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Top Laser Skin Resurfacing Questions Answered by Dermatologist

Adam Wallach, M.D., answers our top questions about laser skin resurfacing. (photo provided by Skin Cancer & Dermatology Institute)
Adam Wallach, M.D., answers our top questions about laser skin resurfacing. (photo provided by Skin Cancer & Dermatology Institute)

Q: What is laser skin resurfacing?

A: Laser skin resurfacing is performed using either an erbium or carbon dioxide laser. Essentially, it is the process of removing some of the epidermis or outer layers of the skin in order to improve its texture and color. Today this procedure is most often performed on the skin using a matrix of tiny dots, also known as fractionation, which provides quicker healing and less risk.

Q: Besides redness in the treated area, what can be expected post-procedure?

A: Some laser procedures, like the treatment of facial blood vessels, produce a noticeable change the moment you leave the office with only a few days of redness.

Other procedures can cause some slight swelling and light crusting, lasting about three to five days.

Q: For best results, how many laser treatments are needed?

A: It depends on how strongly the procedure is performed. If done at a higher power level, a single treatment can result in tremendous change, with a longer downtime. When lower settings are used, there will be less downtime, and the patient will require additional treatments spread out over several months.

Q: Will it hurt and is it safe?

A: Many laser procedures require no anesthesia, but a topical anesthetic cream can be used for those who might be more sensitive. The procedures are very safe when performed by experienced clinicians.

Q: Are there any risks associated with laser treatments? 

A: Laser treatments should be performed by physicians or trained providers with laser experience and knowledge of skin types, including which are appropriate for laser treatments and which are not. Dermatologists have more knowledge in this area than any other specialist. Hyperpigmentation (darkening) or hypopigmentation (lightening) of the skin rarely occur, but are possible side effects.

Q: Who is a prime candidate for laser treatment?

A: Anyone who feels like they would like to refresh or even out either the color or texture of their skin. Light to olive skin tones respond best to laser treatments.

Q: Tell us a little about the Quanta Evo Light™ laser and its benefits.

A: The Quanta Evo Light is a state-of-the art laser with impressive technology. It performs the function of many individual lasers in one. There is no longer a need to have more than one laser at a practice, as this laser provides almost every functionality one might need as a dermatologist! We are incredibly lucky to have this hi-tech device and experienced practitioners right here in Truckee.

About Our Dermatology Provider

In private practice since 1997, Dr. Wallach treats patients at Skin Cancer & Dermatology Institute’s Truckee location. He diagnoses a full range of dermatologic problems for both adults and children, specializing in medical and cosmetic dermatology, including the use of various lasers, for the last 25 years. He is a strong proponent of patient education in his practice and is a contributing author to the chapter on skin in the upcoming book, The 21st Century Man. Dr. Wallach and his family live in the North Tahoe area. Get to know Dr. Wallach and book an appointment online here.

Skin Cancer & Dermatology Institute

Bringing you patient-centered, world-class dermatological care with ten locations in the Reno-Tahoe area. Skin Cancer & Dermatology Institute specializes in Medical Dermatology, Mohs Skin Cancer Surgery, and Cosmetic Dermatology.

Uncommon Tips for Skiing Safety

Winter brings the opportunity for you to slide down nature’s slopes, often without even walking up, bringing bliss to those of you who plan to enjoy it. Photo courtesy of The Stone Clinic.
Winter brings the opportunity for you to slide down nature’s slopes, often without even walking up, bringing bliss to those of you who plan to enjoy it.
Photo courtesy of The Stone Clinic.

Surely you have heard the usual advice: Get strong, stay flexible, don’t take the last run, and ski with a helmet. All fine and good—until you notice that the top skiers on ski teams, along with super fit backcountry skiers, all get hurt too. So, let’s think about some of the less common ski tips and see if they keep you safe this season.

  1. Gear matters. Sharp edges and well-tuned skis grab snow snakes less often and get you out of trouble when you really need that edge. Go to the ski shop now, and tune your gear.
  2. Wide skis are fun in powder, but they increase the injury rate on groomed slopes. The wider the ski, the harder it is to lay them over on their edge, which creates more torque on the knee. No one ski is best. Rent or buy skis for the conditions you are in each day.  
  3. Binding design has only marginally improved, and no unbiased data shows that one binding is better than another. Multi-directional heel release (Howell design) should change this. New bindings, however, have less grit, more accurate calibration, and less interface wear. Get them set to the right release setting for the skier you actually are and not the one you imagine yourself to be.
  4. Helmets have not been shown to reduce neck or significant head injuries, except in some collisions with tree branches or other objects. Clear visibility of your goggles and headgear probably matters even more. For racing, there is no doubt: no helmet, no starts.
  5. Drugs and alcohol are legal in many ski states, but both truly reduce athletic performance. Skiing and boarding half-baked sounds cool to some, but are dangerous to most. Cigarette smoking is just plain idiotic.
  6. Cold feet, cold muscles, and stiff backs lead to an overall reduction in the ability to respond to sudden changes in position. Start the day in a hot shower or hot tub. Stretch there, rather than on a cold floor. If you have poor blood circulation, get boot warmers, or heated socks and gloves. They really work—though they are not durable and don’t survive washing. Upgrade your clothing to the newer materials that are thinner, warmer, and stretchier. Ride the covered lifts. Drink warm fluids. You will be surprised by how much staying warm decreases minor injuries (including those that may lead to major injuries).
  7. Look at the grooming map of the mountain. Surprisingly, not many skiers do. There are far fewer injuries on groomed trails than in rough skiing conditions.
  8. Time your skiing. Ski during the best sun and best snow conditions of the day. Eat lunch when few other people do. The goal is to ski for a long time in life, not a long time in one day.
  9. Take a guide. Most people do not appreciate how many hidden ski trails there are on every mountain. While skiing is already extraordinarily expensive, local hosts and mountain guides are often relatively cheap compared to ski school instructors. The hidden stashes will put huge grins on everyone’s faces.
  10. Fix what’s broken. If your back, shoulder, knee, or other joints are holding you back, get them repaired. The science of joint repair and rehabilitation has advanced so far that almost all joint injuries and arthritic conditions can be repaired well enough to return you to skiing, sometimes within the season.

