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US SKIER NUMBERS UP - Jane Peel, Chief Reporter
Friday May 12, 2017 - Email this article to a friend

Nearly two million more people visited US resorts last winter than the previous season. That's according to figures just released. PlanetSKI has been crunching the numbers.

There were around 54.7 million visits during the 2016-17 winter, up 3.7 per cent from the previous season, according to the National Ski Areas Association.

The rise is thought to be largely due to the arrival this winter of record-breaking snow in parts of the country.

See our article from March on the season's bumper snowfall across North America.

While it's great news for the resorts, the numbers visiting US ski areas are still below the 10-year average - down by 2.9 per cent.  In the record season of 2010-11 there were 60.5 million visits.

"Across the country, it was a season of contradictions," Michael Berry, President of the NSAA said.

"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."

Mammoth Mountain (photo: Kevin Westenbarger)













Mammoth, California - photo Kevin Westenbarger



Berry said one thing remained true:  "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."

The PlanetSKI editor, James Cove, spent 4 weeks in North America on a road trip - he certainly chose the right year to do it!

Yours truly hard at work againJames hard at work again



















James searches for the powderJames searches for the powder in Powder Mountain















The figures, produced in The Kottke National End of Season Survey, are provisional.

The deadline for resorts submitting their data came before some of them closed - see the end of this article for a list of resorts in the USA and Canada that are still open.

The final report will be published in the summer.

The Pacific Northwest region (Washington State and Oregon) had its best ever season with 4.4 million visits.

The Rocky Mountain region, which includes Colorado, Utah, Wyoming and Montana, had its second best season with 21.7 million visits, although this was slightly down on last year.

Powder Mountain, UtahPowder Mountain, Utah














And even with the record snowfall this season in the Sierra Mountains, the Pacific Southwest -  California, Arizona and Nevada -  had fewer visitors this season than last.

All the regions in the west of the US, however,  performed above their 10-year averages.

The North East, which includes Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire and New York, had the most impressive increase in visitors this season, with a 27 per cent rise to 11.8 million.

Stowe, VermontStowe, Vermont - photo Stowe Mountain Resort














The late arrival of the snow meant the resorts got off to a slow start but there was a big rise in visitors in December.

Nationally skier and snowboarder visits were up 30 per cent in December 2016 over the same month in 2015.

They fell in January and February, rising again in March (up 4 per cent on the previous year) and soaring in April (up 47 per cent).

Natural snowfall was well above average, up 36 per cent overall with an average of 230 inches per ski area.

The California/Nevada resorts had 530 inches (up 66 per cent).

Siberia Express Squaw Alpine (Twitter)Squaw Valley, California - photo @squawalpine twitter
















The abundant snow and winter storms had their downsides too, with more weather-related closures than the previous season.

One of the worst affected was Jackson Hole in Wyoming where a massive storm brought down power lines, leading to its closure for a six-day period.

We reported on the storm at the time and when the resort reopened.

Too much snow & power outage at Jackson HoleJackson Hole, Wyoming closed for 6 days



















And here is our report from Jackson Hole as PlanetSKI editor James Cove and PlanetSKI senior reporter, Katie Bamber, swung through on the aforementioned road trip.

On the slopesKatie & James in Jackson Hole
















The survey also asked resorts to identify the factors they expected to have the biggest impact on their business in the next five years.

By far the most frequently cited were the weather and the economy.

Other challenges mentioned included climate change, resort consolidation, minimum wage and other legislation, access to capital, increasing energy and insurance costs, expense of capital investment and demographics.

Asked what they felt were the greatest limitations to attracting and retaining new skiers and snowboarders, the resorts said lack of time, a remote location, lack of instructors, lack of a local population base to draw on, limited beginner terrain and the perceived danger/injury risk.

However, some ski areas said they did not feel challenged in terms of bringing new participants to snowsports. 

If you want to order a copy of the full and final report when it is published in the summer, visit


And there are still some resorts in the USA and Canada still open...


Squaw Valley - Infinity? - Mammoth Mountain - 4th July.

Mammoth MountainMammoth Mountain















Nevada: Mt Rose - 29th May.

Oregon: Timberline - September? - Mt Bachelor - 28th May.

Colorado: Arapahoe Basin - 4th June.


Utah: Snowbird - 29th May.

Vermont: Killington - ? (*weekends until the snow melts).


British Colombia: Whistler - 22nd May (Blackcomb closed).

Alberta: Sunshine Village - 22nd May.

Sunshine VillageSunshine Village

Quebec: Mont Saint Sauveur - 17th May (weekends only).  

See here for the main PlanetSKI news page with all the latest stories from the mountains.

For the Spirit of the Mountains - PlanetSKI: No1 for ski news

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