Overall occupancy at major western mountain resorts finished up 5.7 percent this winter compared to last season, capping off a near record year for the snowsports industry in terms of lodging occupancy, skier visits and retail sales, according to Mountain Travel Research Program (MTRiP). 

Resort occupancy trends started strong but faded as the season progressed except for strong numbers in March at most destinations. Actual occupancy was up in five of the six months (all but April) while nightly rates were up four of the six months (all but February and April).  April itself was weaker than last year with occupancy down 2.5 percent compared to April 2010.

MTRiP data coincide with recent reports of record snowsports retail sales, near record skier visitation and record snowfall in some areas of the country. The National Ski Areas Association reported last month that skier/rider visits reached 60.1 million during the 2010-11 winter season, up from last season and close to the record of 60.5 million visits in 2007-08, said Ralf Garrison, director of MTRiP.

MTRiP data also show that summer bookings are running well ahead of a year ago. The month of May is currently up 8.8 percent while on-the-books occupancy for the next six months (May-October) is up 6.6 percent, while the average nightly rate is down just 0.3 percent.

 We are pleased to report that nearly all the metrics are up and looking forward, things are going the right way, said Garrison.  There remains uncertainty and inconsistency among some indicators and results vary significantly in some cases, but we continue to consider the cup more than half full, he added.

MTRiP data is derived from a sample of 265 property management companies in 15 mountain destination communities, representing 24,000 rooms across Colorado, Utah, California, and Oregon and may not reflect the entire mountain destination travel industry. Results may vary significantly among/between resorts and participating properties.