NORTH CREEK - With bad economic news coming from all directions, it's a surprise to hear good news from the U.S. ski industry. According to the National Ski Areas Association's random survey of nationwide resorts, the numbers of skiers and riders is up for 2008-09 holiday period.
U.S. ski areas have reported strong and in some cases record-breaking numbers over last year's holiday period. Snowy weather is one of the contributing factors. In Massachusetts, Jiminy Peak and Wachusett Mountain - along with NY's Holiday Mountain - report above average visitation figures. In Vermont, Okemo said its visits were up seven percent over the same period last season and up six percent over a five-year average. This upward trend holds true for southern and western ski areas, too.
Along with the above average skier visitation, season pass sales across the nation were at record levels; yet hotel sales were recorded as soft. Across every region of the country, skiers and riders confirmed they were seeking out destinations close to home. Skiers and riders confirmed plans to save money by staying at less expensive accommodations and by spending less on food and drink.
Ski resorts across the nation hit a record high of 60.5 million visitors during the 2008-09 ski season. One reason being skiers and riders above the age of 45 are staying in the sport longer. Studies call it "a three-generation phenomenon." Baby Boomers, their kids and grandkids are enjoying sliding on the mountains together.
Another strong factor contributing to the increase in visitor numbers is the abundance of snow for the strong 2007-08 season. Good snow levels are helping to keep numbers up for the 2008-09 season.
Finally, just over six percent of the visitors last season were international customers. The weakened dollar has made the U.S. a better winter vacation value. International visits increased by 28 percent in 2007-08.