U.S. ski areas have enjoyed record visitation during the 2022-23 season.
According to the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA), domestic ski areas have welcomed 64.7 million visits, a 6.6% increase over 2021-2022's 60.7 million visits, which was also a record-breaking year.
This season's number remains preliminary, as some ski mountains are still open. The NSAA records a skier visit anytime someone use a lift ticket or pass at a ski area.
"Two consecutive seasons of record visitation signals that the U.S. ski industry is healthy and that the demand for outdoor recreation is strong," the NSAA said in a Tuesday announcement. "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."
Snowfall has been a key driver of this year's record-breaking season. Average snowfall at ski areas nationally totaled 224 inches, the NSAA said, a 30% increase over the 10-year average of 173 inches. As a result, the average length of season at U.S. ski areas will be an estimated 116 days, an increase of six days over 2021-22.
Snowfall this winter and spring was especially robust in the West, which contributed to record visitation in the Rocky Mountains and the Pacific Northwest. In the region the NSAA calls the Pacific Southwest, which includes California, visitation has been the third-highest on record. Ski areas also saw improved visitation relative to last year in the Northeast. The smaller Midwest and Southeast regions experienced year-over-year declines.
Visitation to U.S. ski areas was largely flat between 1978-79 (when the NSAA began collecting data) and the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. But the last two years have been record-breakers, and even pandemic-hobbled 2020-21 was among the seven best for the industry over that 44-year period.
The NSAA also reported other key industry metrics for this ski season. Skiers and riders using pass products will comprise 50% of ski area visits, while day pass users will comprise 33%. The remaining visitation came from employees, complimentary pass users and other categories.
Staffing continues to be a problem at ski areas, with 60% reporting that they were understaffed this season. Still, that's an improvement from the 81% that said they were understaffed last season. Average ski area wages increased 18% from 2021-2022.
The NSAA said U.S. ski areas made record capital investments of $812.4 million during the 2022-23 season, including investments in 63 new lifts and 86 lift upgrades.
The number of operating ski U.S. areas this season was 481, up from 473 last year.