PORTLAND – Buoyed by plentiful snow and good weather, Northeast ski resorts rebounded this past winter from a lackluster 2012 season that was plagued by lack of snow and high temperatures.
For the 2012-13 ski season, ski areas in New England and New York had an estimated 13.3 million skier and snowboarder visits, according to the National Ski Areas Association. That’s up 20 percent from 11 million skier visits the previous winter.
David Behany of Brewer said it was one of the best ski years he’s seen in his 45 years of skiing.
“I’d say it was in the top seven or eight,” said Behany, 52. Behany, who works at Ski Rack Sports in Bangor, skied nearly 60 days this winter at western Maine’s Sugarloaf resort; his wife went 89 times.
Nationally, U.S. ski areas had an estimated 56.6 million skier and snowboarder visits during the season, an 11 percent increase over the prior winter and the largest year-over-year gain in 30 years, according to the NSAA’s preliminary year-end survey report. All regions of the country saw an increase. State-specific tallies were not available. The lack of snow and high temperatures made for a dismal 2011-12 ski season for many New England mountains.
By contrast, this past winter was a snowy one, luring skiers and snowboarders back to the slopes. And with a cold April, ski mountains in northern New England stayed open longer than last year, when record-high temperatures in March forced many to shut down. Sugarloaf and Vermont’s Sugarbush and Killington resorts were still open this weekend.
In Maine, Freeport Ski and Bike shop co-owner Jamie Richardson saw a lot of people get skis tuned that looked like they’d been sitting idle for a while. Beginner ski sales were also up, he said.
“That suggests that people who don’t tend to go skiing were getting out there,” Richardson said. “They’re a big part of it. The hardcore people always find their way to the mountains, no matter how bad the year.”
Sunday River, Maine’s most-visited mountain with more than half a million annual skier visits, had a 7 percent increase this winter, said spokeswoman Darcy Morse.
“Busy is good,” she said.
Associated Press writers Holly Ramer in Concord, N.H., Wilson Ring in Montpelier, Vt., and Rik Stevens in Albany, N.Y., contributed to this report.