Snowmaking efforts maintain Vermont as top ski state in the East with 3.9 million visits
The Vermont Ski Areas Association announced today at its annual meeting at Jay Peak Resort that Vermont ski resorts recorded 3,903,171 skier and rider visits, just 5 percent off of the ten-year average. Last year's total was 4,365,906 million (down 10.6 percent). The 2010-2011 total was the highest in six years.
Once again, Vermont proved to be a bright spot in the Northeast and compared favorably to other regions in the country where the overall national skier visit tally was down 16 percent.
Despite low natural snowfall during the 2011-12 ski season, state-of-the art snowmaking and grooming enabled Vermont ski areas to have significant amounts of open terrain, often unmatched in percentage by any other ski state.
“The 2011-12 season stands as a testament to the resiliency of our ski areas and showcased the unrivaled prowess of our industry’s snowmaking and grooming capabilities,” said VSAA president Parker Riehle. “The caliber of our 75% statewide snowmaking coverage means, for example, that we have over 1,000 acres more terrain with snowmaking alone than all of New Hampshire’s total ski area terrain.”
As a cornerstone of the Vermont economy, the ski industry’s ability to maintain winter conditions in a low-snow year helped bring tourism revenues in stronger than expected, with a combined year-over-year increase of 2.5 percent in collections from the rooms & meals tax and the sales tax.
At the annual gathering of more than 200 industry members and marketing partners, Lieutenant Governor Phil Scott gave opening remarks and VSAA presented efforts over the past year in governmental affairs, marketing and public affairs. NSAA President Michael Berry gave an overview of the season from a national perspective and keynote speaker Bill Carter with Fuse Marketing entertained the crowd with his approach to brand marketing and the use of social media.
Olympic gold medalist Kelly Clark was presented with the Industry Achievement Award, and Vermont Department of Tourism & Marketing Commissioner Megan Smith received the Friend of the Industry Award. The Career Employee Awards were presented to three longtime ski area employees – Peter Hand, Dave Williamson and Bruce Maxham – who represent over 120 years of service.
In addition, the industry gathering celebrated an impressive eight state and national awards given to Vermont ski areas for environmental excellence, marketing, safety programs and industry achievements:
- Sugarbush: Governor’s Environmental Excellence Award with VHB, Inc. for the restoration of Rice Brook to high water quality conditions
- Burke: NSAA Sustainable Slopes Grant Award for composting program and wind turbine installation
- Jay Peak Resort: NSAA Marketing Award for Best Direct Marketing Program
- Burke: NSAA Marketing Award for Best Traditional Media
- Killington: NSAA Safety Award for Best Terrain Park Safety Program
- Killington: Finalist – NSAA Conversion Cup Award for efforts in converting beginners into lifelong skiers
- Stratton: U.S. Ski & Snowboard Association Silver Award for exemplary event organization of the U.S. Freestyle Championships
- Stowe: PSIA-AASI Educational Excellence Award to Dave Merriam
US ski industry tallies 51 million visits in 2011/12 season
The National Ski Areas Association (NSAA) has announced today that US ski areas tallied an estimated 51 million skier and snowboarder visits during the 2011/12 season. This preliminary report shows a 15 percent decrease from last season. The final Vermont results will be available the first week of June.
According to the preliminary 2011/12 Kottke End of Season Survey, the US ski industry experienced its most challenging season since 1991/92, when 50.8 million visits were recorded. In the 1980/81 season the industry experienced a 17.6 percent drop in visits, the biggest year‐over‐year decline on record.
Notably, visits fully recovered the following season with a 22 percent increase in 1981/82, a reminder that the industry has demonstrated considerable resilience in the past, and that severely difficult seasons have been relatively rare. Other positive indicators, according to the NSAA, show that the mild weather patterns experienced this season actually fostered an excellent ski and snowboard learning environment, as evidenced by increases in lesson participation rates. The survey also shows that guest service satisfaction levels are at an all time high, and early assessments of season pass renewals for the 2012/13 season are encouraging.
The 2011/12 season was also marked by the lowest national average resort snowfall since 1991/92, the second‐lowest snowfall in 21 years of available data. According to the survey, 50 percent of responding ski areas opened late this season, and 48 percent closed early.
Every region experienced a decrease in overall days of operation, with particularly significant declines in the Southeast, down 13.9 percent; the Northeast, with more day skiers and thus more weather dependent than the Western resorts, was down 13 percent; the Pacific Southwest was down 11.7 percent; and the Midwest was down 10.6 percent. More modest declines in total days of operation were experienced in the Rocky Mountain and Pacific Northwest regions, with each showing a 0.8 percent decrease.
A final Kottke End of Season Survey will be issued in July. For more information visit NSAA online at nsaa.org.
JAY PEAK, VT (June 6, 2012) Photo by Jay Peak Resort of a snowboarder riding in a glade.
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