CWSAA boasts 8.4 million skier visits in 2015-16

CWSAA President Christopher Nicolson poses with Stewart Laver and Al Matheson at Sunshine Village Ski & Snowboard Resort near Calgary, Alta.

Canada West Ski Areas Association (CWSAA) has released highlights from its 2015-16 ski industry financial analysis, illustrating a large and impactful industry according to president Christopher Nicolson.

“You have to keep in mind these numbers are only the ski areas, and not the accompanying independent businesses, so it’s not an economic impact study. So to say ski areas directly employ over 16,000 people, to me that’s a large and meaningful family,” Nicolson said.

In addition to employing a large number of people, the report also tallied 8.4 million skier visits and a total annual revenue of $790 million.

“It crystallizes and puts in dollars and cents, and identifies how important the ski industry is to the British Columbia economy and the British Columbia tourism economy,” said Nicolson. “There’s no doubt that skiing is a prime winter driver for tourism in the province… If we’re talking $800 million in revenue, it’s a major employer and a major financial contributor to our entire economy, particularly at a time of year that offsets the highs in the summer.”

The annual report produced by Ecosign Mountain Resort Planners is based on submissions by ski areas.

According to Nicolson, profitability was up with 74 per cent of ski areas posting a positive net income, as opposed to 48 per cent the prior year, which is indicative of how important weather is to the industry. Nicolson said the remaining ski areas not posting profit are smaller, community-run, not-for-profit operations.

Another steady trend was summer diversification with around 10 to 11 per cent of winter ski areas now offering some type of summer activity.

Ski areas also contributed $15.3 million to government coffers through Land Use Fees and Property Tax (not including sales tax for goods and services).

Nicolson said Western ski areas have had a good start to the winter and he expected the positive trends to continue for this year.

“The pace reports for most ski areas are looking ahead of where they were last year. If all that comes to fruition, the skier visits should be up and numbers like total revenue and contribution to government should be up. That would be my expectation at this point in the year.”