9th August 2023
The final numbers have been crunched. 65.4 million skier visits took place last winter amid record-breaking amounts of snow. NEW
The latest figures come from the National Ski Areas Association, NSAA, and include the handful of resorts in the USA that stayed open into June, July and August with extended seasons.
The last one to close was Mammoth Mountain in California last weekend, as we reported:
The final number of skier visits is a 6.6% increase over 2021/22.
A skier visit is recorded every time a person uses a lift pass at a ski area.
Skier visits are a key performance indicator for the US ski industry.
“Two consecutive seasons of record visitation indicates that the US ski industry is healthy and that the demand for outdoor recreation is strong,” said a statement from NSAA.
PlanetSKI reporter, Rob McAteer, was amoung the visitors as we skied in Utah last winter:
Factors contributing to the record US season include:
- An excellent snow year in the Rockies and Pacific Southwest regions.
- Growing options of season passes and frequency products.
- An increased desire to get outside, especially among lapsed skiers who have returned to the slopes since the pandemic.
The number of operating ski areas rose from 473 in 2021/22 to 481 in 2022/23.
NSAA divides the country into six regions, with two regions having record skier visits last winter.
The Rocky Mountain region reported a record-high number of skier visits for the second consecutive season, totaling 27.9 million.
The Pacific Northwest region also finished with its best year on record, totaling 4.5 million.
The Northeast and Pacific Southwest (3rd best year on record) were other regions with increases in season-over-season skier visits.
Two regions, the Southeast and Midwest, reported small decreases in skier visits compared to 2021-22.
Fluctuations in skier visit numbers often reflect the amount of snow that falls, with more snow generally meaning more skier visits.
This season was no different, with record snow totals at western ski areas contributing to increased visits, though there were weather-related travel challenges with lifts closed and access roads shut.
Average snowfall at ski areas was 5.68m (224 inches).
That’s a 30% increase over the 10-year average of 4.39m (173 inches).
As a result, the average length of the season was 116 days, an increase of six days over the previous season.
Capital investment by ski areas totaled $812.4 million in the 2022-23 season – a record high for the industry.
The majority of capital expenditures went into lift infrastructure.
There were 63 new lifts and 86 upgraded ones installed across the resorts.
Last season, the average ski area invested nearly $26 per skier visit back into its operation.
That’s a significant increase over the previous three-season average of $15, especially given the increase in overall skier visits.
Season passes hold strong
For the fourth season in a row, season passes surpassed day tickets in the share of skier visits.
Season pass holders made up 50% of visits nationally, with standard day lift tickets claiming 33% of visits.
The balance is claimed by frequency products, off-duty employees & complementary products.
Most main resorts in the USA are either on the Ikon Pass from Alterra or the Epic Pass from Vail resorts.
PlanetSKI opted for the Ikon Pass last winter and we used it in the USA:
Plus we used it in Europe.
The ski industry is slowly recovering from last season’s staffing challenges, with only 60% of ski areas reporting being understaffed.
That’s down from 81% last season.
The average number of positions left unfilled also decreased from last year’s high of 72 to an average of 39 positions this season.
Average ski area wages increased 18% from the 2021-22 season, outpacing the national average of 4.6%.
Approximately half of all ski areas said they plan to increase their workforce housing capacity.
All in all it was a good season for US resorts, and they are already planning & looking forward to next winter.