U.S. ski areas saw a record number of visitors for the 2022-23 season, with a preliminary total of 64.7 million visits, up 6.6% from the previous season.
The numbers are preliminary as several ski resorts are still open because of the heavy snow season, particularly in the Western U.S.
The National Ski Areas Association said factors contributing to this record season include:
- A robust snow year in the Rockies and Pacific Southwest regions.
- More options for season passes and frequency products.
- An increased desire to get outside, especially among lapsed skiers who returned to the slopes after the pandemic.
- The number of operating ski areas jumped from 473 last season to 481 this season.
NSAA tallies a visit each time someone uses a lift ticket or pass at a ski area. The association has been tracking ski visits since the 1978-79 season.
“Two consecutive seasons of record visitation signals that the U.S. ski industry is healthy, and that the demand for outdoor recreation is strong,” the association said in a release.
Both the Rocky Mountain region and the Pacific Northwest region had record ski visits this year.
The Rockies reported a record high for the second consecutive season, totaling 27.9 million visits.
The Pacific Northwest region also finished its best year on record with 4.5 million visits.
Other regions with increases in season-over-season skier visits were the Northeast and Pacific Southwest, which saw its third-best year on record.
Only two regions, the Southeast and Midwest, reported small decreases in skier visits compared to 2021-22.
Great Snow Totals
The season’s strong visitation was the direct result of record snow totals at western ski areas, despite weather-related travel challenges.
The average snowfall at ski areas across the country totaled 224 inches, a 30% increase over the 10-year average of 173 inches.
As a result, the average season length was 116 days, up six days from the previous season.
Ski resorts pumped a lot of money into their facilities this season. Capital investment by ski areas totaled $812.4 million, another record for the industry.
Most of that money went to lift infrastructure, with 63 new and 86 upgraded lifts added.
Last season, the ski areas invested nearly $26 per skier visit back into their operations, much higher than the previous three-season average of $15.
Passes Outpace Lift Tickets
For the fourth-straight season, season passes won out over single-day lift tickets.
Season pass holders made up 50% of visits, with standard lift tickets claiming 33% of visits.
The rest of the visits include frequency products, off-duty employees, and complimentary products.
The industry is recovering from last season’s staffing challenges, with 60% of ski areas reporting being understaffed, which is better than last season’s 81%.
The average number of open positions 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%. About half of all ski areas said they’re planning to increase their workforce housing.
Bart Schaneman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.