Vermont Ski Areas Skier Visits Up 14.7%

LUDLOW, Vt. — Vermont alpine ski areas recorded a 14.7% increase in skier visits during the 2000-01 season, bolstering Vermont’s economy and helping to stave off a recession, according to state economist Jeffrey Carr. Alpine skier visits for the season just ended reached 4,538,114 compared to 3,957,457 the prior year, it was announced during the Vermont Ski Areas Association’s (Ski Vermont) annual meeting at Okemo Mountain Resort here Thursday.

In a historic vote, members of the association also elected its first cross-country representative to the Ski Vermont Board of Directors. Michael Miller of Mountain Meadows Cross Country Ski Center was elected to serve on the 11-member board following the association’s vote to amend its bylaws to include Vermont’s nordic areas in the association. Ski Vermont, the Vermont Ski Areas Association, is the trade association for Vermont’s ski industry.

In other news from the Ski Vermont Annual Meeting:

· Ski Vermont has received a grant to explore establishing cooperative purchasing of environmentally-favorable products for use at ski areas

·Exploration of cooperative purchase of health insurance for ski area employees

· Ski Vermont this fall will conduct a six-city public relations tour to promote Vermont winter tourism and Vermont agriculture

“We had a solid year, but no where near the record of 5.2 million visits during the 1986-87 season,” noted Ski Vermont President David Dillon. “Our goal of achieving 5.5 million visits remains a difficult challenge but one which could reward the entire state by providing an additional $50 million in tax revenues for state coffers.”

The recent strong winter tourism season, coupled with IBM’s strength at its Essex Junction facility, enabled Vermont to withstand a national downturn, economist Carr said recently. The Vermont ski industry accounts for more than $1 billion in direct and indirect spending by skiers and snowboarders.

The key to restoring stability to Vermont’s ski industry lies in continued spending to strengthen the Vermont brand and in enabling Vermont ski areas to meet ever-changing market demand, said Dillon. Vermont ski areas spend nearly $20 million each year to promote Vermont and were dismayed by the legislature’s recent vote to cut the state’s $6.5 million tourism and marketing budget.

“We have a tremendous partnership with the State of Vermont and look forward to working with the state to strengthen our position in core markets and attract new visitors,” continued Dillon. “Skiing is an integral part of Vermont’s tourism economy and an aggressive advocate for Vermont’s agriculture industry. Ski areas support agriculture through cross promotions and the marketing and sales of Vermont products in an effort to strengthen the Vermont brand and sustain Vermont’s working landscape.”Ski Vermont will continue to include the Vermont Department of Tourism & Marketing, Department of Agriculture, Vermont Maple Promotions Board and products from companies like Cabot Creamery and Green Mountain Coffee Roasters in consumer shows and promotions throughout the country. Ski areas will also expand Vermont Agriculture Promotions Days, held for the past two seasons at ski areas across Vermont.

The association also approved continuation of the Vermont 5th Grade Passport program, through which Vermont fifth graders receive a passport to visit every Vermont alpine and nordic ski area without charge. This past season, more than 10% of Vermont fifth graders took advantage of the Passport offer.

Ski Vermont is the trade association representing Vermont’s alpine and cross-country ski areas. The association also is supported by a number of marketing partners and associate memberships from companies whose businesses are dependent on winter tourism. More than 150 people attended the association’s annual meeting this year at Okemo.