Skier visits drop 5 percent nationally in 2014-15
U.S. ski industry officials estimate that this winter was the second worst nationwide for skier visits in the last 15 years.
According to the National Ski Areas Association, the industry’s trade group, ski areas tallied 53.6 million skier and snowboarder visits in the 2014-15 season, down 5 percent from the prior season and 3.8 percent from the five-season industry average.
Ski areas count every unique lift ticket and season pass scanned each day as one skier visit.
Since the 2000-01 season, the only year that was worse than this winter was 2011-12 with 51 million skier and snowboarder visits. The season before, the ski industry set a record high with 60.5 million visits in 2010-11.
Despite a stronger economy, weather contributed to the drop this season in skier visits, the association said in a statement released May 4.
The association’s 24 years of data show this winter had the second lowest overall snowfall (28 percent below average nationally) and the lowest snowfall on record for half the country’s regions — the Pacific Southwest, Pacific Northwest and Rocky Mountains.
The Northeast got clobbered by numerous snowstorms that prevented people from making it to the slopes. The Midwest and East experienced frigid temperatures.
“The good news is that despite the vagaries of Mother Nature, ski areas have adapted and responded with dramatic expansions and investments in energy-efficient snowmaking,” said Michael Berry, NSAA president. “Even in a season where snowfall is off, our guests still get an incredible skiing or riding experience.”
In the critical Rocky Mountain region, the association noted, this season’s skier visits were well above the region’s five-year average.
The Northeast and Southeast regions also had seasons that surpassed their five-year averages.
While the three regions were each just slightly below last season’s skier visits, both the Rocky Mountain region (where Colorado set an all-time record for skier visits last year) and New England (which also had a strong 2013-14) performed well despite weather challenges.
This season, the Rocky Mountain region was down slightly from last season by 2.1 percent and enjoyed its sixth-best season on record.
The Northeast region was barely off last season’s strong skier visits numbers by 0.8 percent, and the Southeast region was also down slightly by 1.4 percent.
The Midwest region dropped 9.3 percent, the Pacific Southwest was down 6.4 percent, and the Pacific Northwest fell by 36.3 percent.
Season-pass sales were up 6.2 percent across the country compared with the season before, the association said.
Additionally, international visits continued to grow, with double-digit growth over the previous season. This was especially encouraging as the growth occurred against the backdrop of a strong dollar, which often translates into fewer international visits, the association noted.
In 2014-15, international visits accounted for 6 percent of all skier visits to American ski areas, up from 5.6 percent last season.
Colorado Ski Country USA, the state’s ski-industry trade association, will release figures for its members at its annual June meeting.
The NSAA, based in Lakewood, Colorado, is a trade association formed in 1962 for ski area owners and operators nationwide. For more information, visit http://www.nsaa.org.
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