Mikaela Shiffrin celebrates winning the slalom at Killington last November. That World Cup event kicked off a comeback season for the Vermont ski industry. Photo by Dave Young for Killington Resort
Vermont Business Magazine Vermont skier visits finished this past season at nearly 4 million, well over the previous season's disappointment of 3.2 million. Friends and supporters of the Vermont ski and snowboard industry gathered at Killington Resort for the Vermont Ski Areas Association’s 48th Annual Meeting Wednesday evening. Alpine and Nordic members, marketing partners and associate members were among those who celebrated the 2016-17 comeback season.
After a challenging 2015-16 season, Vermont’s ski areas came back strong with statewide Thanksgiving weekend openings, the World Cup event at Killington Resort, and a multitude of historic snowstorms. While adverse weather cycles dampened some periods throughout the winter, early February snowstorms prompted a first-ever Powder Day Proclamation from the Governor and March roared in like a lion to finish the season strong with a record 21 Powder Alerts sent out from Ski Vermont. The result was a rebound to 3,922,970 visits, which represents the most accurate totals to date with nearly every resort now switching to scanning or RFID technology to track season pass usage, rather than using multiplier estimates.
Vermont recorded its best season ever with 4.7 million skier days in 2014-2015 (ahead of California and second best in the nation to Colorado) to 3.2 million skier days in 2015-2016. The 2013/2-14 season recorded 4.2 million visits. The past season's number is more typical. Ski resorts in recent years have increased snowmaking capacity and offer more non-ski recreational activities and events to entice visitors during the winter. With these investments come greater expectations.
A skier day is one visitor on one day. The US ski season also bounced back from last year (SEE STORY), as warm conditions limited snowfall across the nation and kept visitors at home. This past season, snowfall returned and the skiers got off the couch. Recent figures by the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA) showed that nationwide skier and snowboarder visits rose to 54.7 million, a 1.5 percent increase from 53.9 million during the 2015/16 season.
“This was a strong comeback season for the State of Vermont," said Ski Vermont President Parker Riehle. “Thanks to Winter Storms Caly, Orson, Pluto and Stella, matched with our state’s world class snowmakers and snowmaking technology, Vermont had the longest season in the East. That’s not only great news for the ski industry but it was also critical to Vermont’s economy which depends heavily on the $900 million in direct winter spending that our ski and snowboard resorts bring to the state in a good season.”
The National Ski Areas Association announced in May that US ski areas tallied an estimated 54.7 million skier and snowboarder visits during the 2016-17 season, up 3.7 percent from last season’s 52.8 million total.
Average resort snowfall increased by 36 percent nationally, which contributed to ski areas being open an extra week, on average, compared to the 2015-16 season. The increased length of the operating season was most pronounced in the Southeast (23 days longer) and Northeast (15 days longer) regions.
During the annual gathering, Ski Vermont presented an overview of the 2016-17 season and the impact of their marketing, public relations and governmental affairs efforts. Year after year, Ski Vermont continues to see record increases in earned media, website traffic, social media and Learn to Turn initiatives like the Take 3 Pass and the Fifth Grade Passport program. Proceeds from the Fifth Grade Passport program provided a record donation to support Vermont’s iconic agricultural brand through the Working Lands Enterprise Fund. Overall, Ski Vermont helped to introduce over 5,000 new skiers and riders to the slopes this season as the result of their programs.
Michael Berry, President of the National Ski Areas Association was presented with the Industry Achievement Award for his 25 years of service at the helm of NSAA.
In addition, Ski Vermont presented the Friend of the Industry Award to Justin Pill, the industry’s point person with longtime marketing partner Long Trail Brewing Co. Ski Vermont also recognized retiring longtime ski industry employees Steve Wry and Nelson Cushing of Smugglers’ Notch Resort and Betsy McKeever of Okemo Mountain Resort with Career Employee Awards and announced multiple ski area awards for marketing, safety, workplace wellness, leadership and guest satisfaction:
National Ski Areas Association
Killington Resort: Best Overall Marketing Award
Stratton Mountain Resort: Best Overall Safety Program
Pico Mountain: Best Bring a Friend Campaign
Burton Snowboards Chill Foundation
Bolton Valley: Mountain Award
Ski Area Management Magazine
Okemo Mountain Resort: Ethan Mueller – SAMMY Leadership Award
Vermont Business Magazine
Okemo Mountain Resort: Best Places to Work in Vermont
Stowe Mountain Resort: Best Places to Work in Vermont
Vermont Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness & Sports
Sugarbush Resort: Win Smith – Vermont Wellness Leadership Award
Liftopia Best in Snow Awards
Magic Mountain: #1 Top Ski Area in North America
Mad River Glen: #3 Top Ski Area in North America
Jay Peak Resort: #5 Top Ski Area in North America
Ski Vermont (Vermont Ski Areas Association) is a proud ambassador of the thriving winter tourism industry in Vermont, where the legislature has designated skiing and snowboarding as the official state sports. Vermont is not only the #1 ski state in the east and third in the US, but also reigns supreme in snowmaking quality and coverage, a variety of terrain and historical impact on the sports of skiing and snowboarding - making it one of the most significant ski and ride destinations in the world. Ski Vermont’s mission is to help create a legislative, economic and social environment in which the state's ski areas can grow and prosper. It serves its 20 Alpine and 30 Nordic member resorts in three major areas: Governmental Affairs, Marketing and Public Affairs. VBM vermontbiz.com
Source: Killington Resort (June 15, 2017) – Ski Vermont