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U.S. ski resort visitation up 10 percent over 2011-12

Published May 6, 2013 11:19 am

Economy • Brighton Resort's parent reports similar results for just-completed season.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

It was a good bounceback season for the U.S. ski industry, with Brighton Resort's parent company matching the national rebound from the worst winter in decades.

The National Ski Areas Association said last week that resorts across the country logged 56.6 million visits by skiers and snowboarders this past season (although Snowbird Ski & Summer Resort is still open through May 27).

That represents an 11 percent increase over the pitiful winter of 2011-12, when low snow in most parts of the country reduced visitation to 51 million from 60.54 million the previous winter. The 2012-13 figure was the largest year-over-year gain in 30 years, but still about 1 million skier visits below the 10-year average, said NSAA spokesman Troy Hawks.

Although winter started slowly in many parts of the U.S., he said snowfall patterns ended up being conducive to heavy visitation to resorts during two important peak periods — Christmas week and Presidents Day through the end of March, encompassing numerous spring breaks.

Hawks said 78 percent of resorts reported more visitors this past winter, with a median increase of 10.6 percent, important numbers for states such as Utah, where the ski season is a billion-dollar business.

In a separate report, CNL Lifestyle Properties Inc., said visitation increased 10.4 percent at its 17 ski resorts, which includes Brighton in Big Cottonwood Canyon. The Orlando-based real estate investment trust said revenue from lift-ticket sales was up 16 percent over 2011-12.

Figures for Brighton's performance were not broken out.

"We have made substantial investments in our resorts to boost snowmaking capacity, add lifts, open new terrain and enhance base facilities," said Steve Rice, senior managing director of CNL Lifestyle Properties' ski and lodging properties.

Those investments paid off at three large New England resorts, helping them to attract more early-season visitors, he added.

Like most of CNL's ski resort properties, Brighton is leased back to local operators who run the day-to-day operations. Randy Doyle manages Brighton, which was run by his father in its early years.

Besides ski resorts, CNL Lifestyle Properties also owns 48 golf courses, 20 attractions such as Denver's Elitch Gardens, 16 marinas, 62 senior housing facilities and eight "lifestyle" complexes. Its parent company, CNL Financial Group, has formed or acquired companies with more than $26 billion in assets since 1973.

mikeg@sltrib.com

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