Record snow & killer deals besting hard times

Posted By: The Ski Channel on January 5, 2011 6:39 pm

Thanks to the three-pronged combination of early snow, good deals and a rebounding economy, snowsports enthusiasts are once again heading for the slopes.

While few would call the ski industry a leading economic indicator, the sport survived the recession surprisingly well. People may have held off on major equipment purchases and skipped their annual ski week, but many still made their way to the mountains. According to the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA), the industry tallied 59.7 million skier visits last year, a 4.2 percent bump over the year before and just 1.2 percent below the 60.5 million record set in 2007/2008.

“It was the second best year on record,” said Ralf Garrison, director of the Mountain Travel Research Program (MTRiP), which monitors lodging reservations at western resorts. Local and regional resorts accounted for much of the bump, he added, as many skiers and snowboarders stayed closer to home rather than splurge on a major vacation.

This year, the pendulum is showing signs of swinging back the other way – despite the challenges of rising airfares, stubbornly high unemployment and continuing economic uncertainty. “Most consumers don’t necessarily feel there’s a recovery going on,” said Garrison, “but skiers are proving to be very loyal.”

According to Garrison’s latest data (through November), lodging reservations at western resorts are up 3 percent over last year. More to the point, perhaps, the pace of reservations for future arrivals was up 14 percent, thanks to rebounding consumer confidence and good, early snow in much of the country.

Resorts are hoping to attract other skiers and snowboarders with generous discounts and package deals. “Three years ago, a fourth night free was the best deal you could get,” said Dan Sherman, director of marketing for tour-operator “Now we’re seeing third night free and, in some cases, buy two nights and get two nights free.”


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