Without a doubt, it has been a year of ongoing ups and downs.

For example, the industry finally experiences a decent and productive winter and the prospects look favorable for this weather trend to continue in Winter 2021-22. However, many pros continue to struggle with meeting their staff needs to properly service their winter contracts. A projected active winter will put wear and tear on snow equipment, yet a global supply chain crisis has put a strain on the supply of new trucks and heavy equipment, as well as the parts that keep them running. Heading into the next winter, contractors seem to have an ample supply of rock salt, but aggressive cold and precipitation could easily begin to strain supplies.

Then there’s COVID 19. We now have a vaccine, yet the pandemic continues to plague the global society, often exasperating a whole host of logistic and business challenges that trickle down to impact the professional snow and ice industry.

Then again, many of these scenarios will be for not if the winter weather never manifests itself with any consistency over the next few months.

And the ups and downs go on.

Here are some of the highlights from this year’s report. According to this year's research data, more than a third of snow contractor respondents (35%) derive more than half of their total annual revenue from snow and ice management activities. Compared to the previous winter, more than two thirds of respondents (68%) reported having a better year financially than the previous winter.

Despite hiring and retention challenges, the average snow professional employs as many as 45 full- and part-time workers and between 18-20 subcontractors to manage an average of 66 winter accounts that could include as many as 100 residential, commercial and government/municipal properties.

And more contractors than than in previous years anticipate investing back into their companies and workforces over the next three to five years to help fuel additional growth and market expansion.

Be sure to keep an eye out for additional in-depth reporting on the State of the Industry data findings in upcoming editions of Snow Magazine online, The Snow Magazine Podcast, and in the biweekly enewsletter.

Mike Zawacki is editor of Snow Magazine.

Profits & Revenue

Average Property Portfolio

The industry experienced a slight increase in the percent of commercial contracts serviced during Winter 2020-21 compared to the previous season, and a slight decrease in residential snow and ice management, according to this year’s data.

Short-Term Projections

Snow professionals provided some insights on their near-term plans. For the most part, the average contractor seems positive about the short term, including the prospects for growth and expansion, according to the research data. Very few, though, indicated they were looking to get out of the industry altogether or, conversely, convert into a snow-only business model.

Challenges For Winter 2021-22

Snow and ice professionals weigh in how they view some of the pressing business and financial challenges facing their snow and ice management operations and the economy heading into the coming winter season.

Competitive Pressure

For the most part, just under a third (29%) of State of the Industry survey participants described the competitive pressures in their market last winter to be at moderate -- or expected -- levels, according to the data. In contrast more than a third (37%) described competitive pressures to be at low levels in their respective markets, while 34% perceived pressures to be heightened in their markets. And among those reporting elevated levels of competitive pressure, only 13% described it as "high."

These numbers skew toward lighter competitive pressure when compared to 2020 State of the Industry data. In 2020, 29% of contractors reported low pressure, and 43% reported experiencing high pressure. This compares to 2021 findings of 37% low pressure and 34% high pressure, according to the data.

So, who is responsible for this market pressure? Most respondents (69%) point their fingers at local snow and ice management companies for generating the competitive pressure, compared to 23% who felt it came from multi-state/national management companies. And only a small group (8%) felt both local and multi-state/national companies were equally responsible.

Labor Breakdown

Labor and labor availability has been ongoing issues for not only the snow and ice industry, but all service-based industries. Here's how your colleagues responded to some key labor topics in this year’s State of the Industry research.

Winter Expectations

Heading into Winter 2020-21, the snow and ice industry longed for normalcy, with nearly three quarters (73%) anticipating normal winter conditions in their market. Only a small percentage foresaw a disappointing low-snow winter (14%), or cooler, extreme winter (13%).

In contrast, 58% of contractors heading into Winter 2019-20 and 62% on the eve of Winter 2018-19 expected normal seasonal conditions for their markets.

So, what’s in store for Winter 2021-22? Most snow professionals participating in this year’s State of the Industry research (61%) anticipate normal conditions for their markets. However, nearly a third of survey respondents (30%) expect more cooler, more favorable winter conditions.