Worst season for industry since 91-92
By Bob Berwyn
SUMMIT COUNTY — If there was ever a clear sign that skiing is all about the snow, it could be this week’s news that skier visits across the U.S. plummeted by almost 10 million from last season, as many resorts opened late and closed early due to lack of snow.
The National Ski Areas Association said U.S. ski areas tallied an estimated 51 million skier and snowboarder visits during the 2011-2012 season, according to the preliminary Kottke End of Season Survey, the lowest total since 1991-1992, when when 50.8 million visits were recorded.
This year’s result was also the biggest percentage drop since the 1980-1981 season (also a drought year), when the industry saw a 17.6 percent drop in visits.
The NSAA’s silver lining is the notable resilience of the industry — when the snow returns, so will the skiers and snowboarders. Following the 1980-1981 drop, skier visits bounced back by 22 percent the following season.
The ski industry trade association also suggested that mild weather help spur participation in ski school, and noted that guest service satisfaction levels are at an all time high.
Snowfall nationwide during 2011-2012 season the lowest since 1991-1992, making it the second-lowest snowfall year on recurd.
According to the survey, 50 percent of responding ski areas opened late this season, and 48 percent closed early. Every region experienced a decrease in overall days of operation, with particularly significant declines in the Southeast, down 13.9 percent, the Northeast was down 13 percent, the Pacific Southwest was down 11.7 percent, and the Midwest was down 10.6 percent.
More modest declines in total days of operation were experienced in the Rocky Mountain and Pacific Northwest regions, with each showing a 0.8 percent decrease. The final Kottke End of Season Survey will be issued in July. For more information visit NSAA online at nsaa.org.