Its Memorial Day weekend, sign of summer, after one of the most mercurial winters on record – El Niño, or as we called it “El Weirdo.”
The East was warm with astonishingly low snow, less than 5 feet of natural snow at Sunday River… meanwhile the West got nuked, 33 feet at Grand Targhee, 38′ at Snowbird in Utah!
Overall, skier visits were up 8% in the Rockies. The Pacific Northwest recorded a 142% increase, easily doubling from 2 mill in 2014-15 to 4.8 mill visits in 2015-16 according to NSAA – the National Ski Areas Association.
The Northeast, New England particularly, was down 28% this winter (can we call it a winter?!) reflecting one of the four worst ski seasons in the past four decades. Sunday River, who opened on Oct 19, kept skiing til May 2, but only received 60 inches of natural snow, their usual snowfall total is 167 (can you say snow making magic?).
Overall skier visits in the US for 2015-16 were 53.9 million, the West soared and saved the East meltdown. As for the bottom line, Western resort occupancy was up 4.4 percent,revenues up 5.2 percent compared to last season, with Colorado as the leader of the pack, even though the strong US $ deterred Canadians and foreigners.
In layman’s terms, about 7 million people in the US ski, they account for our 53 million “skier visits” by going about 7 times a season. Some folks, like me, ski 50 days, ski instructors, patrollers and ski bums eclipse 100, but slobs with real jobs ski only 2 to 5 times a winter, so its an alipne average . With the US population at 322,762,018 (2016 US Census specifics) that means skiers are the 2%!
Enough elitist ski math, alpine analysis and El Niño climatology… let’s talk about who is still open for skiing in May 2016?
In the East, the last beast spinning is Killington Resort which reopens Memorial weekend much like last year! Out west the usual late spring ski resorts are still standing: Arapahoe Basin Ski Area and Aspen’s Ajax in Colorado, Mammoth, Mt Bachelor, Timberline & Whistler Blackcomb! Mammoth still has 130’ of base in late May, more snow than the East saw all season. Hintertux Glacier in Austria too!
By Heather Burke, photos by Greg Burke