The 2020-21 season was a record-breaking winter for Idaho ski resorts. Ski Idaho announced that 2.15 million guests shredded at the ski resorts in the state, beating the prior record of 1.88 million people that was set in the 2018-19 season. It also achieved the fifth most skier visits per capita in the United States, only getting beaten out by New Hampshire, Utah, Colorado, and Vermont.
From my discussion with Ski Idaho, it sounds like the 2021-22 season wasn’t a record-breaking year. While mountains like Bogus Basin had a record amount of snow in December, the rest of the winter saw little snowfall. In spite of this, they are bound for a rebound season for this upcoming winter.
In my opinion, there are a few factors to Idaho’s growth in skier visitation. Idaho, and its capital city of Boise, are some of the fastest growing states and cities, in the country respectively.
Secondly, multi-resort season passes are on the rise. The Epic Pass did have Sun Valley on its pass, but the ski resort has since moved to Ikon, which strengthens its offerings. The Ikon Pass now features access to Schweitzer and Sun Valley. Additionally, the Indy Pass has a huge presence in Idaho, with seven resorts currently offered.
Lastly, many ski resorts in Idaho have recently expanded. Sun Valley underwent their Sunrise expansion for the 2020-21 season, Lookout Pass is adding a new peak this winter, and Schweitzer is opening a new base area for the 2023-24 season. In the future, Bogus Basin, Brundage Mountain, and Tamarack Resort are aiming to expand onto new terrain pods. With all this change and press coverage, Idaho is on skiers’ and riders’ radars.
The official press release from Ski Idaho is below:
Winter 2020-21 Brought Record Visits to Idaho Ski Areas
BOISE, Idaho (Sept. 13, 2022) — Rebounding from the COVID-19
pandemic, Idaho ski areas experienced record-breaking skier and
snowboarder visits during the winter of 2020-21 according to an
economic impact report Ski Idaho commissioned from Boulder,
Colo.-based research firm RRC Associates.
Idaho ski areas achieved 2.15 million skier and snowboarder visits
during the winter of 2020-21, exceeding its previous record of 1.88 million set during the pre-COVID winter of 2018-19 by 14.3 percent and
extending what Ski Idaho president and Bogus Basin general manager
Brad Wilson says is a long-term growth trend.The COVID-19 pandemic brought the winter 2019-20 ski season to an early close and visits to Idaho ski destinations dipped to 1.63 million.
eager to get outside, and many of them discovered how wonderful it is
to spend time skiing and snowboarding in Idaho’s outdoors.”RRC also found that Idaho ski areas have enjoyed a slightly rising
share of western U.S. skier and snowboarder visits, peaking at 6.2
percent in winter 2020-21, the most recent ski season for which data
is available. The study also revealed Idaho ski areas account for a
growing share of skier and snowboarder visits nationally, rising to
3.6 percent during the winter of 2020-21.
FIFTH HIGHEST IN SKIER DAYS PER CAPITA
Idaho is the fifth highest state in terms of skier days per capita,
earning an index of 362, which means Idaho residents enjoy 3.62 times
more skier days per capita than average. The only states with higher
skier visit indexes are Vermont (655), Colorado (518), Utah (401), and
New Hampshire (399).
Approximately 140,000-160,000 Idaho residents — 7 percent to 8
percent of the state’s population — downhill ski or snowboard in a
ECONOMIC IMPACT OF SKI INDUSTRY CONSIDERABLE
Skiers and snowboarders spent a total of $309 million in Idaho during
the winter of 2020-21 — $151 million, (49 percent) at Idaho ski areas
and $159 million (51 percent) at other businesses. The industry also
directly or indirectly generated $309 million in gross domestic
product in Idaho, equivalent to 0.33 percent of Idaho’s 2021 GDP.
Meanwhile, total economic output during fiscal year 2020-21 reached
$584 million, increasing 37 percent from $425 million in FY 2016-17.
This included $350 million in direct output (vs. $253 million in FY
2016-17) and $233 million in indirect and induced output (vs. $172
million in FY 2016-17).
Indirect effects are economic effects stemming from
business-to-business purchases in the supply chain. Induced effects
are economic effects stemming from household spending of labor income
after removal of taxes, savings, and commuter income.
Between winter 2016-17 and winter 2020-21, Idaho ski area operators
saw demand for lift tickets and season passes and rentals jump 41
percent and 29 percent, respectively. However, COVID-19 stalled the
growth of lessons during that same period to 3 percent, while lodging
and food-and-beverage operations each grew at a sluggish rate of 12
Meanwhile, summer operations in 2020 declined 4 percent compared to
summer 2016, from $42.6 million to $41.0 million, respectively, due to
the COVID-19 pandemic.
Capital expenditures for fiscal year 2020-21 were up 265 percent
compared to FY 2016-17 at $67.9 million vs. $18.6 million,
respectively. Investments in new and upgraded lifts climbed by 232
percent and expenditures on summer- and fall-specific facilities and
support leapt 267 percent. Real estate was the clear leader, though,
skyrocketing nearly 3,000 percent from the $1.6 million invested in FY
2016-17 to $48.9 million in FY 2020-21.
All this economic activity translated into 5,703 year-round equivalent
jobs during FY 2020-21 — 4,266 direct jobs and 1,437 additional
indirect and induced jobs. This represents 7 percent growth since FY
2016-17’s 5,345 total jobs.
