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Most Visited US Ski Areas - Page 2

post #31 of 51

Steamboat has a few bottlenecks: Waiting to get on the Gondola in the morning will always involve a wait and then the Sunshine Express area is usually pretty crowded both at the bottom and top of the lift.  The upper parts of High Noon and Tomahawk usually are crowded, but things thin out as you get lower as there are a number of trails which branch off of these main runs.  Outside of that, Steamboat rarely feels crowded and the Pony Express area you can have all to yourself. 

post #32 of 51
Quote:
Originally Posted by tball View Post
 

 

So, these 21 non-Vail Colorado Ski Country resorts averaged 300,000 visits:

http://www.coloradoski.com/resorts

 

That DP article says little old Monarch did 190,000 visits.   Based on that, I wonder if A-basin and Loveland might be pushing 500,000 visits.  And again, it's really hard to believe Jackson and Snowbird are not at least 500,000.  It would seem hard to support the size and infrastructure of those resorts with lower numbers... just guessing.

 

I think Loveland is around 400k- spread out over a very long season, as is A-Basin. I expect A-Basins to be higher and 500k sounds reasonable, if not conservative. Eldora is the other one that pulls lots of visits at 270k.

 

Obviously, WP, Copper, Aspen areas, and Telluride are the ones pulling up the 30,000 average, each seeing a lot more visitation than that. The smaller ski areas that don't have the advantage of being right on the front range see a fraction of that figure. Most have also seen their visitation numbers decline.

 

 

Wolf Creek is 200,000. This is a modest increase from the 1990's- thank careful marketing to Texas for that one.

I've seen Monarch release the 190k figure, which is great for a ski area that small- significantly higher than any other ski area in that size range. Significantly upcompared to a decade ago.

Sunlight? about 75,000-85,000 skier visits. That is down from 100,000 skiers in the 1990's.

Powderhorn is also 75,000-85,000, also down from the 1990s.

 

Purg/DMR reported 255k visitors in 2009 a notoriously monster snow year.  Everything I have heard indicates that was the high point- snow has been harsh to Purg since and management hasn't been making friends. Interestingly, in a job listing, they claim 280k visits, and claim that 1/3 are locals.   

The Purg numbers sound surprisingly high, like 100,000+ visits high. More surprisingly, everything I have read indicates the ski area is not reliably profitable as a 1200 acre area seeing 250k skier visits with a summer operation to boot. Meanwhile, Wolf Creek and Monarch are both printing money with just a ski area operation seeing much less visitors.

 

Crested Butte is the big loser here. In the 1990's they saw skier visits of 500k, now they are down around 350k.

 

So... Interesting implications. It seems for ski area only operations (or close to it in the case of Powderhorn and Sunlight), 85,000 is around the break-even point. Bump that up to 200K+, like Monarch and Wolf, and you net enough to sink 5-10 million in improvements each year and still pay yourself if not put away a lot more- sounds like printing money to me.

 

But, if you are a midsize resort that HAS a real-estate lodging component, 250-350k apparently bleeds you white- the Crested Butte/Purg example.

 

The next step up in the "not making money" arena is Telluride. I can find recent statistics for skier visits (usually a clear sign the resort is underperforming), but they were about 400,000 a decade ago, and I know the CEO has gone on record saying the expert expansion at the area hasn't brought in enough people to pay for the improvements.

post #33 of 51
Quote:
Originally Posted by anachronism View Post
 

 Incorrect. Lift service started in 1961, but the official opening of the ski area was on December 22, 1961 when the Christie lift went in.

 

Of course, Steamboat was hardly Steamboat until Priest Creek went up in 1972.

 

Priest Creek must have been what I was thinking of because I remember an ad campaign from the early 70s, "Steamboat's a Comin'" with a cowboy on horseback carrying skis.

post #34 of 51

just a fun excercise, time for a flawed analysis...

 

skier visits don't tell you the whole story as to how crowded a resort feels...  It has to be linked to the ski area (how crowded the skiing feels) and the lift capacity (how long you have to wait). then you probably have to also anlayse capacity to area...

 

 

if i take the first 5 (and add Whistler). So Whistler has tons of visits but should feel a lot less crowded than breckeridge. Whistler has lots of capacity but probably has longer lines than mamoth...

 

it would be interesting to see this analysis on all the ski resort.. the east probably will jump to the top of the crowded resorts! but i'm curious to see how the european resorts would then compare to north american ones...

