MEREDITH — The ski industry is thriving in New Hampshire. That was the message relayed by industry leaders at Ski New Hampshire’s annual conference and trade show held Tuesday at Church Landing at Mill Falls.
“Winter started early this year, and it never really let up,” said Jessyca Keeler, executive director of Ski New Hampshire, the not-for-profit trade association that represents 32 alpine and cross-country ski areas throughout the state to promote New Hampshire as a top ski and summer destination.
Keeler reported an estimated 2,363,148 visits to ski areas for alpine and cross-country skiing and snow tubing through the 2018-19 winter. That is roughly 100,000 more skier visits than the previous winter, although slightly lower than the 10-year average.
“Snowsports is one of the largest contributors to the economy” in New Hampshire, said Kris Blomback, general manager of Pats Peak Ski Area and chair of Ski New Hampshire’s Government Relations Committee.
The ski industry is the fourth largest employer in New Hampshire during the winter months, Keeler said, drawing from information compiled during an economic impact study conducted collaboratively by Ski New Hampshire and Plymouth State University. Although the study, which looked at winters from 2014-2015 to last season, has not yet been released, Keeler noted some highlights from the review.
Those include skier spending upward of $36 million in an average year and winter employment of some 10,000 people. The study also revealed the growing importance of summer operations at ski areas, with summer visits to ski areas growing by more than 71 percent since 2009.
Between snowy months, Ski New Hampshire promotes summer activities at ski areas throughout the state, from boating and biking to zipline tours and scenic tramway and chairlift rides.
To promote the Granite State as a top winter destination, Ski New Hampshire has partnered for several years with the state’s Department of Travel and Tourism. In this endeavor, Ski New Hampshire focused last winter on two core messages: the proximity of New Hampshire’s ski areas to skiers from throughout the northeast, and encouraging first time and lapsed skiers and snowboarders to hit the slopes.
“Our return on investment is at least tenfold,” Keeler said of the partnership with Travel and Tourism. “They’ve been a really important partner for us over the last few years. I have a lot of confidence we’re going to continue on a very solid path.”
One drawback from what was a cold and snowy season in the northern part of the state was less ideal conditions in southern New Hampshire and in the greater Boston area, said Keeler, where much of the market for New Hampshire skier visits lives. When there’s scant snow there, skiers are less excited to head north, even if the snow in the mountains is abundant.
Following the business meeting, Ski New Hampshire hosted a series of panel discussions and workshops for ski industry leaders and employees. These included fostering good media relations, attracting employees, energy and sustainability, and ski area safety.