At nearly 60 million skier visits, U.S. ski industry sees 4th-best season ever

Chuck Patterson skis fresh powder at Squaw Valley on Thursday, Jan. 17, 2019. Photo: Matt Bansak / Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows

Skiers visited and slayed Lake Tahoe powder at a higher rate than the national average in 2018-19, according to preliminary numbers from Ski California.

There were approximately 7.3 million skier visits in California and Nevada, a 17% increase from last year, while the national average was up 11% according to a recently-released report from the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA).

The visits were close to the numbers in 2015-16 and better than 2016-17, two good snow seasons, and up 11% over a 10-year average.

Very simply put, a ton of snow fell and hordes flocked to the slopes.

“Why? In a word, snow,” said Michael Reitzell, president of Ski California. “Nearly every resort closed on time or later, with over half staying open later than expected.”

Visits were up every month of the season — October through March — and the average days a resort was open this year was 145, up from 129 last season, and is the highest since 2010-11.

Snowfall in February was 213% above average and for the year was 47% above average for the last 16 seasons.


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Reitzell said he thinks for the first time ever, season pass visits slightly outnumbered day ticket visits.

“I don’t have records back far enough, it’s just what I would guess based upon the changing nature of ticket use,” Reitzell said. “This reflects a trend that has been going on for several years, but the first time pass visits exceeded day ticket visits.”

The average snowfall across all California and Nevada resorts is about 300 inches but the average was 450 inches this year and five resorts received over 600, by far the most in the country, Reitzell said. He added nine of the top 15 resorts with total snowfall in the country were in California.

Snowboarding was up in California and Nevada for the fourth consecutive season after being on the decline, according to Reitzell.

Overall, 59 million skiers visited resorts in the United States, up from 53.3 million the year before, according to the NSAA.

Visitation grew most in the Pacific Southwest/Sierra region (California, Nevada and Arizona) and the Rocky Mountains at 22.9% and 15.6, respectively.

Visits to the Rocky Mountain region reached 24 million, crushing the old record by 2 million visits.

“Snow is our greatest asset and this year was one to remember,” said Kelly Pawlak, NSAA president and CEO, in a press release. “Skiers and riders were greeted with an awesome on-snow experience. Continued investment in infrastructure, like chairlifts and snowmaking, make those days on the slopes even better.”

Northeast resorts recorded approximately 12.7 million visits.

At nearly 60 million skier visits, U.S. ski industry sees 4th-best season ever

The 2018-19 season overall was the fourth largest on record in the U.S.

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