The National Ski Areas Association estimates visitation to Sierra ski resorts this year was down nearly 30 percent from last year because of a lack of snow.
The season started poorly for ski areas. it improved a bit as some snow arrived. Individual resort’s don’t report on attendance declines, but Michael Berry of the National Ski Areas Association estimates visitation was down as much as 27 percent depending on the resort. He says resort operators are already looking to next winter.
“Recognizing this is part of a bigger phenomenon and what we we are really hoping for is a return to a wetter pattern and I think the entire state, California and Nevada are hoping for a return to a wetter pattern.”
Hit even harder are businesses that rely on natural snow like alpine skiing, snow-shoe and snow mobile rentals. Some snowmobile businesses along the shores of Lake Tahoe didn’t even open this season. The ones that did open saw the number of visitors decline 70 to 80 percent from last year.
Snowmobile rental businesses saw the biggest declines. Some didn’t bother to open. Dave Cerugi of Lake Tahoe Snowmobile Tours was only able to open for a month-and-a-half. He says that was very hard on staff.
“Some of them have moved off the hill," Cerugi said. "They just can’t deal with it anymore, working these seasons that we have.”
The National Ski Areas Association estimates visitation to resorts is down 27 percent. Many are focusing on developing summer mountain activities to make up for losses, like mountain biking, zip lines and even roller coasters.