By Claire Cleveland / NewsBreak
(Denver, Colo.) A record-high number of skiers visited the Rocky Mountain region last year, 25.2 million visits.
Last year, ski areas nationally saw a 3.5% increase in visitation over the year prior. The 2021-22 season saw a total of 61 million skier visits.
According to the National Ski Areas Association, the record visitation shows the U.S. ski industry is healthy and recovering from pandemic restrictions. The rebound in skiing and snowboarding provided economic relief and thousands of jobs for communities across the 37 states with ski areas. The number of operating ski areas increased from 462 in 2020-21 to 473 this season.
The industry, like many others, did struggle to hire and retain a workforce. Around 81% of ski areas reported they were not fully staffed and had an average of 75 positions left unfilled. The industry raised wages, added end-of-season bonuses and invested in affordable workforce housing.
NSAA said strong season pass sales and a continued desire for outdoor recreation drove the season’s records-breaking visits. Despite pandemic restrictions, the 2020-21 season showed signs of increased outdoor recreation. Strong skier numbers that season were promising for the sport’s future. Over the past decade, skier numbers have been relatively flat, said NSAA in a recent report.
Season passes continued to surpass day tickets for the third season. Pass holders are about 52% of visits nationally, while day tickets make up 37%. The remaining balance is claimed by off-duty employees and complimentary tickets. Large and small ski areas alike saw an increase in season passes sold.
Since 1978-79 NSAA has tracked skier visits. An individual is counted each time someone uses a lift ticket or pass at a ski area. NSAA divides the country into six regions. All regions, except for the Southeast and Pacific Northwest, reported increases in skier visits compared to the 2020-21 season.
Historically, more snow typically meant more skiers, according to the NSAA. But the average snowfall nationally this season was 145 inches, lower than the 10-year average of 166 inches.