Winter brings the opportunity for you to slide down nature’s slopes, often without even walking up, bringing bliss to those of you who plan to enjoy it. The operative word is plan. 

Medically authored by 

Kevin R. Stone, MD

Orthopaedic surgeon, clinician, scientist, inventor, and founder of multiple companies. Dr. Stone was trained at Harvard University in internal medicine and orthopaedic surgery and at Stanford University in general surgery.

Top Skin Care Questions Answered by Local Renowned Board-Certified Dermatologist

Skin Care Awareness Month is fast approaching, a month helping patients understand how to achieve their skin care goals. Adam Wallach, M.D. answers questions about popular cosmetic dermatology treatments and skin care ingredients. 

Q: Some patients are wary of fillers for fear of looking unnatural. What do you recommend for avoiding this? 

A: The key to a natural result is using fillers with a restorative mindset rather than an augmenting one. Find a practitioner whose aim is to create a natural appearance and look in a mirror together to determine what you would like to correct. Start slow, and if you like it, you can do more.

Q: How long do the effects of fillers last?

A: Fillers can last anywhere from as little as six months up to 24 months. That said, there is some variability of duration among patients. Also, facial fillers tend to last longer in some areas than others.

Dr. Adam Wallach (Photo courtesy of Skin Cancer and Dermatology Institute)
Dr. Adam Wallach (Photo courtesy of Skin Cancer and Dermatology Institute)

Q: What does laser therapy treat? Is there downtime after a laser treatment?

A: Lasers can be used to treat many different conditions, including sunspots, facial blood vessels, excess hair, wrinkles, and scars. The downtime depends on the laser used and the strength of the treatment. Some laser procedures target specific problem areas alone, consequently they can have minimal downtime. Other procedures where the entire face is treated often have more wounding due to the affected surface area, but there are lighter versions of these.

Q: How does microdermabrasion work and how many treatments does it typically take to see results?  

A: Microdermabrasion enhances exfoliation by both the mechanical removal of the most superficial skin combined with suction that then removes those skin cells. For the best results, this treatment is performed in a series of 4-6 treatments every 2-4 weeks. 

Q. Talk to us about chemical peels.

A: Chemical peels come in many varieties (salicylic acid, glycol acid, mandelic acid) and multiple strengths, with some of the strongest peels performed only by medical providers. In addition to brightening the surface of the skin, peels help topical creams such as antioxidants, retinoids, and stem cell products to penetrate more efficiently.

Q: Hyaluronic acid is an ingredient often touted with skin care benefits. What is it exactly and how does it work?

A: Hyaluronic acid is a standard dermal component of skin that holds onto water when used topically or in injectables like JUVÉDERM®, which helps plump the skin. Generally, it is incredibly safe and non-irritating as a topical and rarely causes problems as an injectable filler.

Q: Retinol – prescription or over the counter – which is better and why? What skin concerns does retinol help treat? At what age should retinol be incorporated into our skin care routine? 

A: Retinoids are a group of products derived from vitamin A which have been studied for years and whose skin care benefits have been scientifically confirmed. Tretinoin (also known as retinoid acid or Retin A) is the best-studied and best-known product in this group. It has been used for over 20 years for its effectiveness in diminishing fine wrinkling, lessening skin darkening, and generally improving the skin’s tone. Tretinoin is a differentiating factor, which means it normalizes the way cells develop as they are affected by aging or oxidative damage. In theory, tretinoin is returning proper signaling to the skin so that it matures properly. Related molecules to tretinoin are retinaldehyde and retinol that are not quite as potent as tretinoin but still exert their effects with a bit less of the downsides of sun sensitivity and dryness. If you are new to this product category, start with one of these less potent molecules, and you can always transition to tretinoin later as your skin become used to it. Nighttime is the perfect time to use retinoids.

About Our Dermatology Providers

In private practice since 1997, Dr. Wallach treats patients at Skin Cancer & Dermatology Institute’s Truckee location. He diagnoses a full range of dermatologic problems for both adults and children, specializes in medical and cosmetic dermatology, and is well known for treating many types of skin cancer. He is a strong proponent of patient education in his practice and is a contributing author to the upcoming book, The 21st Century Man. Dr. Wallach and his family live in the North Tahoe area. Get to know Dr. Wallach and book an appointment online here.  

A medical expert’s perspective on how to treat crow’s feet

At their earliest stage of development, around the age of 30, crow’s feet happen because of repetitive squinting.  (Photo courtesy of Skin Cancer & Dermatology Institute)
At their earliest stage of development, around the age of 30, crow’s feet happen because of repetitive squinting. (Photo courtesy of Skin Cancer & Dermatology Institute)

How to treat crow’s feet must be one of the most asked cosmetic dermatology questions in our practice. Let’s start with what they are. Crow’s feet are the fine lines and wrinkles that fan out to the side of the lateral corner of your eyes. They are so named because of their likeness to a crow’s foot or footprint. At their earliest stage of development, around the age of 30, they happen because of repetitive squinting. At this stage I like to treat them with the simple use of botulinum toxins (such as BOTOX® Cosmetic, Xeomin®, and Dysport®). Cosmetic neurotoxin injections alone can soften dynamic wrinkles so much so that sometimes they disappear completely — at least while the botulinum toxin is active, which can be for up to three to four months.  

