Economy Be Damned! U.S. Ski Resorts Post Record Season

Posted By: The Ski Channel on June 5, 2009 8:03 am

Economy schmonomy. The stock market may have taken a tumble, but the buck stops there. Based on preliminary estimates, ski areas around the country notched 57.1 million visits for 2008/09, making it the fifth best season on record. Clearly, Americans find solace in the snow, and even wild horses couldn’t drag ski aficionados from the slopes.

Over the last 10 seasons (1999/00 – 2008/09), the ski industry has averaged 56.7 million visits, so 2008/09 represents a 0.8 percent increase from the 10-year average. It’s also just a 5.5 percent decrease from the record 2007/08 season, which saw 60.5 million visits.

“This past season was a solid one for the U.S. Ski resort,” said Michael Berry, President of the National Ski Areas Association. “The snow conditions were good, we were down about 5% from our record year the season before but very close to our five year average. In fact, the past five years have been the strongest in history.”

That strength has been seen across the board. At 13.8 million visits in 2008/09, the Northeast region was up 5.5 percent from its 10-year average. Meanwhile the Southeast region, at 5.62 million visits, was up 3.8 percent from its 10-year average (and who knew they even had snow). A cold snap may have affected Midwestern resorts, which recorded 7.41 million visits, but that’s just down 1.1 percent from their 10-year usual. The Pacific West region also saw a slight decrease, with 10.54 million visits, but late-season storms and generally fluffy conditions all around helped boost the Rocky Mountain record. The locale saw 19.79 million visits, 1.3 percent more than its 10-year average.

According to resort officials, the economic recession’s impact varied depending on ski area location and resort type. Mountains near major metropolitan markets shined, as guests chose to ski and ride closer to home. Meanwhile destination resorts reported fewer overnight visits and shorter stays.

Resorts also cited snow conditions as the boost or bane to their ticket sales. Overall, average snowfall was down just 10 percent. The Southeast was the breadwinner, with a whopping 31.2 percent increase in average accumulation. The white stuff had folks ditching their Speedos for speed suits. Well, at least ski suits. Regardless, if last season was any indication, when the economy picks up—which it is already starting to do, next season should be another and perhaps bigger one for the books.


photo: Lubin