In a dramatic, if surprising, rebound from the previous season, the U.S. ski industry recorded 59.7 million visits, the second best season ever, according to the preliminary 2009/10 Kottke National End of Season Survey. In spite of continued pressures from a weak economy and without the benefit of a strong snow year, skier visits this season increased by 4.2 percent, only 1.2 percent below the all time record of 60.5 million visits achieved in 2007/08.
According to the study, all regions except the Northeast achieved substantial gains in total visits. The Pacific Southwest had a 15.0 percent increase in skier visits, and the Midwest and Southeast also experienced notable gains of 7.2 percent and 6.7 percent respectively. The Rocky Mountain region continued its dominant overall position in terms of total visitation, increasing by 3.4 percent over last year, and again exceeding the 20 millions visit threshold. The Pacific Northwest also rose from 2008/09, growing by 3.2 percent. The Northeast decreased by a projected 2.7 percent.
In an indication of widespread solid performance, the industry as a whole exceeded its 10-season average by 3.9 percent in the 2009/10 season, a pattern echoed by all regions, including the Northeast (up 1.1 percent from its 10-season average), Southeast (up 9.9 percent), Midwest (up 2.1 percent), Rocky Mountains (up 4.3 percent), Pacific Southwest (up 4.7 percent), and Pacific Northwest (up 5.7 percent). On an individual basis, 69 percent of responding areas reported increased annual visits.
Visitation gains occurred despite a 14 percent decrease in overall snowfall among ski areas nationwide. Regionally, snowfall totals were mixed, with substantially greater snowfall in the Southeast, up 98 percent; and to a lesser extent in the Pacific Southwest, up 8 percent. However, decreased snowfall was reported in all other regions, including the Northeast (-21 percent), Midwest (-32 percent), Rocky Mountains (-20 percent) and Pacific Northwest (-25 percent).