Mixed forecast for US ski resorts

After last year's poor season, and despite uncertain snowfall predictions, the resorts are gearing up for the next run.

By Bruce Kennedy Nov 23, 2012 4:16PM

For snow fans, we're entering the best time of year. Thanksgiving is the starting bell for many ski and snowboard enthusiasts who use the vacation time for what many hope will be their first round of skiing and snowboarding this season.

But variable weather conditions are creating a mixed picture for the U.S. ski resort industry, which brings in an average of $6 billion annually.

This year is already off to a slow start for a lot of ski resorts, which are still smarting from 2011's notable high temperatures and lack of snow.

According to the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA), last year was marked by a 15% decrease in skier and snowboarder visits to the nation's resorts, making the 2011/12 ski season the "most challenging" for the multi-billion dollar U.S. ski industry in 20 years.


The Denver Post reports Colorado's snowpack is currently at 57% of its average for this time of year.  And a survey of four Western states by the Mountain Travel Research Program found resort bookings there down nearly 4%, compared to this time last year.


Snow conditions are quite good, meanwhile, in the Pacific Northwest -- benefiting resorts like Oregon's Timberline Ski Area and the Stevens Pass, Mount Baker and Crystal Mountain resorts in Washington. And one of the few good things to come out of Superstorm Sandy was the early season boost it has given to East Coast ski resorts, from the Appalachians up to New England.

While this season's weather forecast for skiers and snowboarders remains uncertain, there are reasons to be more optimistic compared to last winter.  Colder temperatures are on the way. "We are off to a much better start this early winter than last, resorts are open throughout the West and in the northern parts of the Midwest and East," said Michael Berry, an NSAA spokesman, told the Climate Central web site.

Early season weather is very important,” he said. “We believe there is significant pent-up demand and a series of early season storms will release that pent-up demand, particularly for mid-season reservations at destination resorts.”

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