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NSAA reports record visitation in the 2021–22 season

The National Ski Areas Association (NSAA) reported record visitation at U.S. ski areas for the 2021–22 season, a total of 61 million skier visits.

This is an increase of 3.5 percent over last season’s national number. Skiing and snowboarding have rebounded from the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, providing economic relief and thousands of jobs to communities across 37 ski states. Strong season pass sales and a continued desire for outdoor recreation are two of the primary contributing factors to the season’s record-breaking results.

Regional impacts

NSAA divides the country into six regions. The Rocky Mountain region reported a record high number of skier visits, totaling 25.2 million visits. Other regions with increases in season-over-season skier visits were the Northeast, Midwest and Pacific Southwest. Only two regions – the Southeast and Pacific Northwest – reported decreases in skier visits compared to 2020–21.

What the number means

This record visitation signals that the U.S. ski industry is healthy, and that the demand for outdoor recreation remains strong. There were signs of this during the 2020–21 season as the Covid-19 pandemic led more people to seek outdoor activities. Strong skier numbers bode well for the long-term health of the sport, especially since participant numbers have been relatively flat over the past decade. The number of operating ski areas also jumped from 462 in the 2020–21 season to 473 last season.

Snowfall

Historically, changes in skier visit numbers could be correlated with snowfall; more snow generally meant more skiers. However, the average snowfall last season was 145 inches nationally, lower than the 10-year average of 166 inches, signaling the strong desire of people to get outside.

Capital investment

Capital investment by ski areas is projected to reach an all-time high, totaling $728 million for the upcoming capital season. Over the past three seasons, the average ski area has invested $16 per skier visit back into its operation, as evidenced by the installation of new lift infrastructure, terrain expansion, workforce housing, upgraded dining and other amenities.

Season passes holding strong

For the third season in a row, season passes surpassed day tickets in share of skier visits. Season pass holders made up 51.9 percent of visits nationally, with day tickets claiming 37.3 percent of visits (the balance is claimed by off-duty employees, complimentary products, etc.). Ski areas of all sizes, in all regions of the country saw an increase in number of season passes sold.

Staffing

Like many industries, the ski industry struggled to attract and retain staff for the season. Approximately 81 percent of responding ski areas reported that they were not fully staffed, with an average of 75 positions unfilled. Ski areas responded by raising wages, adding end-of-season bonuses and investing in affordable workforce housing.

Win Smith and Rob Katz honored at NSAA National Convention

The NSAA honored ski industry leader Win Smith with the 2022 Lifetime Achievement Award and honored changemaker Rob Katz with the 2022 Industry Impact Award. Recognition of these two individuals took place May 14, at the association’s National Convention and Tradeshow in Nashville, Tenn.

About the awards

The Lifetime Achievement Award recognizes individuals who have demonstrated an extraordinary lifetime commitment to NSAA and the ski industry, and whose contributions will benefit the industry for decades to come. NSAA wishes to thank MountainGuard for sponsoring the 2022 Lifetime Achievement Award.

The Industry Impact Award recognizes individuals or organizations whose contributions have had a significant and valuable impact to the ski industry. NSAA wishes to thank HKD Snowmakers for sponsoring the 2022 Industry Impact Award.

Win Smith

Win Smith purchased Sugarbush Resort in 2001, and since has been instrumental to the resort’s revitalization and to the development of its people. He invested over $70 million into the resort, improving its amenities while maintaining its Vermont character. Smith has also been a guiding presence at NSAA throughout his tenure on its Board of Directors, of which he has been a member since 2009. He has been a passionate advocate for the future of the ski industry through both mentorship and climate action, as evidenced through Sugarbush’s commitment to advocacy and on-site renewable energy.

“I am humbled and honored to receive NSAA’s Lifetime Achievement Award,” Smith said. “Serving on the Board of NSAA has been one of the highlights of my ski career, and I have really enjoyed working with Kelly Pawlak and her great team who have provided such superb service to the ski industry, especially during the past two challenging years.”