As we age, our crow’s feet become more numerous, deepen, and begin to appear even when we are expressionless. In other words, the wrinkles go from being present only during moments of facial expression to being present even while the face is still or expressionless. In this more evolved stage of crow’s feet, which often starts to happen between the ages of 40 to 50 years old, we may use a small amount of hyaluronic acid (HA) filler in addition to botulinum toxin to help soften the area. You may be more familiar with the brand name forms of these cosmetic injectables such as the collection of fillers from JUVÉDERM®, Restylane® and BELOTERO BALANCE®.

Treating crow’s feet with cosmetic injectables involves little downtime, is an approachable cost point for many, and generally our patients enjoy instant gratification.  

As the depth and number of crow’s feet develop further, dermatologists pivot to other cosmetic tools. Lasers are incredibly popular tools of our trade because of their effectiveness in treating so many dermatological concerns. Ablative lasers like CO2 or erbium, can help to soften the crow’s feet tremendously by smoothing the skin where those lines exist.  With ablative lasers patients will experience 5-10 days of downtime with some redness, slight crusting, and swelling; however, the effect can be dramatic and long lasting, depending on how this procedure is performed. 

For patients who prefer a more gradual approach coupled with less downtime, there are other non-injurious devicessuch as Ultherapy®, Sofwave™, or Fraxel® RESTORE that can help soften crow’s feet. Along with a more gradual effect, these require repetitive treatments to reap benefits.

On a final note, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of avoiding sun damage, not only for helping prevent skin cancer, but for its added benefit of avoiding photo-aging. Remember to limit your sun exposure, wear sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30 every day, wear polarized sunglasses and an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) hat when outdoors.

With the advances in laser technology and the variety of treatments available, there are many options that we can offer our patients depending on their unique situation. To learn more about how to treat crow’s feet, schedule a consultation with one of Skin Cancer & Dermatology Institute’s medical providers or cosmetic specialists.

About Dr. Adam Wallach

Dr. Wallach has been in private practice since 1997 and his specialties include adult and pediatric medical dermatology and cosmetic dermatology. He is especially skilled in the diagnosis and treatment of skin cancers as well as cosmetic injections and laser treatments. He treats patients at Skin Cancer & Dermatology Institute’s Truckee location and lives in North Tahoe with his family. Get to know Dr. Wallach here.

Enjoy an elevated dining experience at Revel Rancharrah

Revel Rancharrah is a vibrant independent living community in Reno that provides best-in-class amenities and services to its residents. Photo Courtesy Revel Rancharrah.
Revel Rancharrah is a vibrant independent living community in Reno that provides best-in-class amenities and services to its residents. Photo Courtesy Revel Rancharrah.

For those looking to enjoy their golden years in style and comfort, Revel Rancharrah in Reno is the premier independent living community for living the good life. Revel Living, their lifestyle culture based on the four pillars of wellness, offers countless opportunities to learn and grow. Whether you are interested in woodworking, yoga, mentoring a student, learning a new language, exploring botanical gardens, or even teaching a class, you will have the opportunity to pursue your interests and passions to live your years to the fullest.

From the Ritz to Reno

Beyond the incredible activities and atmosphere at Revel Rancharrah, the dining options have been elevated to the next level with the addition of Chef Luis Urquilla. After working at the Four Seasons and then the Ritz Carlton in Santa Barbara for the past six years, Chef Luis was thrilled to join Revel Rancharrah and  bring his exquisite gourmet culinary creations to their restaurants. “We snatched Luis from the Ritz Carlton when the hotels were closed during COVID-19, and we are lucky to have him,” said Linard Timatyos, Dining Services Director with Unidine Services, Revel Rancharrah’s dining services partner.  “Luis is an incredible chef and has done phenomenal things since he began here last October. The residents love him and what he brings to the table. Now that we have him, he’s not going anywhere.”

The entree from the St. Patrick’s Day event. Photo Courtesy Revel Rancharrah.
The entree from the St. Patrick’s Day event. Photo Courtesy Revel Rancharrah.

Having trained and worked at two five-star restaurants, Chef Luis focuses not only on fresh flavors, but also colorful presentations that are works of art to view and taste. Each month, Chef Luis and Timatyos host a meeting for the residents to gather their feedback on the food and discuss what they would like to see on the menu for the next month. The chef then creates a menu for a month’s worth of lunches and dinners for both restaurants at Revel Rancharrah: The Social Club, a pub offering both classic and craft cocktails along with a casual dining and shared plate menu; and Ovation, the modern American restaurant that rivals the upscale restaurants that can be found in Reno and surrounding areas. Both restaurants offer made-from-scratch, seasonal menus cooked to order with exceptional service. With 99% of the residents now fully vaccinated against COVID-19, seats at both restaurants are highly sought after by residents and their guests. 

Special Events to Please the Palate

In addition to the incredible meals served daily at Ovation, once a month, a Chef’s Table event is offered for residents, which allows Chef Luis to stretch his culinary muscles and get creative with both flavors and presentations. Each  Chef’s Table event features a new, creative fine dining menu designed by Luis, with wine pairings for  each course. The April event included lamb loin with chimichurri, a mahi-mahi appetizer, butternut squash mousse with a berry orange citrus beurre blanc sauce, chocolate pistachio mousse with a raspberry sorbet, and more. Chef Luis is thrilled to be able to offer these experiences for the residents, and they enjoy watching the chef create his dishes in Ovation’s open kitchen. “Coming from the hotel restaurant industry, this is a new experience for me,” said Chef Luis. “I’m very happy and enjoy working with everyone here.”

