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Lo-res_1706753950-SForget the beach. This summer, tourists are heading to ski towns. A mix of pent-up post-pandemic demand, good marketing, a rebounding economy, laws that allow for more development on federal lands, and new summer-specific amenities and attractions are combining to turn mountainous areas into warm weather boomtowns.

The new summer attractions include zip lines, rope courses, bike trails, bike parks, and even educational programming to keep kids and adults fully entertained—and hotel rooms fully filled. In 2020, Western mountain towns were packed with so-called “COVID refugees,” who received more ambivalent press than a brood of cicadas. But in 2021, even more people are heading for the hills. More formally, “We’re seeing earlier demand than we’ve ever seen before and at higher levels,” according to Anna Olson, president and chief executive of the Jackson Hole (Wyoming) Chamber of Commerce.

DestiMetrics, a market analytics company that tracked hotel occupancy in 18 mountain destinations in eight Western states, finds that the data agree, showing surging predicted occupancy rates for July, August, and September, according to a report the firm issued in May. At the same time, daily price rates have risen by 32 percent compared with pre-pandemic prices. These increases have been so substantial that at “most mountain destinations in the West, and at many in the Northeast, the summer occupancy is as high or higher than during the winter months,” according to a senior vice president affiliated with DestiMetrics. This executive further noted travelers’ remarkable acceptance of higher rates, to the extent that they even seem price indifferent, as long as they can get a chance to get away.

In a way, indifference is good in this scenario. It means the travelers don’t mind hotel prices going up (and up and then even further up), like a chair lift.

Discussion Questions

  1. Why are tourists going to ski towns in the summer?
  2. What else can ski towns do to attract visitors, outside of the winter months?
  3. Could anything happen to make tourists not want to visit ski towns in the summer months?

Source: Cindy Hirschfeld, “It’s Summer in the Ski Towns, 2.0,” The New York Times, June 22, 2021; Katie Barnes, “Winter Season Exceeds Early Season Projections to Finish Up in Occupancy; Summer Lodging Looking to Set New Records,” Inntopia, May 13, 2021; Jim Robbins, “Pandemic Crowds Bring ‘Rivergeddon’ to Montana’s Rivers,” The New York Times, November 23, 2020