The ski industry in New Hampshire contributed a record-breaking $1.15 billion to the state's economy in the 2012-13 season, according to the Institute for New Hampshire Studies at Plymouth State University.
The number is up more than 25 percent from the $910 million reported in the last economic impact study conducted in the 2009-10 season, placing New Hampshire fourth nationally in terms of state ski revenue per capita.
"Overall, the study shows positive trends in long-term growth and increased spending by visitors to New Hampshire's winter resorts," said Karl Stone, marketing director at Ski NH, the industry trade association.
Stone attributed the increase in economic impact to a variety of factors, including inflation and the fact that resorts now attract visitors in the warmer months.
The summer and fall season now account for 19 percent of visits to the ski areas, with direct spending in those months at $58 million, up from $35 million in the last study.
"This is thanks in part to recent capital improvements including attractions such as zip-lines and canopy tours, mountain coasters, Segway tours and other activities, as well as traditional attractions such as chairlift rides and mountain biking," Stone said.
Direct spending at the state's 33 downhill and cross country resorts for the study period, May 2012 to April 2013, was $359 million. Another $786 million was generated by "secondary" benefits, including the wages of resort employees and all the money spent by visitors on shopping, transportation, dining and accommodations.
The authors of the report estimate that direct and indirect spending associated with the ski industry support more than 11,000 jobs in the state.
"Our economic impact study serves as an invaluable tool in demonstrating the impact New Hampshire's ski resorts have on the economies and character of the communities in which they are located," said Alice Pearce, president of Ski NH. "In this most recent study, only 11 percent of the total direct and secondary sales generated by ski area visitors actually took place at the ski areas. This reflects the substantial contribution these ski area visitors are making through spending at hotels, second homes, restaurants, liquor stores, tollbooths and other service facilities."
Although 2012-2013 set the record for economic impact, it was only the fifth best year on record for skier visits, said Stone, who added that the industry is on track to match or beat last year's numbers.
"A couple weeks ago, we were running slightly behind last year," he said. "but since that time we have gained substantial momentum, thanks to the weather pattern we're in. At this point, we are running, as a whole, about even with last year."
The resorts are winding up one of their biggest weeks of the year — the Maine and Massachusetts school vacation week.
"The week that Maine and Massachusetts are off is bigger than the week New Hampshire is off," said Stone. "More of those (Maine and Massachusetts) guests are going to be destination guests, doing more driving, more lodging, more retail, more dining."
Some of the best weeks for the ski industry may lie ahead, given the severe cold that has kept many off the slopes.
"We're cautiously optimistic going into next week, which is still a very important period," said Stone. "There's a ton of snow in the backyards, and our guests are thinking of skiing."
Ski NH, which commissioned the study, is the trade association representing 33 downhill and cross country resorts and more than 200 lodging properties. Plymouth State, which offers a degree in tourism management, has coordinated tourism research for the state since 1990.
Data was provided by the member resorts of Ski NH, the New Hampshire Department of Resources and Economic Development, several state agencies, and the National Ski Areas Association.