News: Ski Industry Surges, Fueled By Snowy Winter

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From the Aspen Times:

Last winter proved that not even a lackluster economy can slow down the U.S. ski industry when resorts receive lots of snow.

The ski industry broke 60 million skier and snowboarder visits for just the second time and logged its second-best season ever, according to a preliminary estimate by the Denver-based National Ski Areas Association (NSAA). Ski areas tallied 60.1 million visits, up 0.6 percent from the 59.8 million visits the season before.

The record of 60.5 million visits was set in 2007-08, before the recession hit. Visits were down 5 percent the following season, said Michael Berry, president of NSAA, but the numbers bounced back each of the last two season.

“All in all, it speaks to the overall strength of the industry,” Berry said...

...On the national front, Berry said “it was snow that determined our success, both positive and negative.”

On the positive side, ski areas in just about every region of the country benefited from a snowy winter. The southeast was the only region with less snowfall than average, according to NSAA. As a result, resorts had a longer operating season than average, either by opening earlier, closing later than scheduled, or both.

But the snowfall in California “was just too much of a good thing,” Berry said. “Epic” snow levels impacted business, particularly since so many storms came on weekends and paralyzed travel, he said.

In addition, warm weather toward the end of the winter nipped the chance for a record-breaking season. Berry said it looked like the East Coast would set a regional record for business going into March, but many ski areas were affected by warm weather.

“La Niña gave and La Niña took,” Berry said, referring to the weather pattern that prevailed during the winter.

NSAA will perform a detailed economic analysis of the season to dig further into business trends. Berry said it is his impression that ski areas didn't boost numbers by relying on deep discounts on lift tickets and ski lessons. They didn't have to sacrifice their “yield” to produce strong skier and rider visits, he said.

He said every type of ski area reported a strong season — from mom-and-pop outfits in Indiana to resort destinations in Utah and Colorado. One key factor was older skiers are sticking with the sport.

“The Baby Boomers are staying with us like troopers,” Berry said.

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