Ski NH: ridership down five percent in 2017-2018 at 34 member alpine and cross-country areasBy JOHN KOZIOL
Union Leader Correspondent
June 12. 2018 8:37PM
BRETTON WOODS — Because of a weather rollercoaster this past winter, cumulative ridership at 34 of the state’s alpine and cross-country ski areas for the 2017-2018 season was down five percent compared to the year before.
Jessyca Keeler, the executive director of Ski NH, a not-for-profit, private ski area trade association based in Conway, made that announcement on Tuesday morning as the association wrapped up its two-day trade show and annual meeting at the Omni Mount Washington Hotel.
Last season, the total number of alpine ski visits to member resorts was 2,049,980, said Keeler, while cross-country and tubing members saw 2,262,622 visits. Both totals represent a similar percentage decrease, she said, over what in 2016-2017 had been a “dead-average year.”
Snow-making helps alpine areas survive seasons like the past one, said Keeler, which began with record cold during the week of Christmas that kept riders away in droves. Ridership was “way off,” Keeler said.
Jay Gamble, who is Mount Sunapee’s vice president and general manager, said that despite the cold, the snow was otherwise perfect. Gamble recalled he and his colleagues noted that there was never so much snow used by so few people.
March proved to be a boon for several NH ski areas, with a combination of good conditions and plenty of riders.
At Mount Sunapee, March was “100 percent over budget,” Gamble said.
Ross Boisvert, the chairman of SKI NH and president and GM of McIntyre Ski Area, said that Ski NH is a strong organization that continues to bring people to New Hampshire, reminding his fellow alpine executives that fewer than 150 days remained until they could begin making snow for a “great” 2018-2019 season.
Ben Hall, the marketing and group sales director at Ragged Mountain, said Ski NH ran streaming ads last year to promote summer activities at member areas and also during the next calendar season when “we hit fall right out of the park.”
Before Ski NH’s annual meeting, members sat down for breakfast with Gov. Chris Sununu and five state commissioners: Taylor Caswell, Department of Business and Economic Affairs; John Barthelmes, Department of Safety; Ken Merrifield, Department of Labor; Robert Scott, Department of Environmental Services; and Sarah Stewart, Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.
In his opening remarks, Sununu made it clear that the state would work closely with the ski industry.
“We truly are more customer-service centered,” he said, adding that he sees tourism as “a workforce opportunity” and that fundamentally, “we’re really selling the state’ to the next generation of workers, some of whom may come from away, attracted by New Hampshire’s quality of life and thriving economy.
“The big takeaway is things are going well but you don’t take it for granted,” said Sununu. Sununu said if any Ski NH member has a concern, they should contact him directly on his cell phone. Most members have that number already, he continued, and they should “use it” and also get the commissioner’s numbers, too.