Skiing and snowboarding generated $170 million in labor income —
including $108 million directly and $61 million through multiplier
effects. This represents growth of 26 percent compared to FY 2016-17’s
$135 million in labor income. Labor income includes all forms of
employment income, including wages, benefits, and proprietor income.
The report also noted the state’s thriving skiing and snowboarding
industry helps provide seasonal balance to Idaho’s summer-dominated
travel industry, contributes significantly to its quality of life, and
likely improves employee recruitment and retention at Idaho
NEARLY HALF OF IDAHO SKIERS FROM OUT OF STATE
The greater Boise Designated Market Area accounted for nearly
one-third of all skier visits that season — 30.1 percent. The Spokane
DMA, which includes a great deal of North Idaho, accounted for more
than one-sixth of visits at 17.2 percent. The Idaho Falls/Pocatello,
Seattle/Tacoma, and Twin Falls, Idaho, DMAs collectively represented
another one-fifth of visits at 7.5 percent, 6.4 percent, and 5.8
Rounding out the top-10 hometowns of Idaho ski area visitors were Salt
Lake City at 3.6 percent, Los Angeles at 2.3 percent, San
Francisco/Oakland/San Jose at 2.0 percent, Portland at 1.7 percent,
and New York City at 1.5 percent. Missoula, Mont., contributed 1.4
percent of visitors and Denver accounted for 1.1 percent, while
Chicago and the Tri-Cities region of Washington State each proffered
0.9 percent. The area encompassing Sacramento, Stockton, and Modesto,
Calif., represented 0.7 percent of Idaho’s 2020-21 skier visits, and
all other U.S. and international markets comprised the remaining 16.1
MALES, HOUSEHOLDS WITH CHILDREN, SLIGHTLY AFFLUENT
percent of ski area visits vs. 42 percent for females. One-third were
youths (18 percent are 12 or younger and 14 percent are ages 13-17),
about one-fifth were between 18-34 (7 percent are 18-24 and 12 percent
are 25-34), nearly one-third were between 35-54 (15 percent are 35-44
and 15 percent are 45-54), and another one-fifth were 55 or older (12
percent are 55-64, 6 percent are 65-74, and 1 percent are 75 or
visits at 39 percent, and households with children no longer at home
ranked number two at 21 percent. Couples with no children accounted
for 16 percent of visits and single individuals with no children
comprised the remaining 20 percent.Skiers visiting Idaho have a range of incomes but skew affluent.
$100,000-$199,999. One-fourth, 24 percent, earned $50,000-99,999.
People reporting under $50,000 comprised 20 percent and those bringing
in $200,000 or more annually accounted for the remaining 22 percent.
MAINLY SEASON PASSHOLDERS WITH SKILLS ON SKIS
The bulk of Idaho ski area visits — 62 percent — were made by season
passholders. Daily and multi-day passes comprised 33 percent of
visits, with off-duty employee visits and comp tickets accounting for
3 percent and 2 percent, respectively.
Nearly three-quarters of visitors — 72 percent — used alpine
equipment and fully one-fourth — 25 percent — rode snowboards. Other
equipment like alpine touring and snowbikes accounted for 2 percent
and 1 percent of visitors employed telemark gear.
About half — 48 percent — considered themselves advanced or expert
skiers or snowboarders and nearly as many — 44 percent — ranked
themselves as having intermediate abilities. Only 6 percent of
visitors surveyed were beginners and only 2 percent were first-timers.
Two-thirds — 66 percent — had visited their primary ski area within
the prior five winters and one-third of winter visitors — 33 percent
— had visited the destination in the past five summers.
A little more than half of visits — 56 percent — were day trips and
44 percent were overnighters. Most overnight visitors — 61 percent —
stayed in paid lodging and 11 percent stayed in an owned vacation
Ski Idaho’s Wilson was delighted to learn Gem State ski area visitors
tend to express high satisfaction with their experience. On a scale of
1-10 (with 1 being extremely dissatisfied and 10 being extremely
satisfied), Idaho ski areas earned ratings of 9.5 in overall employee
service, 9.2 in overall lesson experience, 9.1 in quality of grooming,
9.0 in overall food and beverage, 8.7 in overall value for price paid,
and 8.4 in overall rental experience.
“Whether it’s a world-class resort like Sun Valley or a mom-and-pop
ski area, the quality of our on-mountain experience coupled with
Idaho’s genuine friendliness is unparalleled,” Wilson said. “Combine
that with our short lift lines and affordable lift tickets and you’d
be hard pressed to find a better ski and snowboard destination than
to download a copy of the research report.
ABOUT SKI IDAHO
Founded in 1982, the Idaho Ski Areas Association, a.k.a. Ski Idaho, is
a nonprofit association funded in part by the Idaho Travel Council via
the state’s 2 percent lodging tax paid by travelers and collected by
hotel, motel, and private campground owners. Boasting 29,000 vertical
feet of terrain spanning more than 21,000 acres, Idaho is the
birthplace of the chairlift, home to America’s first destination ski
resort, and often considered the soul of skiing. Its 19 family
friendly alpine ski areas offer trails and backcountry for skiers and
snowboarders of all ages and skill levels, breathtaking views,
hundreds of inches of fresh powder, and short lift lines. Many Ski
Idaho destinations open for the summer season, as well, to serve up
lift-served mountain biking, scenic chairlift rides, hiking and trail
running, disc golf, and more. Visit skiidaho.us for more details.
Image Credits(In Chronological Order): Lookout Pass (Featured Image), Tamarack Resort, Ski Idaho, Schweitzer Resort