SAM Magazine—Ludlow, Vt., Feb. 25, 2019—Resorts across the country experienced historic snow totals and record-breaking visitation numbers through Presidents’ Day weekend and into the holiday week.
A generous snowstorm leading up to the holiday and comfortable temperatures had many resorts in the East up over previous years. In the Midwest, conditions were variable depending on location, but visitation was strong. Particular areas in the West got hammered with snow, generating a lot of enthusiasm but also significant challenges.
Cannon, N.H., picked up 10 inches of fresh snow in the week leading up to the holiday weekend. According to Greg Keeler, director of marketing and sales, the resort was able to open 88 trails compared to Presidents’ Day weekend 2018 when Cannon had a maximum of 65 trails open. Good coverage and new snow helped increase visits by 17 percent over last year for the same period.
In Vermont, Smuggler’s Notch received 21 inches the week before the holiday and another 12 inches during Presidents’ Week. The resort had 100 percent of its terrain open from Feb. 13 through the holiday. Public relations director Mike Chait reported strong bookings and visitation numbers for the entire holiday period.
Visits at Sugarbush, Vt., were up slightly over last year, which was one of the resort’s strongest Presidents’ Weekends since Win Smith purchased the area in 2001, according to PR manager John Bleh. Sugarbush also saw nearly two feet of snow in the lead up to the holiday weekend and was 100 percent open. Last year, warm weather and rain hit midway through the holiday week, but this year the weather stayed temperate and business was strong across food and beverage, lodging, rental and ski school.
Killington, Vt., had record attendance for the weekend, which PR and social media manager Courtney DiFiore attributes in part to the good weather. Killington started and finished the four-day weekend with fresh snow and had bluebird skies on Saturday and Sunday. The ski area was also 100 percent open and able to offer the most terrain in New England.
At Windham Mountain in New York, weekend visitation beat the five-year average for the same period, and numbers stayed strong throughout the week. Communications manager Becky Pine said favorable weather contributed to the weekend’s high turnout. And despite not receiving the same amount of snowfall that other areas in the Northeast have, Windham had all 267 acres of snowmaking terrain open.
Compared to 2018, visitation at Wisp Resort in Maryland was way up on Friday, nearly even on Saturday, down on Sunday due to bad weather and up again on Monday for the holiday. Overall, said director of marketing Lori Zaloga, Wisp saw a 14 percent increase in skier visits year-over-year for the Presidents’ Day Weekend.
Camelback, Pa., was also up year-over-year for the holiday weekend, with Saturday attracting a whopping 9,000 guests to the Poconos resort. Camelback spokeswoman Erin Ruppenthal noted all of Camelback’s terrain was open, including a new expert boardercross-style run called Basilisk, which generated excitement along with strong snow conditions and mild weather.
In 2018, warm weather and snowmelt forced Perfect North Slopes in southeast Indiana to close right after Presidents’ Day. This year, with wintry weather and good snow, the resort was up nearly 5,000 visits over last year’s Presidents’ Day weekend—a 32 percent increase—and revenue was up 27 percent, according to assistant GM Jonathan Davis. Notably, Perfect North launched pass sales over the weekend, and sold more than triple the number of passes it did at the same time last year.
Up in northern Minnesota, Lutsen Mountains’ skier visits for the four-day weekend were in line with the average of the last three years, but nearly double the average of the three years before that. Marketing director Jim Vick attributes the success of recent years to excellent snow conditions and favorable weather. This year, Lutsen was about 50-percent ahead of its five-year snowfall average by the holiday weekend, and saw clear skies and 20-degree temps.
At Telluride, Colo., cold weather kept some skiers indoors, but more than a foot of fresh snow just before the holiday attracted many others, resulting in a strong Presidents’ Day weekend, said VP of sales and marketing Matt Windt. The resort was 90 percent open, including all lift-served terrain and a portion of the upper mountain’s hikeable acreage. Telluride was up in occupancy and visitation for the holiday, year-over-year.
Schweitzer in Idaho received 3.5 feet of snow the week before the holiday weekend, and the sun came out on Saturday, resulting in Schweitzer’s second busiest day on record. The weekend’s skier visits and revenue outpaced budget by 25 percent, and the resort is up 17 percent overall for the season.
Mt. Hood Meadows, Ore., had one of its busiest three-day holiday weekends ever. Visitation was up 23 percent and revenue was up 16 percent over last year, said VP of marketing, sales and communications Dave Tragethon. Demand was so high that the parking lots reached capacity and the Hood River shuttle service was utilized for overflow. Plus, Meadows saw nearly 1,000 guests take advantage of a special Monday evening lift ticket price for night skiing.
Summit at Snoqualmie, Wash., had a stronger Presidents’ Day weekend than last year thanks to snow and advanced lift ticket sales. The area received more than six feet of snow from Feb. 9 through 16. During that stretch, 31.5-inches fell in 24 hours at the resort’s lowest base elevation, breaking a record.
The amount of snowfall created significant challenges in terms of preparing and accessing the resort. Summit at Snoqualmie was forced to close Tuesday and Wednesday, while roads to and from the resort were also closed. Snow removal teams worked around the clock, said director of marketing and sales Karter Riach, and ski patrol worked for two days straight doing avalanche control. Riach said it was the first time in nearly 10 years that Snoqualmie conducted control work by helicopter.
The roads and the resort reopened Thursday, but since areas in the lowlands also received several feet of snow during the same storm cycle, Raich said it “probably hurt visitation a bit Thursday to Saturday due to road conditions from [Seattle] all the way to the mountain.”
Guests also had a hard time getting to the mountains in California after prolific snow fell in the Sierras just before the holiday weekend. Some guests spent up to 10 hours on the road driving from the Bay Area to Tahoe.
Sierra-at-Tahoe communications and PR manager Sarah Sherman said that news stations and local authorities were actively telling people not to travel to Tahoe, but guests couldn’t resist a chance to ski the historic amounts of snow—Sierra-at-Tahoe had already received 222-inches of snow in February alone, smashing its previous record of 156-inches for the month. On Sunday and Monday, Sierra saw more typical holiday business levels, with the parking lots reaching capacity both days.
At Mt. Rose Ski Tahoe, a six-foot storm cycle forced authorities to close I-80 on the Friday of Presidents’, and the Mt. Rose Highway was shutdown on Thursday and Friday. “Much of the anticipated market from the San Francisco Bay Area did not venture up to the ski area due to the media warnings and slower travel times,” said marketing director Mike Pierce. As a result, visits were down more than 50 percent compared to the historical average on Saturday and Sunday, but Monday saw almost double the average visitation.
Arizona Snowbowl received more than seven feet of snow during the holiday week, with reports of larger-than-normal crowds at the mountain to enjoy it.
While huge amounts of snow in the West made things unpredictable, many resorts saw solid and even record breaking turnout for the holiday weekend. In the East and Midwest, guests were similarly lured by the promise of excellent weather and quality snow coverage. Natural snowfall everywhere seems to be keeping people jazzed about skiing and has many resorts well positioned as we move into March.
Report by Katie Brinton