National ski visits up 11 percent
May 15, 2013
TAHOE/TRUCKEE — The National Ski Areas Association last week reported an 11 percent rise in skier and snowboarder visits from last season, the largest gain posted by the industry in 30 years.
At Lake Tahoe — which saw heavy snow fall during the December holidays, followed by the driest first quarter in more than a century — most resorts do not publish skier visit totals, so it's difficult to track how the region fared in comparison.
But hotel occupancy rates and the average daily rate, or ADR, mirrored the positive trend. From November 2012 through April 2013, the North Tahoe region saw a 7.3 percent increase in occupancy from the 2011-12 winter, a 9 percent increase in ADR and a 16.8 percent increase in revenue per available room, said Andy Chapman, chief marketing officer of the North Lake Tahoe Chamber/CVB/Resort Association.
"I think it was a pretty strong winter, particularly considering the lack of snowfall in that January through March time period," he said. "A lot had to do with the word of mouth that got out about the early-season snow that carried us."
According to NSAA, the ski industry set a record with 60.54 million skier and rider visits in 2010-11, when heavy snow blanketed many parts of the country, including the Tahoe/Truckee region, which saw upward of 800 inches of snow in some areas. The visits plunged to 51 million during the dry winter of 2011-12.
Taking the trends back to the snow-rich winter of 2010-11, hotel occupancy for this season for North Tahoe from November-April was down just 3 percent, while ADR was up 3 percent, Chapman said.
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"The early snow helped set us up," said Carol Chaplin, executive director of the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority on Tahoe's South Shore. "When it didn't really snow during the heart of the winter, we still had enough momentum to keep going."
Because it's publicly owned, North Tahoe's Diamond Peak Ski Resort publishes skier visits. This season — which ended a week early for the Incline Village resort due to the dry spring — saw a 5 percent increase in visits from 2011-12, said resort General Manager Brad Wilson.
But the better news, Wilson said, is the resort's 15 percent increase in revenue for 2012-13, including record-setting weeks around the Christmas/New Year's, Martin Luther King and Presidents Day holidays.
"It was probably our third-best revenue season on record," said Wilson, adding that considering the past two seasons have had large dry spells, "we're very anxious to see what some kind of normalcy will do for the resort."
Diamond Peak is one of the smaller resorts at Lake Tahoe, and is "most comfortable" hosting 3,500 visits per day, said Wilson.
In contrast, Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows routinely host several thousand skiers and snowboarders each day during the winter. On Tuesday, the resorts' CEO, Andy Wirth, said skier visit totals for 2012-13 were "moderately better" than the 11 percent national trend.
"There's the feeling that it's all about the snow in our industry, but that's not always the case. It's really about the timing of the snow — and what December gave, April took," Wirth said.
According to the information released last week by NSAA, 78 percent of ski resorts across the country indicated they gained visits this season. The median was a 10.6 percent increase in visits.
"Visits were up in all regions, with the biggest rebounds seen for the Pacific Southwest, up 20.5 percent," the association said in a statement, "Meanwhile the Northwest was up 20.3 percent, and the Southeast was up 17.2 percent. Impressive gains were also recorded in the Midwest, up 11.5 percent, and Pacific Northwest, up 7.5 percent. The Rocky Mountain (region) was up 1.9 percent over the 2011-12 season."
Overall, the highest visitation rises occurred at the end of the season. Resorts were up 14 percent from Feb. 19 through March 24, and 25 percent from March 25 to closings, the association reported.
The national trade association's final report will be released in July.
Axie Navas is a reporter for the Tahoe Daily Tribune on Lake Tahoe's South Shore. Scott Condon of the Vail Daily, the Sun's sister newspaper in Vail, Colo., also contributed to this report.