National skier visit numbers are down by 5.1 percent
SUMMIT COUNTY – The United States posted its third-best ski season last year, with 54.4 million people taking to the slopes.
The number represents a 5.1 percent decrease in skier visits compared to 2000-2001, the best season on record, and a 1.1 percent increase when compared to the industry’s 10-year average.
According to Michael Berry, president of the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA), the industry performed “superbly well,” particularly in light of a series of circumstances – among them the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, a slowing national economy and a lack of snow in many areas.
“I think it (the success) is due in part to the comfort the mountain environment provides,” he said of the numbers. He also cited discounted pricing, resort improvements and the televised coverage of the Olympics in Salt Lake City as reasons people came out to ski and board.
Of the five regions in the NSAA – Northeast, Southeast, Midwest, Rocky Mountains and Pacific West – only the Pacific West reported an increase in skier numbers. Improved snowfall there is credited with attracting 7.5 percent more skiers to the slopes in California, Oregon and Washington.
The biggest decline was reported in the Northeast, with 11 percent fewer people skiing there last season. The Midwest reported a 7.9 percent decline, the Southeast an 8.5 percent decrease and the Rocky Mountain Region a 6.2 percent decrease.
Skier numbers in the Rocky Mountain Region totalled 18.123 million, the eighth-best season since 1992-1993 when skier numbers first exceeded 18 million.
Snowboarding continues to ride a wave of popularity, with 27.7 percent more snowboarders visiting U.S. ski areas last season. Since 1998-1999, snowboarder visits have increased an average of 6.8 percent a year. That is less than the double-digit percentage increases seen in the 1990s, Berry said. That decline is probably because the sport is maturing and is expected to level off at some point.
The Midwest region has seen the largest increase in the number of snowboarders, reporting an increase of 7.3 percent, Berry said. That is followed by the Southeast, with 6.5 percent increase, the Northeast with a 6.2 percent increase, the Pacific West with a 6.1 percent increase and the Rocky Mountains with a 3.6 percent increase. Most of the snowboarding increases were reported at the smaller resorts.
Rider demographics are changing, too, he noted.
“Rider profiles are becoming more diverse, reflecting the increasing tendency of traditional alpine skiers to cross over and participate full- or part-time in snowboarding,” he said. “Snowboarders are also more active participants, riding more days per season at the resorts than their alpine skier counterparts.”
Baby boomer skiers are beginning to drop out of the sport, but they’re being replaced by younger adults and children – many of whom are much more likely to be snowboarders, Berry said.
The explosion in the popularity of other new specialized equipment such as fat and parabolic skis, supershort skis and snowskates, also may further diversify the snowsport population.
Two hundred and twenty-five of the nation’s 493 ski resorts participated in this year’s survey, accounting for about 44.4 million skiers. According to Berry, this number allows NSAA to extrapolate the number of skiers each year.
Jane Stebbins can be reached at (970) 668-3998 ext. 228 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Skier numbers (in millions) in the Rocky Mountains
Year Skiers Rating
2001-02 18.123 8
2000-01 19.323 1
1999-2000 18.109 9
1998-99 18.439 5
1997-98 19.191 2
1996-97 18.904 3
1995-96 18.148 7
1994-95 18.412 6
1993-94 17.503 10
1992-93 18.602 4
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