Skier visits at U.S. resorts dip about 3 percent to 53.3 million this season

Staff report
T.R. Schwerin rides through powder on Walsh's on Aspen Mountain on Friday. 4 inches was reported overnight.
Anna Stonehouse/The Aspen Times

Skier visits at U.S. resorts were down an estimated 1.5 million or 2.8 percent this season compared with the prior winter, the National Ski Areas Association announced Friday.

A preliminary study showed ski areas tallied 53.3 million visits this year compared with 54.8 million visits in 2016-17.

“I am pleased that the 2017-18 season was right in line with our 40-season average, with the Rocky Mountains and the Pacific Northwest performing above the 40-year average,” said Kelly Pawlak, NSAA president and CEO.

A skier visit is the purchase of a lift ticket for a full or partial day. It is the standard business barometer for the ski industry.

While the overall number was in line with the 40-year average, this season produced the lowest amount of skier visits in seven seasons, according to NSAA’s data. In addition, it was the third-worst season in 18 winters.

Only 2011-12 with 50.97 million skier visits and 1999-2000 with 52.2 million visits were worse.

The average for ski visits over the past 10 seasons, including this campaign, was 55.65 million.

A savage winter in the Northeast region and low snowfall amounts early in the season in the southern and central Rocky Mountain region prevented the industry from boosting business overall.

“The Northeast region held steady at 11.8 million visits, less than 1 percent down from the previous season,” NSAA said in a statement. “The Rocky Mountain, Pacific Northwest, and Pacific Southwest regions were down slightly more, ranging between 5 and 14 percent.”

The Rocky Mountain region was down about 5 percent, according to an NSAA spokeswoman. That equates to a loss of about 1 million skier visits from the 21.73 million that hit the slopes in 2017-18.

Resorts in the Midwest and Southeast regions logged gains this season. The Midwest was up 17 percent in skier visits while southeast resorts were up 3.6 percent.

Colorado Ski Country USA will announce cumulative skier visit percentages for its members at its annual conference in June. Aspen Skiing Co. coordinates the release of its numbers with the state trade association. Many Colorado resorts started slow because of the lack of snow.

Despite the overall number slumping, several resorts set records for skier visits, according to NSAA. Jackson Hole, Whitefish and Bridger Bowl in Montana, Stevens Pass in Washington and Schweitzer Mountain in Idaho all set records.