Rob Katz

As CEO of Vail Resorts, Rob Katz ushered in an “epic” era of skiing during which the multi-mountain Epic Pass season pass would become king. Katz’s penchant for disrupting the status quo has made Vail Resorts one of the most impacting businesses in the industry, leading on product development, climate action and other community-focused initiatives through Vail’s Epic Promise and the Katz Amsterdam Foundation.

“In an industry full of dedicated, passionate leaders, I’m honored to be recognized with this award,” said Katz. “I’m very proud of the pioneering work Vail Resorts has done – and continues to do – to create stability and growth for this incredible sport and our communities, especially during a time of great uncertainty.

“However, what has been most gratifying is seeing the growth in leaders, career progression and greater gender diversity across our company creating an incredible talent pipeline that will be critical for the continued success of our entire industry. I look forward to watching the sport we all love continue to broaden and flourish.”

New snowmobile sales data for winter 2021–22

Snowmobilers enjoyed the winter of 2021–22, finding reasonable snow conditions in many parts of North America. New snowmobiles sales totaled 130,644 worldwide, a two percent decline from the previous year.

Sales in all three major markets (United States, Canada, and Scandinavia) were strong overall, supported by record breaking sales of parts, garments and accessories. In the U.S., 53,821 new snowmobiles were sold, while 50,943 new snowmobiles were sold in Canada. Sales in Europe showed a slight increase in Finland, reporting 3,736 units sold compared to 3,437 units last year, and Sweden continues its strong sales activity with 8,671 new sleds sold following last year’s sales of 8,443 sleds. Overall sales in Europe and Russia were 25,880 snowmobiles sold – a 10 percent increase in sales from last year.

There are 1.2 million registered snowmobiles in the U.S. and over 601,000 in Canada. The registration numbers continue to increase, showing that snowmobiling continues to be an active, healthy winter sport. Registration in Northern Europe is steady, and there are 320,000 active snowmobilers in Scandinavia.

Surveys show that 74 percent of the snowmobiling households own two snowmobiles, and 39 percent own three snowmobiles.

The most recent surveys show that snowmobilers spend, on average, over $3,500 annually per family supporting snowmobiling activities, and that does not include the purchase of a snowmobile and trailer.

ISHOF Class of 2022

Meet the inductees to the International Snowmobile Hall of Fame (ISHOF) as part of the Class of 2022. For 33 years, this prestigious Hall of Fame honor has been bestowed upon the recipients in recognition of their achievements in the sport of snowmobiling.

Jason Howell – West Yellowstone, Mont. – Inventor, Designer & Manufacturer

Jason Howell started riding snowmobiles at a young age. His parents bought a Kitty Cat for him and his brother, and they would ride for hours every night after school. This would mark the beginning of his passion for snowmobiling. The Howell Family started an Arctic Cat/Yamaha dealership and the first snowmobile rental facility in the 1970s in West Yellowstone. He attended college at Montana Tech in Butte, Mont., where he graduated with an engineering degree. Upon graduation, he started working for the State of Montana Department of Administration as a supervising engineer. Eventually, his passion for snowmobiling called him back to West Yellowstone to manage the Yellowstone Park sled rentals and the family’s dealership.

Howell’s involvement with Arctic Cat grew beyond the dealership. With his input, Arctic Cat soon realized they were headed down the wrong path with their mountain sled development. In 1997, Howell was hired by Arctic Cat as their engineering team manager to head up the new mountain sled division. He convinced Arctic Cat management to build a research and testing facility in the West Yellowstone area and Howell began recruiting his team of engineers.

The result of those efforts became the M series (mountain) division. In 2008, Howell left Arctic Cat to assist in the daily operation of the family snowmobile business. His mechanics and guiding certifications proved to be a good fit for the dealership and rental business. Howell became involved in other aspects of the snowmobile industry. In 2012, he began his service as the vice president of the Montana Snowmobile Association, which continued for four years. He then served as the association’s president from 2016–21.

