Conway, N.H.—Last week at its annual business meeting, Ski New Hampshire recapped a ski season that was unlike any previous season and shared skier visit numbers that were impacted by a variety of pandemic-related and non-pandemic factors.
According to Ski NH’s President Jessyca Keeler, overall total winter visits (including alpine skiing, cross country skiing, and tubing visits) during the 2020-21 season totaled 2,295,424 visits, which statistically mirrors the 10-year average. A visit represents one person skiing or tubing for one day and includes ticketed guests (paid, complimentary, multi-day, group) and season pass-holder visits. This number is up 4% compared to the 2019-20 season, which was cut short by anywhere from two to four weeks for New Hampshire ski areas due to the pandemic. Alpine skier visits alone were also up 5% over last year (to 2,066.011), but down 3% compared to the 10-year alpine skier visits average. Cross country skiing was down 10% (to 112,009) over last year, and 8% off the 10-year average, whereas snow tubing was up 1% (to 117,404) compared to 2019-20 and up 9% compared to the 10-year average.
Keeler attributed the solid numbers to the continuing trend of people wanting to get outdoors to safely enjoy themselves. “We saw people flocking to the mountains to hike the trails and paddle on our lakes and streams during the summer and fall months because recreating outside was considered one of the safer things people could do. We suspected that we might see that trend continue into the winter months and that there would be a high demand for alpine and cross-country skiing, and we weren’t wrong.”
Keeler noted that while there were no state-mandated restrictions to the numbers of people who could ski, limitations on chair lift capacity and indoor lodge capacity resulted in many ski areas managing daily visits by limiting the numbers of tickets sold, and this impacted the overall skier visit tally. “Overall, I’m really pleased with the season’s results, given all that our country was grappling with,” Keeler said. “In addition to pandemic challenges, we also had some challenging weather to contend with, so to end up having an ‘average’ season in a year that was anything but that is truly remarkable.”
Winter was also slow to come, she noted, and many ski areas opened a week or two later than they had originally planned. “Given that everyone was grappling with new ways of operating that were designed to keep skiers and staff alike safe, this wasn’t the worst year to have a delayed start due to weather,” Keeler said, adding, “the extra time allowed the staff to fine tune those new operating practices.” Moreover, with ski areas asking people to boot up in their cars and think of their vehicles as personal base lodges this year, the relatively warm winter made this shift much easier for people to handle. Warm weather at the end of the ski season also caused a couple ski areas to close earlier than normal, further impacting skier visit totals for the season.
Keeler credited the collaborative efforts of the ski industry throughout the state and across the country for working together to develop best practices designed to protect the health and safety of staff and visitors. She also thanked Governor Sununu, the Department of Health & Human Services, and those who served on the Governor’s Reopening Task Force for their roles in working with industries like the ski industry to develop a very usable set of guidelines that allowed them to be open and operating during a global pandemic. “It’s a testament to the hard work of our industry and government leaders that not once did any New Hampshire ski areas have to shut down due to a covid-19 outbreak,” Keeler shared. “In a year when people and families desperately needed an opportunity to enjoy themselves and have moments of normalcy, I couldn’t be prouder to say that we were able to come together and provide that for folks while also keeping them safe.”
Ski New Hampshire is the statewide association representing 33 alpine and cross-country resorts in New Hampshire. For more information on ski areas, trail conditions, vacation planning, and updated winter events at Ski New Hampshire resorts, visit SkiNH.com. For statewide travel info, go to VisitNH.gov.