National Ski Areas Association (NSAA) announced that U.S. ski areas tallied an estimated 54.7 million skier and snowboarder visits during the 2016-17 season, up 3.7 percent from last season’s 52.8 million total. The annual skier visit count, an important industry metric, was released today at the NSAA Convention and Tradeshow being held this week in Scottsdale, Ariz.
This past season, ski areas in the Northeast region experienced an impressive rebound, as skier visits grew by 27 percent in this region to 11.8 million visits. In addition, the Pacific Northwest region is estimated to have had its best season on record (4.4 million visits) and the Rocky Mountain region its second-best winter in terms of skier visits (21.7 million). Visits were up from last winter in the Southeast region, but down slightly in the Midwest region and the Pacific Southwest region.
The traditional ski holiday periods of Christmas and Spring Break were busy at resorts across the country, contributing to the overall positive season. Skier visits were up 30 percent in December and up 4 percent in March, relative to the 2015-16 season.
“Across the country, it was a season of contradictions”, said Michael Berry, president of NSAA. "We had more snow this season in the California Sierra Mountains than the previous four seasons combined. And yet Chicago recorded its first-ever snowless January and February in more than 146 years.” One thing always remains true, Berry continued. “Even after one or two winters of less than great snow, skiers come back in droves when Mother Nature cooperates, and we consistently see that season after season".
Encouragingly, the number of open and operating U.S. ski areas rose to 479 in the 2016-17 season, up from 464 last season. The Northeast region has witnessed a rebirth of several formerly defunct ski areas in the past few seasons—a positive sign for skiers and snowboarders seeking out new places to visit and for local populations who want to learn to slide on snow.
The number of lessons taught at U.S. ski areas increased this season, indicative of the growing appetite to learn to ski and snowboard. These activities provide terrific opportunities to get outside in the winter and spend time with family and friends.
Average resort snowfall increased by 36 percent nationally, which contributed to ski areas being open an extra week, on average, compared to the 2015-16 season. The increased length of the operating season was most pronounced in the Southeast (23 days longer) and Northeast (15 days longer) regions.