A sample entree from a Chef’s Table event. Photo Courtesy Revel Rancharrah.
A sample entree from a Chef’s Table event. Photo Courtesy Revel Rancharrah.

Revel Rancharrah also hosts barbecues with outdoor patio seating for the residents during summertime holiday weekends.. These include everything you could want in a summer barbecue, including baby back ribs, chicken, hamburgers, corn on the cob, coleslaw, potato salad, and all the traditional barbecue trimmings. Revel residents also enjoy weekly “Wine Down Wednesdays” in The Social Club, which include wine tastings and shareable appetizer plates. Live music is often included to add to the festive atmosphere.

Both Timatyos and Chef Luis are relatively new to senior living, but they enjoy the atmosphere and relationships with the residents. They love  finding new ways to wow them with exceptional food and service. “I’ve worked with other chefs before, but we’ve brought something new to senior living. It’s a true fine dining experience, and we make sure that we also provide impeccable service,” Timatyos said. “This is the new way of senior living, and we continue to add to this concept. We are even developing an app that can let residents know when we introduce a new menu item or have a wine tasting planned. The residents rave about the quality of food and service we provide, and we are proud of the experience we offer.”  

To learn more about Revel Rancharrah, call 775-242-6752 or visit revelrancharrah.com.

Tourists excited, anxious about 2021 summertime travel

Most travelers would like large outdoor events to resume, but with safety adjustments and size limitations. Photo source from RRC Associates, IDA Survey, May 2021
Most travelers would like large outdoor events to resume, but with safety adjustments and size limitations. Photo source from RRC Associates, IDA Survey, May 2021

Many Americans are looking forward to traveling again this summer, with several new research studies pointing to a high level of interest in hitting the road. Upwards of 90% of American travelers already have at least one leisure trip planned for this summer, with an average of three leisure trips overall, according to research from Destination Analysts

While many people are starting to feel generally safe doing certain travel-related activities, some visitors remain hesitant. For example, a recent national survey from RRC Associates shows that Americans are looking forward to outdoor events/farmers markets and indoor retail shopping, while some indoor facilities, like gyms/rec centers and bars/night clubs, are still viewed with caution. 

Having a sense of how your visitors feel about these issues will allow local businesses and chambers to provide the right communication, safety guidance and level of service this summer. 

Survey suggests anticipation is high among vaccinated travelers

The RRC Associates traveler study compiled responses from over 4,000 active Americans who travel, shop, dine, and attend events. The vast majority of survey respondents is planning to take an overnight leisure trip this summer, a strong sign of the pent-up demand that has been talked about. 

As well, 84% have received one or more COVID-19 vaccine shots, far greater than the roughly 50% of all Americans who have had at least one dose. The higher vaccination level among travelers is clearly contributing to the increased interest in getting back to visiting favorite destinations once again this summer. 

Encouragingly, survey respondents are feeling significantly more safe than they were three months ago doing a variety of travel-related activities, like dining, shopping, attending festivals/events, staying in hotels and watching spectator sports. This is good news for business owners and mountain town officials, signaling that visitors are anticipating spending money at local businesses and generating local sales and lodging tax dollars. 

ABOUT INSIGHTS COLLECTIVE

Insights Collective; a Tourism Economy Think Tank and Resource Center – is a collaboration of destination travel industry experts who are collaborating and working, together with mountain resort communities and their stakeholders, to understand, plan, and navigate through the emerging tourism marketplace.

www.TheInsightsCollective.com  /  info@theinsightscollective.com

Some spin-off benefits pandemic-prompted outdoor dining

The popularity of newly-created outdoor dining spaces, sometimes on sidewalks, parking spaces, or other public rights-of-way, is perhaps an unintended consequence of the pandemic. And, indeed, many would like to see these outdoor dining spaces remain permanent. According to the survey, 57 percent support keeping these alternative outdoor eating locations. 

“One of the benefits to come out of the pandemic is this kind of innovation, which in many cases might have taken local government years to enable via permitting. It’s a benefit to the destination, residents and visitors,” commented Carl Ribaudo of Insights Collective. 

However, a clear delineation remains between comfort with outdoor and certain indoor settings. People are very likely to want to dine at restaurants with outdoor seating, attend outdoor events, such as festivals, farmers markets and concerts. Intent to patronize retail stores, both small boutiques and large, big-box stores, is also high. 

But visitors remain noticeably more cautious with other indoor businesses like gyms/rec centers, movie theaters, indoor spectator sports and bars/night clubs. These results show that visitor sentiment remains mixed and that certain businesses will likely have to continue to navigate the challenges of perceptions of safety.

Guests favor size limits, precautions for large events

Regarding special events and outdoor festivals, while people are ready for events to resume, they tend to want some limits on the size of the events and some safety protocols in place. With such precautions in place, 79% say they would attend an outdoor concert or arts festival this summer. On the other hand, without any precautions, 66% are unlikely to attend such outdoor events. 

“The feedback is clear — event attendees do not want to be in a crowded space,” said Brian London of Insights Collective. “Less is more, in that fewer attendees and less crowding will lead to higher satisfaction.” The takeaway is that interest in outdoor events is high, but some level of limitation needs to be in place for attendees to want to partake. 

When it comes to vaccines and masks, this controversial issue appears to be less divisive among the survey respondents. The majority of travelers feel that having proof of vaccination should be required to board a commercial airline (59%), but a significant minority is opposed to a “vaccine passport” or other requirements (22%). 

