Business Overview

Ski resorts are one of the main places people go for wintertime fun. Resorts offer skiing, snowboarding, equipment rentals and lessons. Many resorts also have concessions, a restaurant, a bar and other amenities.

Who is this business right for?

Someone with a diverse skill set and background in business may be well-suited for running a ski resort business. The multi-faceted nature of ski resorts requires knowledge of multiple aspects of running a business. For instance, running a ski resort business might encompass:

  • maintaining lifts, vehicles, buildings and snow-making equipment
  • making decisions about snowmaking and grooming
  • managing a restaurant or bar (and a lodge for larger resorts)
  • creating programs for lessons and racing leagues

What happens during a typical day at a ski resort?

During the winter season, there are many day-to-day activities that must be done. A few include:

  • checking trail conditions, and opening and closing trails as appropriate
  • selling lift tickets
  • loading and unloading guests onto and off of lifts
  • attending to anyone who needs assistance while on the slope
  • repairing broken-down equipment
  • making snow and grooming trails (Most snowmaking and grooming occurs at night, after a mountain is closed.)

During the offseason, the day-to-day operations are much more relaxed. There’s still plenty to do, though. This is the time when most non-emergency repairs are made, routine maintenance is done and improvements are put in.

What is the target market?

A ski resort business’ ideal customer is an active person who is passionate about winter sports and has a significant amount of discretionary income. Such a person will likely go skiing or snowboarding multiple times, as they probably enjoy the activity and can afford to participate in the sports.

How does a ski resort make money?

A ski resort’s primary product or service are lift tickets, which guests buy so they might go up the mountain. Tickets bring in only a fraction of a resort’s revenue, though.

While your guests are staying at your resort, there are many opportunities to sell them additional products and services. Common products and services that ski resorts sell include:

  • lessons
  • equipment rentals
  • foods and beverages
  • ski and snowboard gear

What is the growth potential for a ski resort?

Most ski resort businesses operate only one resort. Instead of opening up resorts in other areas, resorts that want to expand will usually either expand their current resort or increase the amenities they offer. Cutting new trails, installing more lifts and opening neighboring peaks lets a resort expand so that it can attract and accommodate more guests. Adding amenities, which might include anything from a new bar to a five-star hotel, can also help attract more guests, and it can increase revenue.

Killington, a ski resort in Vermont, has used both of these strategies. The resort has many amenities, including the high-end Killington Grand Resort Hotel and several restaurants in the area. It also boasts seven peaks -- including nearby Pico, which was a nearby ski resort that went bankrupt and was bought by the owners of Killington.

In some cases, a single company may own multiple (usually larger) ski resorts. Even when multiple resorts are owned by one company, though, each resort is often operated by an independent company or group.