U.S. ski industry scores second best season ever
ASPEN, Colorado – The U.S. ski industry managed to rack up its second best season ever despite the ongoing recession and an off year for snow, the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA) announced Tuesday.
Skier and snowboard rider visits increased 4.2 percent from last season to 59.7 million, according to a preliminary report for the trade association based in Lakewood, Colo. The record winter was 2007-08 with 60.5 million visits.
The estimate was made from the Kottke National End of Season Survey, performed each season for NSAA.
“According to the study, all regions except the Northeast achieved substantial gains in total visits,” NSAA said in a statement. “The Pacific Southwest had a 15 percent increase in skier visits, and the Midwest and Southeast also experienced notable gains of 7.2 percent and 6.7 percent respectively.
“The Rocky Mountain region continued its dominant overall position in terms of total visitation, increasing by 3.4 percent over last year, and again exceeding the 20 million visit threshold,” the statement said. “The Pacific Northwest also rose from 2008/09, growing by 3.2 percent. The Northeast decreased by a projected 2.7 percent.”
The strong numbers were particularly impressive since there was a 14 percent decrease in overall snowfall among ski areas nationwide, NSAA said.
Many Colorado resorts were plagued by below-average snowfall for most of the season. Some of the biggest dumps at Aspen-Snowmass fell in April. The Aspen Skiing Co. extended the season, operating chairlifts on Aspen Mountain for two additional weekends.
The Skico is still crunching its final numbers for the winter. The preliminary estimate is that skier and rider visits increased a few percentage points from the prior season, according to spokesman Jeff Hanle.
“We’re happy with the way this season turned out,” Hanle said. “It exceeded our expectations.”
Skico and Colorado Ski Country USA, the state trade association, will release final skier and rider visits in June. Ski Country spokeswoman Jennifer Rudolph said resorts are still sending in numbers, so she couldn’t estimate how the season ended for the Colorado ski industry. Spring business determined if overall business was up or down. The ski season started slightly ahead of the prior year’s pace for Colorado resorts, then fell off the pace as conditions dried out, Rudolph said.
Specials and snowfall might have salvaged the season in the spring. “Resorts got really creative with the bargains they offered and the events they held,” Rudolph said, noting there were probably more late-season events than ever as resorts tried to attract customers.
Arapahoe Basin is the last Colorado ski resort to remain open. It is scheduled to close at a time to be determined in June.
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