Staring at the horizon…

Well now it is official. We are in “snow drought” conditions. As snow farmers we simply need snow to make money on our products. And we have not had any snow. And it doesn’t look promising for this week either. Crap.

So now what? Well, we keep waiting. And hoping. And praying. But at this point one must make some adjustments to the game plan too. We are down 28% for December as of Christmas eve. That means about $70,000 less money coming in for the month. Being down in an early or late season month is bad. Being down in December really hurts as it is the biggest sales month of the year for us. We are lucky to have had a strong year leading up to December and were up 30% going into the month. Now we are up only 8% for the season to date. Our big fall numbers have been off-set for the most part, and the rest of our cushion will be gone soon too, as January is our second biggest month. So I forced to deal with some cause and effects right now. We have staffed up big time due to our strong early sales. With good snowfall we expected to be UP quite a bit for December so I set staff levels to handle it. I have not cut back on hours yet as my staff depends on paychecks that were promised to them. So I have absorbed the hit myself so far. I have tried to keep them busy but there is only so much work to do. Mostly we need customers to come in and generate the need for work to be done. Tuning, restocking, selling etc. don’t happen without customer flow. But now I will have to cut hours until it snows. Same sales plus higher payroll is not good business. I hate that and the other employees hate it more!

Also to be considered is sell through.  That is to say that we have stock that needs to be sold. If it is not sold in a timely manner it devalues (can you say close outs?). Not just here in these walls but all over there are shops that will be worrying about selling through their inventories of skis, boots, clothing, and, well, everything. So many of them will start to discount earlier than they normally would. Human nature plus nervous owners plus bills to be paid will make certain this happens in some stores. Which makes everyone’s stock worth a bit less. It is a vicious phenomenon that must be managed properly form store to store across the land.

None of this lack of snow stuff and how it effects our business is a secret to anyone. KNBC news came and spent most of a day here doing interviews with staff and customers last week and filming for a ten minute spot on the evening news. It was my day off and I did not see the telecast but I understand that Martin may be up for an Emmy award. They say any press is good press…

The good news is that I am still sane and happy to be going in every day. Some of the sales reps have told me that they dread calling on certain accounts as the owners are either very depressed or very cranky. I just don’t see the use in that. The weather is beyond our ability to control, so what good does it do to freak out or mope? But the fact is that some shops may not make it through the winter in a year like this. If you are not financially sound, a lack of snow can sink your ship. And it would indeed be depressing to think you were in that situation. That’s why I try to keep some nuts stored up from the previous year to rely on if need be. So I think we will be ok, but I may have to stick with my Kirkland brand jeans for another year. And that’s ok.

More important is that fact that the skiing is not great right now. Not great for me. Not great for you either. My daughter Rebecca bought a Squaw/Alpine pass this year and is on Winter Break from school. She is really bumming! She may change her New Years eve plans from Tahoe to San Diego! I think I convinced her that man made snow is still better than sand, but still she is not a happy camper. And all those Christmas ski vacations our customers planned that are less fun or cancelled? Not a happy thing.

So I just try to keep in mind that it WILL snow. And it will probably snow a lot. It is just going to be a few weeks later than we had hoped this year. Most people quit skiing well before the resorts close. If you feel like you need to get in a specific number of days to pay off that pass or make your ski lease worthwhile, just know that there will still be plenty of skiing available. Don’t give up on old man winter- he’s just a bit late to the party! And it is not like there is no skiing you know. It has been cold and the resorts have been making snow like crazy. I have only had one day on the slopes (I know, I know- I will catch up!) but it was great and I owe that to man made snow.

And if I can only get my Eskimo to stop looking at the weather every day and freaking out about all this, I should be able to hold it together on my end. You do the same out there too- ok? Just make sure you are ready when it happens. Because it will happen. And it will be great. In the meantime thank goodness for snow making machines!

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