 resorts Alterra Mountain Company owns or operates in the U.S. and Canada.

Alterra Mountain Co. expects visitation and revenues to be approximately 30% down for this ski season compared with what would have been expected pre-pandemic. 

Such results, said Alterra CEO Rusty Gregory, will exceed preseason expectations of 50% or worse compared to normal. 

"We had very, very low expectations. So our budget reflected that," Gregory said in the latest episode of Travel Weekly's the Folo podcast, which was released Monday. "So based on that, we've been really positively encouraged."

Related: Focus on Ski -- Skiing, apres-pandemic

Alterra, the second-largest ski area operator in the U.S., owns or operates 15 resorts in the U.S. and Canada, among them Steamboat, Mammoth, Squaw Valley, Deer Valley, Winter Park, Tremblant and Stratton. The company also owns Ikon Pass. 

Gregory said that more than financials, Alterra's goal this season was to keep mountains open and operating safely and in so doing, to help ski town economies.

That concern, while genuine, wasn't altruistic, he said. 

"When the pandemic has abated somewhat  we needed those communities, those employees and those guests to come back," Gregory explained.

He also said that the sharp operating adjustments that the Covid-19 pandemic has called for have driven rapid innovation at Alterra. He spoke, for example, about new app functionalities for Ikon and Alterra ski areas that enable customers to order food from the slopes for pick-up at specific times, in some cases including reservations for a specific table. 

Alterra, he said, is investing $30 million in technology foundation work to build upon such innovations. Plans call for additional food service and gear rental functionality, as well virtual queueing, all handled through apps.

On-demand ski reservations are also in the works. 

"You're going to be at the bottom of a run that you've skied poorly and you want a ski instructor to meet you at the top of the run so you can ski it again -- I think we're going to see that type of activity on an app," Gregory said.

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