We attended the NSAA annual convention in San Antonio last week and for those of you who did not attend, here’s a very short recap from the end of season report, as provided by the National Ski Areas Association in conjunction with RRC Associates. Be aware that the full report is a 30 some page affair with charts and much more in-depth analysis. This is a quick overview and stats are all taken directly from their Kottke National End of Season Survey 2011/2012 (April 2012).
Highlights from the NSAA – End of Season Survey
Key Highlights of the 2011/2012 Season
- Exceptionally low snow and warm weather drove skier/rider visits down to 51.0 million
- Lowest total visits since 1991/92 season
- Lowest national average resort snowfall since 1991/1992
- Overall national visitation dropped by a projected 15.7% from the prior season (a record year)
All regions had visitation losses
- Particularly difficult was the Pacific Southwest (down 26.3%), Southeast (down 24%), Northeast (down 20.3%) and Midwest (down 18.4%).
- Significant declines also occurred in the Rocky Mountains (down 7.2%) and Pacific Northwest (down 5.7%)
Lowest Average Snowfall in 20 Years
- In an abrupt turnaround, US resorts recorded their lowest average snowfall in 20 years this season, after enjoying their best snowfall in over 20 years last season.
Average days open declined by 7.5 % nationally
- Many resorts opened late and closed early
- 48% of resorts closed early
- Interestingly, despite shorter operation seasons, only 40% of responding areas reported unscheduled midseason closure this season (down from 45% last season).
Snowboarding trended down for the second consecutive season
- Declining to 29.8% of visits (down from 30.4% in 2010/11 and 30.9% the prior two seasons
- A particularly marked decline in snowboarding has been apparent in the Pacific Southwest, where participation has dropped from 46.6% in 2008/09 to 41.7% this season.
Overnight visitation climbed for the third consecutive season
- Rising to 48.5% of visits
- These overnight visits increased on a proportionate basis in all resort regions and across all size categories. This can be somewhat explained by the fact that overnight visitors tend to have longer trip decision lead time than day visitors and are thus less influenced by snow conditions.
Season pass unit sales held steady, season pass visitation rose slightly
- Season pass visits accounted for 38.1% of total visits this season (up from 36.5%)
- Paid visits declined to 51.6% (from 54.2%)
- Season pass sales were flat
- This indicates resilient skiing behaviour on the part of season pass holders who are locked in well before the snow conditions are apparent
Fortunately, seasons such as this one have proved to be historically rare and it should be remembered that the industry has exhibited an ability to bounce back after poor snow years in the past. The long term challenges posed by an aging visitor base, changing consumer demographics and preferences and the ongoing imperatives for the Model For Growth Effort (trial, conversion, retention) are a reminder that our industry needs to continue to be proactive in sowing the seeds for its future success.