The Utah ski and snowboard industry closed the 2008-09 winter season with a total of 3.97 million skier days, down 6.5% from last year’s fifth consecutive record breaking year at 4.2 million. The Utah region’s decline was attributed to a strong and early snow season on the east coast causing many snowriders to choose resorts closer to home in an effort to cut back on travel expenses.

The National Ski Areas Association defines ‘skier days’ as one person visiting a ski area for all or any part of a day or night for the purpose of skiing.

Ski Utah noted that nationally, total skier visits were down 5.5% to just over 57 million skier days from the previous year’s all time record of 60.1 million skier days according to a preliminary survey by RRC Associates. The survey also suggested that the Rocky Mountain Range (CO, ID, MO, NM, UT and WY) experienced a 7.2% decline down to 19.8 million visits from 21.3 million visits during the 2007-08 winter season.

Nationally, resorts near large metropolitan markets seemed to weather the economy’s effects better than resorts which primarily attract destination visitors. Many Utah resorts noticed a similar trend as season pass sales increased almost across the board. Destination visitors however, booked vacations with much shorter lead times indicating consumers were more cautious with discretionary spending and making sure they secured the “best bang” available for their buck.

Although some resorts were able to open earlier than expected (Snowbird Ski & Summer Resort opened Nov. 7 – the second earliest opening in the resort’s 38-year history), the majority of the state’s resorts got off to a later than normal start. But the snowfall eventually arrived and monthly snowfall exceeded 100 inches for five out of six months at many Utah ski resorts, November through April, totaling nearly 700 inches.

“Despite the global economy, Utah’s ski industry is pleased with its performance during the 2008-09 winter season,” said Ski Utah President Nathan Rafferty. “Skiers and snowboarders possess an incredible fervor for the sport and are committed to annual participation. Our industry is optimistic about the future and looks forward to many great years to come.”

Total statewide skier days for the past 10 years are as follows:

Season Skier Days Rank

2008-09 3,972,984 4
2007-08 4,249,190 1
2006-07 4,082,094 2
2005-06 4,062,188 3
2004-05 3,895,578 5
2003-04 3,429,141 6
2002-03 3,141,212 8
2001-02 2,984,574 10
2000-01 3,278,291 7
1998-99 3,095,347 9