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Ski Industry Does Well in a Bad National Economy

Ski Industry Does Well in a Bad National Economy Stowe Vermont

posted at 11:07 am Tue Dec 29th, 2009 by (WherezIt_Staff)

What the national economy takes away Mother Nature gives back. This would seem to be the state of Vermont's ski season this year.

While the recession roars through the winter, the state's ski industry reports relatively high skier visits and few apparent downward economic effects from the recession. Those in the industry, either at the Alpine ski resorts or the Nordic areas, say this is one of the best ski years on record. They attribute their good fortune primarily to lots of snow and very little rain or thaw. Also, they contend, the bad economy is keeping their skier base, located primarily in New England and New York and New Jersey closer to home. Fewer skiers, they say, are flying to Colorado or Utah for a winter ski vacation choosing instead to remain in the region skiing Vermont trails and slopes.

All this is good news for the balance sheet at the ski areas at a time when real estate sales at the mountains are in the doldrums. It is also a bright spot for state tax coffers as the steady stream of rooms and meals tax revenues somewhat mitigates the budget crunch felt by Vermont government.

Greg Gerdel at the Department of Tourism & Marketing looked at preliminary numbers in early February from tourism in the state this fall and early winter. Figures for October posted January 23 "show room rentals off just .01 percent and meals receipts down 1.1 percent in comparison with October 2007," he said. Thus, tourism was basically flat for the period and October is a significant month.

Meals and rooms revenues posted for December collections was up 16.1 percent and for the fiscal year to date, said Gerdel, "was down a relatively modest 1.9 percent, considering the general downturn of the economy."

January meals and rooms shows revenues were down 15.5 percent but these are preliminary figures awaiting an April report.

Another indicator of tourist activity is the Agency of Transportation's traffic count an electronic measure taken at roads near several ski resorts around the state. At Stowe for December on average for weekend traffic, the count on Vermont Route 108 was up eight percent. In Wilmington, where Mt. Snow is located, and in Ludlow at Okemo Mountain in December traffic counts were even with the previous year.

Killington's traffic count was off nearly two percent on weekends while Mad River Glen, Sugarbush and Bolton Valley were off about three percent. Ski area operators say traffic counts can be misleading as they are seeing more car-pooling among skiers.

Gerdel said figures from the state show for "any period through the end of 2008 the statewide car number average has been down four to five percent but the other measures for tourism as of fiscal 2008 ending July 1, including room receipts, were up 9.6 percent.

"It's premature for hard numbers on the ski season," said Gerdel, "but anecdotally good snow conditions since January certainly held up and the weather component has been strongly in our favor."

Vermont's seemingly healthy ski season does not go against national trends and figures from the National Ski Areas Association indicate that the economy does not appear to have had a harsh effect on the ski industry. In January NSAA issued a press release saying, "that skiers and snowboarders continue to hit the slopes in strong numbers despite current economic conditions."

A nationwide ski area survey NSAA conducted revealed, "that skiers and riders showed up in numbers similar to last season's Holiday period, and in some cases, in record numbers. Some resorts are reporting visits up 40 percent over last year's Christmas Holiday period."

NSAA in October surveyed skiers and snowboarders and found the total number of days they intended to ski is on pace "with last year across every region of the country." However, people said they would ski closer to home and would "seek out more affordable lodging options and reduce the amount they spend on food and beverage during their trips."

Whether the industry can meet last year's all-time record 60.5 million skier and rider visits remains to be seen.

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