Skier and snowboarders glide through a man-made blizzard as cold daytime… (Brian van der Brug, Los Angeles…)
Participation in snow sports dropped 6% in the most recent winter season, primarily because of increased work and family obligations for snow sport enthusiasts, but also because of low levels of snow, according to a study released Friday.
The number of Americans who went skiing, snowboarding and snowshoeing, among other snow activities — typically from Thanksgiving to early spring — dropped from 21 million to 19.8 million, according to a report by SnowSports Industries America, a nonprofit trade group for snow sports businesses.
The biggest drop in snow sports was among alpine skiers, whose numbers dipped 11% to 10.2 million this winter season, according to the report. Participation in snowboarding dropped 8% to 7.6 million, and cross-country skiing declined 5% to 4.3 million.
Among the top reasons snow sport enthusiasts gave for staying off the slopes this winter season were family commitments (33%), work obligations (32%) and decreased vacation time (20%), according to a survey conducted by the trade group.
Poor weather was cited by about 11% of snow sports fans as a reason for staying off the mountains, the survey found.
The latest snow season was marked by the lowest national average resort snowfall in 20 years, according to the National Ski Areas Assn., a trade group for ski resort operators. About half the resorts in the nation opened late and closed early, the trade group said.
The drop in participation was keenly felt by retailers. Snow sports retail sales from August 2011 through January 2011 totaled $2.7 billion. That was down 4.5% in dollars spent, compared with the same period 12 months earlier, according to SnowSports Industries America. The number of items sold declined 12%.
In California, ski resort operators reported that the number of visitors on the slopes dropped by nearly 25% compared with last season when snow reached record levels throughout the state.
Mammoth Mountain in the Eastern Sierra, one of the most popular resorts for Southern California skiers, closed on Memorial Day this season, thanks to late season storms and snow-making machines. In years of heavy snow fall, Mammoth Mountain has operated until the July 4th weekend.