Outdoor Dining Graph: Outdoor dining has been very popular during the pandemic, and travelers support keeping those options in the future.
Outdoor Dining Graph: Outdoor dining has been very popular during the pandemic, and travelers support keeping those options in the future.

Turning vaccine requirements into a positive message

These results show that businesses will have to tread carefully in terms of how they approach encouraging or requiring customers or staff to show proof of vaccination. Spinning the issue positively, such as providing an incentive or coupon for vaccinations (like Krispy Kreme did last month), might be the best approach. 

“VIP seating sections, designated floors on hotels (and) lift lines reserved for those who are vaccinated are examples of rewarding those who are compliant,” noted Ralf Garrison of Insights Collective. 

Sentiment about travel and whether or not visitors feel safe doing certain things can evolve quickly, as local and national health guidance changes and people re-adjust to participating in activities they used to do. Indeed, the CDC revised its guidance about masks for vaccinated people just the other day. 

Nevertheless, individual visitors are likely to have different attitudes about masks, distancing, sanitization, and other policies. Irrespective of local nuances, this summer generally looks like it will be busy, with visitation levels to mountain destinations likely to be quite strong and a return to a summer somewhat more like we are all used to. 

Welcome to the Neighborhood

The percentage of stays that are unpaid, which correlates closely to owner usage, has remained up over historical norms since the pandemic began in March 2020.  Source: Inntopia Business Intelligence
The percentage of stays that are unpaid, which correlates closely to owner usage, has remained up over historical norms since the pandemic began in March 2020. Source: Inntopia Business Intelligence
INSIGHTS FROM TAHOE

While real estate did gangbusters in 2020, Tahoe Prosperity Center CEO Heidi Hill Drum doesn’t think this is a sign that the demographics of full-time residents is changing.

“I actually don’t think we’re seeing an evolutionary change – yet. It is easy to use anecdotal information (seems like there are lots of new people moving to Tahoe to work in a Zoom town) and assume it is significant,” Hill Drum said “And while we should welcome our new remote-worker residents, we don’t yet know if they will stay once their offices open back up again. And, for every new resident, many are also leaving the area.”

The year-round population has seen a drop. In the year 2000, the Tahoe Basin saw its highest year-round population count at 60,295. By 2018, it dropped to 52,979 and in 2019, it dropped to below 50,000 for the first year ever. 

“We have plenty of room to grow our year-round population, yet we aren’t,” Hill Drum said. “Even if the realtors are to be believed (which they are of course – lots of homes are selling!) we’re still not likely to have experienced an increase of 10,000 people in one year. Ideally, for our economy, we would increase our year-round population and especially in the 25-44 year old age range of young professionals and families.”

Mountain towns have always been a place to which one can escape the noise, pollution and daily grind of the concrete jungle, and conversely have been magnets that attract folks with peace and quiet, clean air, relaxation and panoramic vistas.

This combination of escape and attraction is what makes mountain communities desirable places to live, either as a primary or secondary home. Long-term residents know this: unless they’re among those lucky enough to spend their entire lives in our communities, they’ve sought the escape, found the attraction, and made the move. But it’s not a move everyone can manage, and so the rise of the “treehouse,” the second home in the mountains to which to escape. 

Chief among roadblocks to full-time mountain residency is employment. Most people find their career in the city, and in many cases that same work for the same money isn’t available in smaller communities. Queue a pandemic, and with it a literal shift in how the world works.

Suddenly there’s a new phenomenon in rural America, coined elsewhere as “in-migration” – the escape of new residents and second homeowners from their urban domiciles to the attraction of the mountains. What began almost immediately after the pandemic declaration as a significant increase in second home occupancy has evolved into the full-on migration of second homeowners and wholly new residents to resort towns. The Insights Collective is working to understand the up- and downside consequences of these changes.

Changes in Rental Inventory

  • The upside: Tired or declining inventory is getting a facelift, raising the overall standard of inventory in the town and putting renovation dollars into the pockets of local suppliers and contractors. That increase in quality also increases the potential rental revenue or resale value of the unit at a future date, essentially “banking” revenue for the community.

At the same time, mountain towns across the West are reporting an aggregate increase of 4.8 percent in taxable retail sales during the past 10 months, despite lower occupancy and shut-downs. While not likely entirely attributable to new residents, there is a strong correlation between the two.

  • The downside: A majority of second homes in mountain communities are part of the traditional leisure rental pool, either through property management companies, online markets like Airbnb or both. Second homeowner use over the past year contributed to a 5.5 percent decline in available units in western mountain resorts this past winter versus 2018/19.

While it doesn’t sound consequential, that amounts to slightly more than 188,000 room nights. Each of which can potentially generate an average of $399 per night based on DestiMetrics’ data, for a potential loss of $75 million in revenue and the corresponding lodging taxes.

ABOUT INSIGHTS COLLECTIVE

Insights Collective; a Tourism Economy Think Tank and Resource Center – is a collaboration of destination travel industry experts who are collaborating and working, together with mountain resort communities and their stakeholders, to understand, plan, and navigate through the emerging tourism marketplace.

www.TheInsightsCollective.com  /  info@theinsightscollective.com

Workforce Housing

  • The upside: Workforce housing is a long-standing issue that public and private sectors have been challenged to address holistically. New and increased urgency is a strong catalyst to compel both sectors to find solutions. Says Chris Romer, CEO of the Vail Valley Partnership, “Second homeowners and new residents bring significant benefits to our community. It is incumbent on the private and public sector to increase our housing stock dedicated to the local workforce.”
  • The downside: New residents purchasing properties or units in mountain communities are further exacerbating pressure on available and affordable workforce housing, a significant pre-pandemic condition across the industry. This drives the workforce to the outer edges of the community or, worse yet, to other communities altogether, creating challenges servicing the needs of both the tourist- and resident-based local economies.