 

 

 

 

 

  visits (skier/year) area (acre) lift capacity (skier/hour) skiers/acre/year area (meters) per skier based on a  150 days season this coresopnd to a  square with an X m side
whistler 2200000 8171 65507 269 2254 47
Vail 1634250 5289   309 1964 44
Breckenridge 1600750 2908   550 1103 33
Mammoth 1128500 3500 50000 322 1882 43
Keystone 1036000 3148   329 1844 43
Steamboat 923576 2965   311 1948 44
post #35 of 51


i can't edit the table: here's a new more accurate table that assume half of the skiers are at the lift or at the lodge

 

 

  visits (skiers/year) area (acres) lift capacity (skier/h) skiers/acre/year area (meters) per skier based on a  150 day season and half the skiers either on the lift or at the lodge this correspond to a  square that is X m wide
whistler 2200000 8171 65507 269 4508 67
Vail 1634250 5289   309 3928 63
Breckenridge 1600750 2908   550 2205 47
Mammoth 1128500 3500 50000 322 3765 61
Keystone 1036000 3148   329 3688 61
Steamboat 923576 2965   311 3897 62
post #36 of 51
Quote:
Originally Posted by yann View Post
 


i can't edit the table: here's a new more accurate table that assume half of the skiers are at the lift or at the lodge

 

 

  visits (skiers/year) area (acres) lift capacity (skier/h) skiers/acre/year area (meters) per skier based on a  150 day season and half the skiers either on the lift or at the lodge this correspond to a  square that is X m wide
whistler 2200000 8171 65507 269 4508 67
Vail 1634250 5289   309 3928 63
Breckenridge 1600750 2908   550 2205 47
Mammoth 1128500 3500 50000 322 3765 61
Keystone 1036000 3148   329 3688 61
Steamboat 923576 2965   311 3897 62

 

There are several problems with this metric- the biggest being that it does not account for length of season. Mammoth stays open longer than Breck or Keystone (not sure about other mountains, although Whistler has an extended season, no?).

 

How is lift capacity being used here? Greater lift capacity may make crowds feel less if somebody is wasting their day waiting in line, but it will make the actual slopes feel more crowded.  Many mountains have resisted adding to their lift capacity to prevent "Powder Hour" effects from people skiing the mountain off in short order.  So, depending on the layout and management of the mountain, adding lift capacity could make a mountain feel less crowded, or it could make it feel more crowded, and that perception is largely going to be subject for the individual. Many people see no problem with a 5 minute queue at a place where they get freshies all day, but would be much less satisfied with 1 run before the mountain gets tracked- regardless of their ability to ski onto the lift.

 

I definitely judge crowds at my mountain based on how fast things are getting skied off.  The best terrain at my mountain is a fixed grip lift while most of the others have been replaced with high-speed or are on the list to be replaced. No plans to upgrade the lift, and additional lifts in that area are also planned to be fixed-grip. This is a conscious choice to keep the ski experience (untracked all day every powder day- insufficient lift capacity to ski it off) unchanged.

post #37 of 51

This list will change for 2015-2016.  Canyons and PCMR will combine for 7,000+ skiable acres now that Vail purchased PCMR.  The resorts should be connected in time for the 2015-2016 season.

post #38 of 51

The metric is crude, but it shows Breck as conspicuously the most crowded/dense resort on that list, which I strongly suspect is accurate.  This metric  contains similar components to the P3 metric that Powder Magazine has used the past 2 years to rate resorts.

 

If you take Wolf Creek's 200K visits on 1,600 acres, that's 125 skiers/acre/year, about 40% of the number for Vail.  I'm guessing anachronism will tell us it takes more than 2.5x as long to track out Wolf Creek's powder as it does at Vail.  

Quote:
the biggest being that it does not account for length of season.

True, but since at most areas 90+% of visitation is Christmas through first week of April, maybe not a too serious oversimplification. 

Quote:
Greater lift capacity may make crowds feel less if somebody is wasting their day waiting in line, but it will make the actual slopes feel more crowded.  Many mountains have resisted adding to their lift capacity to prevent "Powder Hour" effects from people skiing the mountain off in short order. 

I agree in part.  I think ski areas and their customers get uncomfortable with skier density at some point.  Only at "urban areas" like Hunter and Mt. High is lift capacity THE overriding objective.  On the other hand VERY few if any areas will let chronic liftlines build just to preserve powder.  Alta was always cited as the prime example, but after several years of stagnating numbers they built high-speed Collins to relieve the worst choke point.  Alta's visitation, including mine, increased as a direct result.  Mad River is the only obvious example I know of explicitly tolerating long liftlines to preserve the powder. 

