The U.S. represents one of the world's largest ski markets. After a booming 2010/11 winter, which posted an all-time record of 60.5 million skier visits, attendance began declining, explains the report. In the winter 2017/18 season, skier visits fell by 2.7 percent to 53.3 million, according to Vanat's report, which says that the U.S. ski industry is being affected by rising prices. The window price of daily lift ticket rose from an average of $59 a decade ago to $105 during the 2015/16 season. This evolution has made skiing less affordable, especially for beginners. According to the report, the business model of the large U.S. resorts mostly consists of trying to get more and more money from fewer and fewer customers, a state of affairs that is hardly sustainable in the long term.
The U.S. is not the only market in the Americas. Both North and South America have high mountains and ski resorts. However, more than 90 percent of the ski resorts are located in North America. As for Canada, the country has now a mature market, with concerns about an aging clientele and challenging ethnic changes. Skier visits in Canada have been flat for the last decade, also due to the weather.
Japan, one of the countries with the highest number of ski areas, experienced a tremendous boom in the years from 1970 to 1990, when the number of active skiers reached more than 18 million per season. They are down to an estimated 8 million nowadays. Japan also used to have a large number of indoor snow centers – the first one opened in Japan in 1959 – but several of these facilities have closed in recent years.
Currently, skier visits hardly reach 30 million per year in Japan, less than half of what they were in the 1980s. Ski resorts in Japan also have to cope with the demographic reality of the country and its aging population. The industry is trying to attract new clients, including an increasing number of foreign visitors. Before the 2000s, there were nearly no foreign visitors who came to Japan to ski. After the 9/11 attacks, Australian skiers began to come to Japan instead of flying to North America, explains the report. They were followed by visitors from neighboring Asian countries, and increasing efforts have since been made to offer trail maps, sign and menus in English, Korean and Chinese. Chinese skiers going to Japan currently represent the largest international skiers' flow in Asia-Pacific region. The focus in Japan is now turning toward European and American skiers.
The International Report on Snow & Mountain Tourism, which has reached its 11th edition, presents an overview of the key industry figures for ski resorts. Its author, Laurent Vanat, is an international consultant specializing in the ski business and ski resort management. Vanat began his benchmarking work of the industry back in 2004, collecting data on Swiss resorts. Starting in 2009, thanks to some generous sponsors, the benchmarking was enlarged to foreign ski markets and was presented in a dedicated annual report, which grew from the initial seven reported countries in the 2009 issue to around 70 countries today. It can be downloaded from Vanat's website.