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The National Ski Areas Association (NSAA) announced today that U.S. ski areas tallied an estimated 53.6 million skier and snowboarder visits during the 2014-15 season— down 5 percent from last season’s 56.5 million total, and down 3.8 percent from the 5-year industry average of 55.7 million skier visits. The annual skier visit tally, an important industry metric, was released today at the NSAA Convention and Tradeshow in San Francisco, California.
Despite a stronger economy, weather challenges across all regions of the country contributed to this drop in skier visits. Nationally, snowfall was 28 percent below average this season—particularly on the West Coast—and especially frigid temperatures in the Midwest and the East, along with sizeable snow storms in the Northeast, impacted the ability of skiers and snowboarders to even get to many ski areas.
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, president of NSAA. “Even in a season where snowfall is off, our guests still get an incredible skiing or riding experience“.
NSAA’s survey results also contained some particularly positive news. For example, the results from the critical Rocky Mountain region were well above the region’s 5-year average. Similarly, both the Northeast Region and the Southeast Region also had seasons that surpassed their 5-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 had a very strong season in 2013-14) performed well despite weather challenges.
NSAA’s survey results also showed strong growth in season pass sales, which were up 6.2 percent from the previous season—an important indicator in the public’s demand for skiing and snowboarding. Furthermore, international visits continued to grow, with double-digit growth over the previous season. This was especially encouraging, because this growth occurred against the backdrop of a strong dollar, which often translates into fewer international visits. In 2014-15, international visits accounted for 6 percent of all skier visits to American ski areas, up from 5.6 percent last season.