 

One of my reasons for preferring the big places is that skiers do not distribute themselves evenly over the acreage.   There are large sectors of Vail and Whistler with low skier density. Anachronism often states this is true at Wolf Creek also, despite its more modest size. 

post #39 of 51
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tony Crocker View Post
 

 

 

One of my reasons for preferring the big places is that skiers do not distribute themselves evenly over the acreage.   There are large sectors of Vail and Whistler with low skier density. Anachronism often states this is true at Wolf Creek also, despite its more modest size. 

+++ Everywhere, really. Smaller areas are much better on weekdays.

post #40 of 51
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tony Crocker View Post
 

 

One of my reasons for preferring the big places is that skiers do not distribute themselves evenly over the acreage.   There are large sectors of Vail and Whistler with low skier density. Anachronism often states this is true at Wolf Creek also, despite its more modest size.

 

But uneven distribution is the norm at smaller ski areas as well. Sure, a 400 acre area with 500,000 skier visits is probably going to feel busy everywhere, but the 200,000 visitors at Monarch spread over 800 acres made it very easy to ski powder all day long.

 

The 75,000 visitors at Sunlight spread over 500 acres were even better, even though the powder days were fewer and farther between. On a weekday powder day, some of the labeled runs wouldn't have a single track by day's end.

 

But yes, the most favorable skier distribution I have ever run across is Wolf Creek. 220,000k skiers on 1600 acres.  The lack of cut runs on the Alberta side keeps people out of the terrain- even if they make it onto that lift, 75% of them come straight down the lift line.  The other very nice thing is the biggest crowds skew distinctly towards low beginner (Texas). If you are willing to hike, I maintain you can find untracked here every single day of the season, with the only caveat being the untracked will get manky during snow droughts.

post #41 of 51

The problem with math formulas is accounting for a lot of subjective variations.  The key one I forgot to mention before is weekdays vs. weekends.  Mammoth has one of the biggest contrasts in this regard.

post #42 of 51
All I know is that our record year 345,000/3000 acres is a nice 115. And the record day was only 2.55 skiers per acre.
post #43 of 51
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tony Crocker View Post
 

The problem with math formulas is accounting for a lot of subjective variations.  The key one I forgot to mention before is weekdays vs. weekends.  Mammoth has one of the biggest contrasts in this regard.

 

The day trip ski areas for Denver folks also obviously see huge weekday vs. weekend variation.   As much as I complain about crowding at Breck and Vail, I'd be perfectly happy skiing them the majority of days they are open.   It's the holidays, weekends and March when they are packed.

 

Powder day vs non-powder day variation is also key for powder hounds.   Most the Utah resorts never seem crowded until is snows and all the skiers 20 mins away in SLC take the morning off!

post #44 of 51
Quote:
Originally Posted by sibhusky View Post

All I know is that our record year 345,000/3000 acres is a nice 115. And the record day was only 2.55 skiers per acre.

 

Would love to have those numbers.

 

Stevens Pass was 406,000 last year on 1125 acres for a 361.  I don't know what the record day is, but a "peak" day when they consider the mountain to be full is 6800 or 6.04 skiers per acre.  Being a non-destination area though, weekdays are *far* less crowded than weekends.

post #45 of 51

Powder per hour statistics are helpful, but they will never tell the whole story.

 

Canyons is great for spreading crowds & preserving powder, as at 4000 acres, it can feel like a ghost town many days. I had a Saturday there on Spring Break and there couldn't have been more that 15 people on the entire Iron Mountain zone.


Edited by COBillsFan - 9/12/14 at 9:40am
post #46 of 51
Quote:
Originally Posted by sibhusky View Post

All I know is that our record year 345,000/3000 acres is a nice 115. And the record day was only 2.55 skiers per acre.

That must totally suck for you.   To be all alone in the wilderness with no one else around to share the abundant snow.   ;)   

post #47 of 51
Quote:
Originally Posted by COBillsFan View Post
 

Powder per hour statistics are helpful, but they will never tell the whole story.

 

Canyons is great for spreading crowds & preserving powder, as at 4000 acres, it can feel like a ghost town many days. I had a Saturday there on Spring Break and there couldn't have been more that 15 people on the entire Iron Mountain zone.

I've never been to Canyons.  With all the speculation about Park City, I was looking at the trail map and terrain maps on Google. I was thinking that all those different terrain pods were spread out and must keep it pretty uncrowded when you get a few lifts away from the base area.  I was starting to fantasize about those residences all the way to the top of Day Break and Dream Peak.  Especially if/when they have One Wasatch and one could have a day at LCC or BCC without having to go down to the base of Canyons.  Must be nice.......alas, to have a few spare million $ floating around.