The Howell Family played an instrumental role in keeping Yellowstone Park open to snowmobiling. His father, Bill Howell, was also inducted into the ISHOF in 1991. Howell is involved in many other snowmobile-related organizations. He is active in the Montana Trails Coalition, serves on the advisory committee for the State of Montana’s Snowmobile Program, is a member of the Gallatin County Search and Rescue, as well as serving on the West Yellowstone Grooming Association. He attends the International Snowmobile Congress (ISC) each year and is active in the American Council of Snowmobile Associations (ACSA).

Ed Klim – Haslett, Mich.
– Inventor, Designer & Manufacturer

With his background in economics and communications, Ed Klim honed his skills being involved with a Chamber of Commerce, worked in the RV industry and served in the U.S. Army. He then took on a whole new challenge in 1995, when he became president of the International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association (ISMA). For the first time, four snowmobile manufacturers worked together as a united group to develop programs keying on snowmobile safety and promoting the snowmobile industry worldwide. Klim was the catalyst the snowmobile manufacturers relied on to set the programs in motion to shed a more positive light on the sport of snowmobiling and to improve its image.

Klim soon realized that snowmobiling was a huge economic generator for many rural areas throughout the snow belt. However, there were many negative myths about snowmobiling that needed to be dispelled regarding snowmobile safety, noise and emissions. Klim addressed these head-on by developing a Snowmobiling Fact Book, which is updated annually with a circulation of over half a million in print and digital copies. This was just the beginning of programs promoting the snowmobile industry in a more positive manner.

Programs also include Safe Riders, Emissions and Sound Standards, Clean Snowmobile Challenge, ISMA Land Access Grants, Family Friendly ISMA Photo Shoots, Take a Friend Snowmobiling and Take the Pledge. These programs became well-known and accepted by a wide audience of manufacturers, dealers and snowmobile riders to the media. ISMA developed these programs under the watchful guidance and promotion done by Klim and several committees directing the public relations and public affairs programs.

He took the lead with Yellowstone National Park to ensure the park was kept open to snowmobiles. This was a major undertaking working with all manufacturers, lobbyists, media, user groups and local leaders to provide legal assistance and letter writing campaigns for many years to find a solution to keep snowmobiling active in Yellowstone. He visited legislators regularly in Washington, D.C., armed with Snowmobiling Fact Books to “tell the truth about snowmobiling” on behalf of manufacturers and snowmobilers throughout the entire U.S.

David Low – Wayland, Mich. – Volunteer
and Club Organizer, Explorer and Adventurer

While running his Citizen Band (CB) radio sales and service business in the 1970s, a customer suggested a barter of a new CB radio for his Scorpion snowmobile. David Low knew nothing about snowmobiles at the time, but after a single ride that all changed. He was hooked and his passion for all things snowmobile-related began. Soon Low became a shining example of what a volunteer and club organizer are all about. Low became involved in his local snowmobile club, served on several committees and was elected to positions on local and state levels. Before long, Low distinguished himself as one of the most dedicated snowmobilers the Michigan Snowmobile Association has ever known.

He served as president of the association and worked to increase the participation of the Grant Sponsors Program by coordinating groomer workshops to provide training and education in all aspects of the program. Low can be counted as the first guy to put his hand up when there is a call for help. He loves snowmobiling, and all his efforts were soon recognized with a multitude of accolades and awards.

Low was presented with the association’s President’s Award in 2008 and 2015. He was the association’s Snowmobiler of the Year in 2009. In 2019, Low received the ACSA Snowmobiler of the Year Award.

