In the worst ski season in 20 years, nationally ski visits fell 16 percent to 51 million. Telluride, Eldora, Wolf Creek, Echo Mountain, Durango Mountain Resort and Aspen saw visitation remain similar to the record season of 2010-11. Wyoming and New Mexico — home to Taos Ski Valley — were the only states to show annual increases in visitation. Overall, the Rocky Mountain region, which includes Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Idaho, Wyoming and Montana, bested the national 16-percent decline with a mere 7.2 percent drop to 19.4 million visits. Resorts in California were on the other end, with visits plummeting more than 20 percent in a season that saw a first-ever snowless December.
The 20-year low in visitation bucks the trend of a record streak that saw U.S. resorts posting three record showings in the last five seasons. Across the country, average snowfall at ski areas was down 41 percent , marking yet another record low in the last 20 years. Half of the country’s resorts opened late with man-made snow and closed early in a sweltering March that saw ski-area temperatures reaching the 80s.
Still, the silver linings are evident. Lessons increased, as did overnight and international visitation. While season pass use declined, lift ticket yield increased. And best of all, season pass sales for 2012-13 — sold in the spring and a financial bridge for resorts that typically slumber in summer — appear to be stronger than last year’s average of 9,500 pass sales per U.S. ski area.