Vermont ski resorts report rebound after early pandemic slowdown

Skiers and snowboarders ride the Madonna II lift at Smugglers’ Notch Resort in Jeffersonville on December 28, 2021. Photo by Glenn Russell/VTDigger

Downhill ski resorts in Vermont saw 230,000 more visits during the 2021-22 ski season, a 6.5% increase from the previous season, according to the Vermont Ski Areas Association.

The rebound came after many states – including Vermont – lifted travel restrictions related to the Covid-19 pandemic, which had hampered the industry the previous ski season.

“The biggest thing was being able to accommodate skiers from other states,” association president Molly Mahar said.

Vermont ski resorts still haven’t fully recovered from the pandemic. The total of 3.76 million skier visits this season was still 6% below the 10-year average, although Mahar said that was more due to warm weather than the pandemic. A skier visit is defined as someone skiing or snowboarding for one day.

The association reported that despite the reopening of the border, Canadian skiers were slow to return to US resorts due to Covid testing requirements at the border.

“There were still complications for Canadians traveling to the United States for most of the ski season this year,” Mahar said.

Like other industries, ski resorts have struggled to hire all the people they need, Mahar said.

The weather presented another challenge. The start of the season was too warm to make much snow, Mahar said, which led to a disappointing holiday.

Smugglers’ Notch vice president for market management Steve Clokey said the resort was able to mitigate some of the lost business due to unusually warm weather at the start of the season with bookings from holidays, which he says are more about bookings for a destination resort.

“Smugglers’ Notch is a tourist destination, so a lot of our bookings come in mid-December through late December for the holiday week, and we’ve been very, very, very successful with destination bookings,” Clokey said.

Snowfall decreased in March, usually one of the snowiest months, but several areas, including Killington, Jay Peak and Sugarbush, extended their season with snowmaking. The Jay Peak and Sugarbush seasons took place in May. Killington had the longest season, offering skiing and snowboarding from November 5 to June 6.

Killington spokeswoman Kristel Killary reported the resort saw a 13% increase in ski visits over the past season.

Nationally, Mahar said, the ski industry hit a record 61 million visits, with most of that growth occurring in the Rockies. Still, Vermont remains the fourth-largest state in the nation for skier visits, the association reported.

Skiing in Vermont is a $1.6 billion industry, according to the association.

Correction: Due to erroneous information provided by the Vermont Ski Resorts Association, an earlier version of this story misrepresented the state’s national rankings for total skier visits.

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