Despite the variants and the lingering pandemic, ski areas in Vermont say the winter season has brought more visitors to the slopes.
Ski Vermont just released its annual report on ski resort attendance across the state and the 2021-22 season saw a 6.5% increase in skier visits over the previous year.
While the total of 3.76 million skier visits is below the state’s 10-year average, it’s a rebound from the previous year according to Ski Vermont President Molly Mahar.
“I think it was a couple of things,” Mahar said. “I mean everyone is always excited at the start of the season. And then we certainly saw an explosion of interest in all things outdoor recreation. So I think you’re seeing people who wanted to get out during the winter it was definitely a safe place. And then to be able to travel freely around Vermont. A lot of people who like to ski here in the state couldn’t get to it the previous season. And so I think that a combination of these things made people very excited to go back to Vermont to ski.
Mahar noted that Vermont wasn’t the only state to see more skiers on the slopes.
“The country as a whole set a record 61 million skier visits this year, which is great,” Mahar said. “We obviously haven’t set a record here in the Northeast or in Vermont. But if I understand correctly, and I haven’t seen all the numbers released yet, but the Northeast region, which is New England and New York, is up about 4%, so if Vermont is up 6.5%, that means we’ve done pretty well as a state this year.
At Okemo Mountain, communications director Bonnie MacPherson said they had a “good, solid” season.
“What we found was that the majority of people visiting Okemo were season pass holders, and they went from day visitors to season pass holders,” MacPherson said. “So that was encouraging for us.”
While skier visits were reassuring, below-average snowfall meant resorts had to rely on snowmaking, which MacPherson said was only a hindrance.
“We certainly faced challenges last year,” MacPherson said. “Partly because of the weather. The start of the season was really not ideal for making snow. We use many energy-efficient snowmaking systems that allow us to produce snow more efficiently at marginal temperatures. We’ve also had some staffing issues and one of the things we’ve done is increase our starting wage to $20 an hour. And we’re also very focused on providing housing affordable to our staff.
Skiing brings in $1.6 billion annually to the state according to Ski Vermont.