Real Estate Transactions

  • The upside: Real estate inventory in mountain towns is consistently selling as quickly as it’s listed, often over both market value and asking price. This generates new-found home equity for non-selling residents, and sellers are able to capitalize financially on the high demand. The resulting significant increases in real estate transfer taxes can be a mitigating factor to town budgets, perhaps even partially funding workforce housing solutions.
  • The downside: What was barely affordable housing in many communities is quickly moving out of the reach of all but the most affluent of buyers, adding to the aforementioned workforce housing issue. That’s potentially creating a localized valuation bubble and putting new homeowners and the long-term financial health of the community at risk, if so.

Changing the Business Curve

  • The upside: Communities have long sought a leveling of the peaks and valleys of weekend/midweek visitation, and the pandemic (to a degree through in-migration) has partially accomplished that.

Says Dave Belin, director of consulting services at RRC Associates and an Insights Collective member, “New residents were taking advantage of flexible work schedules to ski and recreate midweek. This incremental demand is anticipated to continue this summer on trails and in outdoor dining.” These patterns of leveled visitation are also reflected in the Inntopia / DestiMetrics occupancy data.

  • The downside: While there is potential for midweek overcrowding resulting in a loss of ‘down days’ in the community, it’s frankly difficult to identify a downside to a smoother, more consistent business cycle.

Today we’ve only scratched the surface of in-migration. Issues such as physical infrastructure, parking, broadband capacity, political orientation, schooling and public health and safety are just some of the many not addressed that the Insights Collective sees as manifesting across the industry in the months to come. As destination resort populations evolve, leaders and constituents have an opportunity to embrace and exploit the upside, mitigate the downside and meet the pre-existing and new challenges head-on.

Post-COVID Road Trip Research – Eyewitness Report

Activities like cycling are expected to be popular with resort town visitors this summer season, and communities may want to prepare accordingly. (Photo by Ralf Garrison)
Activities like cycling are expected to be popular with resort town visitors this summer season, and communities may want to prepare accordingly. (Photo by Ralf Garrison)
Listen to the accompanying podcast from Ralf Garrison and Insights Collective here

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To fully understand a tourist, you must “be” a tourist, right? 

With little historical data or hard research to guide us down the post-COVID road to recovery, I’ve selflessly volunteered to do some personal, experiential road travel research – a distinct departure from the Insight Collective’s disciplined, evidence-based approach – intended for those readers planning for mud season travel or preparing for summer tourism. Personal observations and anecdotes follow:

The Scenario: Our trip plan emulated nearly half of the U.S. adult population and many of the older “boomers” who are now inoculated and free to travel and congregate, subject to CDC and local guidelines. And with vaccinations now open to all adults and restrictions dropping rapidly, there was an underlying feeling of impunity and exuberance among road warriors most everywhere we went. It sorta feels like maybe we’ve forgotten but are now reawakening to what normal life feels like.

Transportation: A driving road trip to the warmer Southwest was a no-brainer, so we loaded the SUV with a luggage pod, bike rack and our research tools (golf, camping, hiking, pickleball, biking gear, etc.) and took off. Road travel was pretty straightforward but early season road construction has already begun. Lots of RV traffic seemed to constipate traffic – reminiscent of days gone by – and gas prices were on the rise. Perhaps we’ve gotten spoiled this past year?

Lodging: Catching up with friends and family is top of list for many but tricky when conflicting pandemic protocols or ideologies are in play; early, honest communication and empathy is recommended. Roadside motels were readily available, but campgrounds were limited and RV parks were already busy, requiring reservations well in advance. Some Walmart stores apparently once again offer their parking lots for overflow RV camping; imagine a tailgate party, sponsored by makers of Geritol and catered by Walmart, to get the idea. 

Activities: Attractions and activities were based on COVID-appropriate outdoor options, to which we added dining al fresco at every opportunity and our perpetual ritual of taking on fewer calories than we burn off: 

·       Hiking: With more people outdoors, trails are busier, advanced reservations are increasing and masking protocol is anybody’s guess.

·       Biking: All kinds – road, mountain, electric and motorcycle – were already on a roll but have exploded in this last year. New bikes are hard to get, bike lanes are busy and evidence of increased bike infrastructure is apparent in some places (and non-existent in others). That turned out to be a good indicator of communities that had anticipated and welcomed travelers like us. 

·       Golfing: Has enjoyed a resurgence, making tee times tough to get and requiring use of reservation systems, some of which felt archaic and often prioritize local residents. Not for everyone. It’ll be interesting to see how many newbies stick with golf as traditional options re-open. 

Synopsis: Our experience was a good one. But understanding COVID protocols and local expectations was tricky; virtually every location and situation was unique, often not readily apparent and occasionally awkward. Best info was found on the front doors of retail and restaurants. We always started out masked, then adjusted as appropriate. 

Worth it? Definitely! But not reminiscent of the relaxing, hassle-free vacations of old. Bring lowered expectations, patience and a good book. Anecdotally, we didn’t experience much local pushback, but did notice a few local folks checking out the dirty Jeep, decorated with outdoor gear and Colorado license plates, before a welcoming smile appeared.