Low can, without question, be considered an explorer and adventurer. As an example of Low’s snowmobile travels, he has participated in every Michigan Snowmobile Association Ride-In since he became a member. Low is also a longtime and active member of the MichCanSka International Snowmobile Club. In 2010, Low (along with 11 other members) completed a 4,000-mile (about 6,437.38 kilometer [km]) snowmobile adventure encompassing five states and five Canadian provinces and a territory. In 2015, (again with the MichCanSka Club) he completed the World Tour Ride of more than 4,400 air-miles and another 4,080 ground-miles (about 6,566.12 km) on snowmobiles through 12 time zones which included Michigan, Ontario, Norway, Finland, and Russia. In 2019, he participated in MichCanSka’s Western Ride through Yellowstone, Idaho, and Montana. All these adventures were done as fundraising events for Juvenile Diabetes Research, helping to raise more than $160,000 for that foundation.

Craig Nicholson – Toronto, Ont.
– Publisher and Journalist

Popularly known as “The Intrepid Snowmobiler,” Craig Nicholson is a print, radio and TV journalist, social media influencer and communications consultant specializing in motorized recreational activities, especially snowmobiling. Nicholson has been a high-mileage touring snowmobiler for many years, logging tens of thousands of kilometers on the snow across Canada and the U.S.

His book, Canada’s Best Snowmobiling – The Ultimate Ride Guide, chronicles many of his adventures. During his career, Nicholson’s been a touring editor for Supertrax International, one of North America’s largest circulation snowmobile magazines. Prior to that, he edited for SnowGoer Canada magazine. He also served as editor for Go Snowmobiling Ontario magazine. Nicholson’s articles also appeared in a variety of other snowmobiling publications such as SnowTech, Michigan Snowmobiler, Motoneige Quebec, as well as many mainstream newspapers and magazines. His syndicated “Intrepid Snowmobiler on Radio” feature aired on many stations in Alberta, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario, and Saskatchewan, while Nicholson also had a regular presence on Snowmobiler Television for many years.

Nicholson is well-known both within and outside of the snowmobile community through this substantial media exposure, including his strong social media presence. Nicholson is a consummate professional journalist whose snowmobile travel features and stories promote snowmobile tourism far and wide. In various volunteer roles, Nicholson developed and participated in many snowmobile safety and environment initiatives through the Canadian Council of Snowmobile Organizations, where he also volunteered as communications chair. Since the 1980s, Nicholson has been an influential and passionate advocate for both organized snowmobiling and the snowmobile industry while also reaching out to promote snowmobiling to the general public.

Special Award Recipients of 2022

2022 International Snowmobile Club of the Year – sponsored by Woody’s, Midwest Chapter, ACSA and ISC: Rome Sno-Bandits – Rome, Wis.

The Rome Sno-Bandits always have fun in everything they do, no matter if they are working on trails or enjoying a club ride. They are a small town community-based club that supports the local businesses and the surrounding area. Located in northern Adams County, the Sno-Bandits are dedicated to providing the finest trails for recreational family snowmobiling in their area. The Rome Sno-Bandits started in the late 1960s when about eight couples from the Rome area decided to form a club. As the sport grew, so did the Sno-Bandits. Today, they are 200 members strong and together they maintain 35 miles of snowmobile trails. They have two grooming units to keep the trails in tip-top shape. The Sno-Bandits host a club ride each Wednesday and Saturday. They also plan an annual club trip to various locations in northern Wisconsin.

The Sno-Bandits are active year-round. After every May and October meeting, members participate in the Wisconsin Department of Transportation Adopt-A-Highway program by picking up trash along Highway 13. Every November they have their annual trail brushing, signing and chili dump. Starting early in the morning, members will split up into groups to brush and place signs on the trail system. By mid-afternoon they meet back at the groomer shed to enjoy chili and conduct their November meeting. Every December the Sno-Bandits participate in the “Christmas in Rome” event where trees are decorated throughout the town, hayrides are offered and kids are greeted by a visit from Santa Clause. During Father’s Day weekend (since 2001), they hold the Classic Car, Motorcycle and Snowmobile Show, considered the club’s largest fundraiser.

