record high

Total skier visits hits record in 2021-22 season; Rocky Mountain region sees highest spike across nation

Skiers ride Sun Up Express in the Back Bowls Thursday, April 21, in Vail.
Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily archive

May 14, 2022 (Reprinted from Summit Daily News)

A record-breaking ski season brought visitation up 3.5% across the country from 2020-2021 visitation numbers, according to the National Ski Areas Association.

There were a total of 61 million skier visits in the U.S. during the 2021-22 season, the association announced Friday.

The Rocky Mountain region reported the highest increase with more than 25.2 million visits. This is a record high for the area comprising New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, Idaho and Montana.

The Northeast, Midwest and Pacific Southwest regions also saw an increase in visitation. The only two regions to see a decrease were the Southeast and Pacific Northwest.

“This record visitation signals that the U.S. ski industry is healthy, and that the demand for outdoor recreation remains strong,” the association said in a statement. “There were signs of this during the 2020-2021 season as the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic led more people to seek outdoor activities. Strong skier numbers bode well for the long-term health of the sport, especially since participant numbers have been relatively flat over the past decade.

At least 11 more ski areas opened this past season when compared to 2020-2021 numbers for a total of 473.

Snowfall totals typically bring higher visitation, but this past season was below the 10-year average of 166 feet of snow. The average snowfall across the country this winter was 145 feet.

Despite record visitation, many ski resorts reported that they had issues attracting and retaining staff throughout the season. At least 81% of the ski resorts polled said they were not fully staffed. The average number of positions left unfilled was 75.

In the wake up staffing woes, resorts responded with raising wages, adding end-of-season bonuses and investing in affordable workforce housing.

In Summit County, Vail Resorts decided to raise its minimum wage to $20 per hour for next season, and the company is currently in a battle with the town of Vail to build an employee housing project in East Vail.

Looking ahead to next season, resorts have planned a record amount of capital investment, totaling $758 million. Those investments include new lift infrastructure, terrain expansion, workforce housing, upgraded dining and other amenities, the National Ski Area Association reports.