June 11, 2002

Hood River, OR–Washington state ski areas recorded 2.14 million skier visits during the 2001-2002 season, setting an all-time, single season attendance record. Oregon’s ski area operators are estimating 1.62 million skier visits.

If Oregon realizes its 2001-2002 attendance projections—the state’s summer session is scheduled to close on September 2—Oregon will have enjoyed its most successful season ever. Operators in Alaska and northern Idaho also reported successful 2001-2002 campaigns.

“For the last decade, ski area operators have installed high-capacity lifts, expanded guest services, purchased slope grooming equipment, and built day lodges to increase the overall capacities of their facilities, commented Scott Kaden, president of the Pacific Northwest Ski Areas Association. “Even during the lean years, the operators have invested in their facilities. Strategic enhancements to resort operations have played a huge role in this winter’s record-setting performance, Kaden added.

Preparing for the Future

The population of the Pacific Northwest is growing, with Washington state experiencing the region’s most noteworthy population increases. From 1990 to 1998, Washington state’s population increased by nearly 17 percent.

From 1998 to 2010, its population is projected to grow an additional 16 percent. Growth in the ‘early retiree’ age cohort (i.e., 50- to 65-year olds), coupled with the coming of age of the echo boom, means the region’s ski area operators must continue to prepare for even larger numbers of visitors.

The demographic changes are already evident according to staff at the region’s ski centers. For example, operators have detected a trend of even larger peak attendance days—single day attendance that far exceeds the peaks in attendance experienced in the 1980s and 1990s. With visitation predictably cresting on winter weekends and holidays, ski area operators have added capacity to the critical components of their resorts to ensure the quality of the guest experience doesn’t decline during periods of peak attendance.

“The visitation experienced this year was a real eye-opener, commented Kaden. “In the last five years, visits to Oregon and Washington ski areas have increased 20 percent. In our region, the industry is healthy, the demand for winter sports continues to grow, and the operators must continue to size and modify their facilities accordingly.