ABOUT INSIGHTS COLLECTIVE

Insights Collective; a Tourism Economy Think Tank and Resource Center – is a collaboration of destination travel industry experts who are collaborating and working, together with mountain resort communities and their stakeholders, to understand, plan, and navigate through the emerging tourism marketplace. www.TheInsightsCollective.com  /  info@theinsightscollective.com

The Resort Town Counterpart

So, having driven down the road (to recovery) as a visitor, I’m reverting to the resort town vocational perspective and concluding with a few personal observations as food for thought: 

·       Demand = Busy Summer Pent-up demand is clearly in effect, supported by other evidence, and should be anticipated, particularly for smaller, more remote leisure destinations that feature outdoor activities.

·       Supply = Preparedness for Capacity Management If “forewarned is forearmed,” then you and your community should be anticipating and preparing to manage visitor capacity in a way that works for all concerned – not just visitors, but the conditions and expectations under which they are welcome by local residents. Under-capacity or anticipation can look just like over-tourism and can lead to misunderstandings about the true marketplace forces at play.

Rhetorical Question: Is Tourism Only About Tourists? 

Consider tourism not as the only goal, but a viable means toward the broader goal of a viable, economically sustainable lifestyle for those who live, work and rely on resort towns for body and soul. Not a silver bullet or panacea for sure, but when managed properly and weighed against other options, tourism offers a manageable balance of benefits and detriments with the bonus of a not otherwise achievable lifestyle for residents.

There you have it.

The political orientation of a destination is shaping what visitors see and who might visit

Hiding in plain sight. While the world was dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, and likely as one of its outcomes, the United States was further polarizing around nearly every cultural issue we faced. Red and blue became more vivid, as did black and white, male and female and young and old. 

As our divisions become starker, it seems like everyday decisions would be influenced by which side of the dividing line a person stands. That is, how much are social issues and political perspectives responsible for product and brand choices, or to where people want to take a vacation? 

Given this situation, we decided to research to understand better the extent that U.S. consumers’ positions on social/political issues and their perceptions of a destination’s socio-political orientation influenced decision-making to visit that destination. 

Political variables factor into consumer choices

What we found first was surprising, but with deeper analysis, the findings began to make sense in today’s world. Political orientation, gender, race and the values within those categories are in play every day in the consumer marketplace.

INSIGHTS FROM NORTH LAKE TAHOE

Diversity and “moral consumption” are the new normal in South Lake

As with the rest of the country, North Lake Tahoe has seen an increase in moral consumption – using ethical choices to guide one’s consumer  behavior.

“The trend to make purchase decisions based upon a company/provider philosophy and practices has been increasing, especially if the consumer has disposable income that allows them to make those choices,” said Carol Chaplin, CEO of Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority. “So yes, I would say we are seeing that in tourism.”

LTVA partnered with Kind Traveler, a booking agency that supports companies that are environmentally friendly. They give incentives to travelers who book at hotels that give back to the community.

Chaplin said in addition to seeing more moral consumption, Tahoe has also seen a rise in diversity.

“As for diversity, yes, we have seen that here in Tahoe and other outdoor destinations have observed that as well,” Chaplin said. “During COVID, there were many attractions/activities unavailable (think Disneyland, movie theaters, etc), which likely pointed people in the direction of outdoor activities as an alternative, not to mention the fact that we were all cooped up inside and really felt the need for outdoor therapy.”

According to the 2020 Consumer Culture Report, “71% of consumers prefer buying from companies aligned with their values. Twenty-one percent of Baby Boomers surveyed say buying from brands that share their values and ideologies is essential; with Generation Xers, this number rises to 50%, and for Millennials, even more, 62% believe it is important.”

The research highlights the importance of aligning brand, company values and ethos with the customer’s, so that businesses seek to attract or retain to remain competitive and relevant.

Consumers not only purchase from companies and products aligned with their social or political beliefs, but two in three have boycotted a company they previously purchased from because of its stance on an issue. 

Political orientation also influences where we live. A recent study by Jacob Brown and Ryan Enos suggests people live near others from the same political party. Using spatial data computation, the authors present evidence of extensive partisan segregation throughout the country. (ryandenos.com)

Personal politics also impact where we go on vacation

If political alignment influences the products we buy and where we live, why wouldn’t political orientation, gender, age, race, personal values and purchase behavior also influence tourism destination selection?

Our findings show that as many as 39% of those politically oriented to the right indicate a destination’s political orientation influences the types of places they visit. Thirty-five percent of those surveyed on the left indicate the same. Those that identified themselves in the center politically were the least influenced by the political orientation of a destination they would consider visiting. 

Political Orientation Influences Types of Places Would Visit and Practices 

Survey data showed that individuals who identify politically as right or left leaning were likely to be somewhat influenced by the political orientation of a potential travel destination. Source: Travel Analytics Group, Social Issues and Values Survey. Used by permission.
Survey data showed that individuals who identify politically as right or left leaning were likely to be somewhat influenced by the political orientation of a potential travel destination. Source: Travel Analytics Group, Social Issues and Values Survey. Used by permission.

And real-world politics influence visitor perceptions

These findings suggest significant implications for tourism destinations. Perhaps one of the biggest challenges for destination marketing organizations is that they cannot control how that message is being shaped to visitors and potential visitors.

A destination’s political perception is shaped internally by residents and politicians and externally by others outside of tourism, such as traditional media and social media influencers. Examples of this can be seen at every level. 

At the state level, consumers have seen the impact of political orientation in Georgia and the impact of its legislature’s changes in voting regulations. These resulted in Major League Baseball relocating the All-Star game to Colorado, as well as critical responses from Delta Airlines and Coca-Cola, two of Georgia’s most venerable, locally-headquartered corporations. They are now joined by a host of other companies based in and outside of Georgia.

