It’s a record! New numbers show 2010/11 ski season was best ever

It's a record season for U.S. ski areas! Historically deep snowpacks and late season skiing have helped push skier visits to a new 60.54 million record for the 2010/11 season.

All that snowfall that kept nearly one dozen ski areas in the U.S. open until the Fourth of July holiday wasn't just piling up base depth totals. It helped incrementally add to the U.S. skier visit total, too. So much so that on July 14, 2011, the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA) announced that U.S. ski areas set a new all-time record of 60.54 million skier/snowboarder visits during the 2010/11 season, according to the final Kottke End of Season Survey.

The association previously annouced preliminary figures in May, projecting an estimated 60.1 million skier/snowboarder visits for the season, which would have fallen short of the record. However, according to the NSSA, “an unprecedented turn of events that saw many ski areas operating late into the spring, and even summer, helped fuel the industry toward setting the new visitation record. As an illustration of the late-season surge in visits, it’s estimated that nearly 50,000 skier/snowboarder visits occurred over the July Fourth holiday alone, in which nearly a dozen ski areas were either still in operation, or had reopened.” 

In a statement to SNEWS, NSAA President Michael Berry said, “While we’re excited about this unprecedented record-setting season, we’re perhaps even more encouraged by the longer-term trend. In the past 10 years the industry has performed at levels significantly higher than previous decades and we attribute this to the efforts ski areas are making to provide an extraordinary experience, and the fact that more and more, multi-generations are now enjoying the thrill of sliding on snow together as a family.”

This marks the second time that the ski industry has broken the 60 million visit threshold, representing a 0.6 percent increase from last season’s 59.8 million visits, and a 0.1 percent increase from the industry’s previous record of 60.5 million visits set in 2007/08. 

Nationally, snowfall at resorts was up 29 percent this season, and was the highest recorded in 20 years of Kottke research. As a result, the average season operating length increased, and some resorts opened early and/or remained open beyond normal closing dates. Most regions experienced significant increases in snowfall, including the Pacific Southwest (up 43 percent), Northeast (up 35 percent), Rocky Mountains (up 33 percent), Midwest (up 27 percent), and Pacific Northwest (up 19 percent). Gains in visits occurred in most regions of the country, and the industry as a whole exceeded its 10-season average by 4.7 percent, a pattern echoed by all regions. The final Kottke report will be published in August.

--Peter Kray

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