2022 International Snowmobile Dealer of the Year – sponsored by SnowGoer, Midwest Chapter, ACSA and ISC: Track Side – Eagle River, Wis.

A snowmobile dealership named Track Side can hardly be known by any other name when considering its geographic location – only a few hundred feet from the start/finish line of the World Championship Derby Track. Under new management since 2018, with owner Chris Petreikis, Track Side is committed to being involved in organized snowmobiling. Although vigilant of the racing history and the “win on Sunday, sell on Monday” mentality, Track Side has always devoted significant support toward the local clubs and the trail system in Vilas and surrounding counties, as well as the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

Without hesitation, Track Side participates in the yearly “Groom to Ride” fundraising raffle. They donate the grand prize snowmobile, provide their showroom area for ticket sales and host the drawing. The proceeds earned during this raffle support three clubs’ grooming efforts nearest to Eagle River. A major sponsor on the state and national level, Track Side has played a key role in sponsoring VIP rides for state legislators, Department of Natural Resources, tourism personnel and snowmobile clubs throughout Wisconsin. Track Side has donated most of their rental fleet in support of the annual Military Appreciation Ride. All snowmobile clubs responsible for maintaining trails in or near Vilas County can count on Track Side for fundraising merchandise and sponsorship help with trail expenses.

2022 International Groomer of the Year – sponsored by Arrowhead Groomers, Track Inc., PistenBully, Prinoth, Ltd., and SnoBoss Groomers: Bob Keller – LaPine, Ore.

Over the past two decades Bob Keller has volunteered countless hours grooming the more than 150 miles of trail in the Newberry National Volcanic Monument located in Deschutes National Forest in Oregon. Keller has worked closely with the park service establishing and managing the snowmobile trail system in and around the Newberry Crater. Keller schedules, grooms, manages and maintains a grooming program that ensures his trails are free from hazards and always freshly groomed for club rides and key community events. Keller’s track record of safety and readiness has been unmatched over the years and has resulted in a trail riding experience that thousands of snowmobile riders enjoy every winter.

Keller always makes a point to spend ample time with his groomer operators to provide positive feedback. He and his team keep the trails in outstanding condition throughout the winter season. His humble expertise and outstanding people skills have resulted in numerous groomer operators being trained on various grooming equipment. Keller’s ability to instruct while building driver confidence is among his best attributes. Keller and his team are always willing to do whatever it takes to keep the trails in the Newberry National Volcanic Monument ready for snowmobilers’ riding pleasure, seven days a week.

2022 Edgar Hetteen Memorial Award of Merit – sponsored by Elmer Cone Family and the Iron Dog Brigade: Bill McFarlane – Franconia, N.H.

Bill McFarlane started snowmobiling in 1981, with Tug Hill, N.Y., as his first destination on a Moto-Ski Mirage. Three years later, he and his wife, Jule Dele, made their first trip to the Saguenay Region in Quebec. That’s when they became the first American members of the Saguenay Snowmobile Club in which they have been active ever since. McFarlane and Dele’s main residence is in New Hampshire, but they spend most of the snowmobile riding season at the Delta Saguenay Hotel in Jonquière. McFarlane’s personal love for snowmobiling, coupled with his outgoing personality, made him a champion of active promotion of the sport for more than 30 years. After he gets his own day of riding in, “Saguenay Bill” can be found in the hotel lobby sharing valuable trail riding information with any and all touring snowmobilers who stop by. McFarlane keeps up on the latest trail developments such as grooming updates, weather, restaurant recommendations, fuel and dealer locations. When he gets a break from personal contact with guests at the hotel, he is busy returning phone calls, answering emails and posting on social media, all in an effort to ensure folks riding in the Saguenay Region have the safest and best snowmobile riding experience possible. In 2019, the Saguenay Snowmobile Club and a local tourism group renamed a 65 km trail the “Bill Trail” for McFarlane’s contributions to the region. 

 

 

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