How much impact do ongoing protests in Portland, Oregon, influence consumer decisions not to travel there? In Southern California’s trendy Huntington Beach, one of the coast’s most desirable areas, this politically conservative city was recently the site of a controversial “White Lives Matter” rally. How many consumers will subsequently decide that this is not a resort town they want to visit? 

The political orientation issue can also be regionalized as DMOs in the South have had to juggle issues related to Confederate monuments being publicly fought over by those for and against their removal. 

ABOUT INSIGHTS COLLECTIVE

Insights Collective; a Tourism Economy Think Tank and Resource Center – is a collaboration of destination travel industry experts who are collaborating and working, together with mountain resort communities and their stakeholders, to understand, plan, and navigate through the emerging tourism marketplace. TheInsightsCollective.com /  info@theinsightscollective.com

So how do you still promote tourism in this climate?

Amid this polarization and politicization, DMOs are still tasked with destination promotion and messaging. While they are crafting inviting messages to visit, some are being undermined by political events they can’t control. And in other cases, they may be turning off a part of the traveling public.

More recently, some DMOs indicated they want to attract the “right kind of visitors,” those that match their destination’s values. Which side of the divide will consumers perceive they are on in taking this positioning? Is it the logical extension of a divided country? 

Historically, the tourism industry has been about communicating destination attributes and largely avoiding political issues. This situation is changing. Perhaps it was inevitable that polarization would reach the tourism industry. It is new territory and destinations are going to have to be very nuanced moving forward.

But be careful; taking a position can either repulse some of the more significant generic visitor segments or align with others. It could attract entirely new visitor segments looking for a place where they feel comfortable, or completely turn off others. 

All signs point to strong demand for winter ski travel – but are we ready?

Revenue forecast data shows the potential for 2021 to outperform 2020 significantly. (Source: Inntopia)
Revenue forecast data shows the potential for 2021 to outperform 2020 significantly. (Source: Inntopia)

As we look forward, whether it be this immediate summer or more distant winter, post-pandemic demand will bring with it a few challenges. Some of these will be new and others reoccurring, but all can be anticipated and thus premeditated.

If the floodgates are thrown open in the name of economic prosperity, there is the potential for resident pushback and renewed concern for over-tourism. If the wrong re-opening and re-welcoming strategy is deployed, resorts run the risk of coming across as under-prepared.  

Tom Foley, SVP of business process and analytics at Inntopia, explained the situation. “There are several ways to indicate strength for summer, but perhaps the most notable is by comparing current revenue gains.” 

“We can also be encouraged by looking at data on rate strategy intention,” added Foley, “where the left side of the chart confirms a decline in properties intending to lower rates.”

Fewer properties are indicating they intend to lower rates this summer, a good indicator of the potential for a strong season. (Source: Inntopia)
Fewer properties are indicating they intend to lower rates this summer, a good indicator of the potential for a strong season. (Source: Inntopia)

With revenue up and lodging discounts down, will the good times continue into winter?

Many in the industry are anticipating strong pent-up demand this summer. But you must ask what happens after that? Not all the market is ready or willing to travel. The immediate surge is just part of the market,” said Carl Ribaudo, president and chief strategist of SMG Consulting.  

Other headwinds include newly discovered COVID-19 variants, vaccine distribution uncertainty along with newly announced side-effects and subsequent halt of distributing the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, not to mention potential pushback against origin markets with high caseloads. 

Industry response has been to limit supply in the name of visitor experience 

Even as the industry aims to overcome uncertainty, many resorts have responded to COVID concerns by limiting physical access to the mountain, said Dave Belin, director of consulting services with RRC Associates. 

“We’re hearing from many ski areas in different parts of the country that they are planning to continue some form of limiting capacity on peak days, whether through caps on weekend ticket sales or parking limits on busy days,” he said. “The explicit reason is to preserve the visitor experience, a concept that applies to many other tourism destinations like beaches, theme parks or national parks.” 

Belin is of course mostly referring to the recent capacity announcement from Arapahoe Basin. For decades, a key strategy for Arapahoe Basin was to add more skiers. That is no longer the case. The ski area is now actively working to reduce the number of skiers on weekends and holidays. 

Arapahoe Basin will measure success by reducing parking challenges, keeping lift lines and other service lines short and by seeing smiling skier faces. This approach is a big “tell” about their future strategy: manage fewer people, lower operational expenses and increase demand.

Fewer visitors may positively impact quality of place, but if resorts are successful in managing expectations they will still be faced with staff-shortages, which has the potential to dilute the visitor experience. 

Preventing negative reviews is vital to bringing visitors back

When their experience is less than what they expect, negative word of mouth will spread on social media and other review sites – capping any efforts to promote the destination and welcome back travelers. Fewer visitors also have an impact on retail operations – less people walking past the stores mean fewer opportunities to ring the cash register.   

For resorts that are able to add appropriate levels of staff, a new challenge awaits. “Another issue facing resort communities will be where to house the labor force,” noted Ralf Garrison, destination resort advisor with The Advisory Group, “especially if affluent visitors extend their summer stay into winter – depleting the available housing supply.

As travelers make decisions about where to go this summer and winter, the opportunity is ours. Getting the supply variables right is a step in the right direction to a positive visitor experience. 

ABOUT INSIGHTS COLLECTIVE

Insights Collective; a Tourism Economy Think Tank and Resource Center – is a collaboration of destination travel industry experts who are collaborating and working, together with mountain resort communities and their stakeholders, to understand, plan, and navigate through the emerging tourism marketplace. www.TheInsightsCollective.com  /  info@theinsightscollective.com