LAKEWOOD, COLO. — The National Ski Areas Association sees preliminary data from the end of the ski season as evidence of “a strong post-pandemic rebound for snow sports.”
Preliminary numbers gathered by NSAA indicate record visitation at U.S. ski areas for the 2022/2023 season. The group estimates a total of 64.7 million skier visits occurred this winter, a 6.6 percent increase over last season, according to a new release.
NSAA notes the numbers are preliminary, as several ski areas have extended their seasons. The group plans to collect updated numbers as ski areas close for winter operations.
Since the 1978/1979 season, NSAA has been tracking skier visits. The group calls the data “a key performance indicator for the ski industry.”
“Two consecutive seasons of record visitation signals that the U.S. ski industry is healthy, and that the demand for outdoor recreation is strong,” NSAA stated. “Factors contributing to this record season include: a robust snow year in the Rockies and Pacific Southwest regions; growing options of season passes and frequency products; and an increased desire to get outside, especially among lapsed skiers who have returned to the slopes since the pandemic.”
NSAA said the number of operating ski areas increasing from 473 last season to 481 this season is “another positive indicator, however, the growth in operating areas contributed only marginally to the overall increase.”
The Northeast and Pacific Southwest were regions reporting increases season over season. This was their third best year on record.
The Southeast and Midwest reported small decreases compared to last season. The Rocky Mountain region reported a record high number of skier visits for the second consecutive season, and the Pacific Northwest region had its best year on record.
“Historically, fluctuations in skier visit numbers could be correlated with snowfall; more snow generally meant more skier visits,” NSAA said. “This season was no different, with record snow totals at western ski areas contributing to increased visitation frequency, despite weather-related travel challenges.”
Average snowfall at ski areas nationally is said to have totaled 224 inches, representing a 30 percent increase over the 10-year average of 173 inches. As a result, NSAA said, the average length of season at resorts 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, which NSAA called “a record high for the industry.”
“The majority of capital expenditures was invested into lift infrastructure, with 63 new and 86 upgraded lifts installed at ski areas across the country,” NSAA said. “Last season, the average ski area invested nearly $26 per skier visit back into its operation, a significant increase over the previous three-season average of $15, especially given the increase in overall skier visits.”
Season pass sales are “holding strong,” NSAA said.
“For the fourth season in a row, season passes surpassed day tickets in share of skier visits,” the group said. “Season pass holders made up 50 percent of visits nationally, with standard day lift tickets claiming 33 percent of visits. The balance is claimed by frequency products, off-duty employees, complimentary products, etc.”
NSAA noted the ski industry is “gradually recovering” from staffing challenges experienced last year. Only 60 percent of ski areas reported being understaffed, whereas last year the figure had been 81 percent.
According to the data, the average number of positions left unfilled decreased from last year’s high of 72 to an average of 39 positions this season. Average ski area wages increased 18 percent from the 2021-22 season, the NSAA said, “well outpacing the national average of 4.6 percent.”
About half of all ski areas said they are planning to increase their workforce housing capacity.