 

Back to the OP:  I think Stevens Pass gets more skier visits than any other ski area in WA State, topped 400,000 visits in 12-13, and set a new records with 406,000 visits in 13-14, despite having only 1200 acres.  The past year Stevens also had enough early season snow to open the whole mountain by Xmas and some skis areas in the PNW didn't have much open, or even open at all until mid-January.  The Summit at Snoqualmie has 4 small areas that they're apparently counting as one area, which is why they were on that ranking list.  Also, Stevens is further away, maybe 1-1/2 to 2 hours from Seattle, along a 2-lane highway for most of the distance,  whereas Snoqualmie is about 45 minutes via 6-lane I-90, hence much easier access. 

post #48 of 51

I know that this is some time back now but where did anyone get the figures that they are referencing? Can anyone point me toward where I might get ski visitors' data - perhaps a comprehensive list or maybe monthly figures? Also looking for official "ski area" sizes although this is difficult as resorts have tended to exaggerate their figures. This is the only independent authority that I could find on the subject but of course it is not compulsory - http://www.pistenlaengen.com/en/seal-of-approval.html

post #49 of 51
In the US, a lot of that info is from the Kottke report, available from the NSAA, a trade organization. Some areas, like Whitefish, freely publish them in the local papers. Many areas, especially those part of large conglomerates, do not.

As for your size info, in the US, pretty much anything within resort boundaries is allowed to be skied (gross generalization, I know), so we look at acres. Since other countries don't patrol or blast their vast areas, they'll give stats on miles/kilometers of piste runs. That makes them very hard to compare. If you look at the length of trails at this mountain, you'll miss most of the skiing. Because most of the skiing is not the runs, but the areas between the cut and groomed runs. Those areas are patrolled, avalanche controlled, etc. They don't require guides to access.

So, very hard to find international data other than what is available in the Laurent Vanat International Report on Snow and Mountain Tourism. (That name seems to change over the years, so might want to search on his name, not the report's name.)

Interesting link, I'm bookmarking it.
post #50 of 51

As far as that link is concerned, I really don't like trail mileage as a metric of ski area size. It boosts flatter areas vs. steeper areas and ignores ungroomed/off-piste completely.

 

I use acreage as a starting point, adjusting upward for steeper areas and downward for flatter ones.  With some grunt work I've also compiled vertical transport feet for the major North American ski areas.  Both of these metrics can be compared to skier visits to evaluate skier density and potential lift line crowding.  I also believe both of these stats should be compiled as weekend vs. midweek.

 

As sibhusky notes, skier visit data can be difficult to get. Many of my numbers are estimates or are from many years ago at areas that used to relaaese this info but do not now.  I did this work a while back for a proprietary project that may or may not get off the ground.  Therefore I'm not publishing that info in a systematic way.  The thread here where sibhusky saw the "115" for Whitefish was the starting point for this project.

post #51 of 51

Thanks for the responses.

 

Quote:

Originally Posted by sibhusky View Post

As for your size info, in the US, pretty much anything within resort boundaries is allowed to be skied (gross generalization, I know), so we look at acres. Since other countries don't patrol or blast their vast areas, they'll give stats on miles/kilometers of piste runs. That makes them very hard to compare. If you look at the length of trails at this mountain, you'll miss most of the skiing. Because most of the skiing is not the runs, but the areas between the cut and groomed runs. Those areas are patrolled, avalanche controlled, etc. They don't require guides to access.
 

 

I completely understand what you are saying. Even though the vast majority of visitors to any resort are from that continent (a very small fraction of Europeans visit North America just for the resorts - and vice-versa) - it would be so useful to have a common denominator so that we could compare - perhaps this would even encourage cross-continent trips.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tony Crocker View Post
 

As far as that link is concerned, I really don't like trail mileage as a metric of ski area size. It boosts flatter areas vs. steeper areas and ignores ungroomed/off-piste completely.

 

 

I think that you are right - measuring only the piste size is definitely a restricted periphery but it seems near impossible to include off-piste areas - don't you think?

 

Quote:

Originally Posted by sibhusky View Post

So, very hard to find international data other than what is available in the Laurent Vanat International Report on Snow and Mountain Tourism. (That name seems to change over the years, so might want to search on his name, not the report's name.)

 

Thanks for that. Yes I have exchanged emails with Laurent but it appears that some of the details of that data are not free and unfortunately not cheap either.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tony Crocker View Post

 

I use acreage as a starting point, adjusting upward for steeper areas and downward for flatter ones.  With some grunt work I've also compiled vertical transport feet for the major North American ski areas.  Both of these metrics can be compared to skier visits to evaluate skier density and potential lift line crowding.  I also believe both of these stats should be compiled as weekend vs. midweek.

 

 

This certainly seems worthwhile. I would be interested to hear what you have come up with.

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