We like to think of skiing as a solitary pursuit, chasing down the mountain with just the snow, the trees, the sky and the sun as our only companions.
Remember the old adage? There are no friends on a powder day. Well, that just about sums it up.
But reality has a nasty habit of interfering with our reveries, and we often find ourselves surrounded by like-minded people barreling down the hill.
According to statistics gathered by the annual International Report on Snow and Mountain Tourism, American resorts racked up more than 59 million skier days or visits in the 2018-19 season (a skier day is defined as “one person visiting a ski area for all or part of a day or night for the purpose of skiing or snowboarding or other downhill sliding activity.”).
And if you figure the average ski season is generally Thanksgiving to mid-April (roughly 140 days), that means there were a little more than 421,000 people, on average, skiing or snowboarding each day at some resort somewhere in the USofA.
Toss in Canada’s 17.9 million skier days, and you’ve got a ton of folks cavorting on North America’s mountains each winter day.
The lion’s share
Not surprisingly, those numbers are not spread evenly among the 760 or so ski hills in the United States and Canada.
The big name resorts — perhaps a tenth of the total — get the most love. And six resorts took the lion’s share, each topping the 1 million mark and accounting for nearly 8 million skier days in the most recent tallies of resort visits (some resorts do not release their numbers so this list is not entirely complete).
Leading the pack was Whistler Blackcomb, with 2.1 million skier visits, followed by Vail and Breckenridge (a little more than 1.6 million each), Park City (1.4 million), Mammoth Mountain (1.13 million) and Keystone (1.04 million).
Then you have a second tier of popular populated resorts, places like Steamboat (923,000 visits), Beaver Creek (919,000), Heavenly (890,000), Northstar (737,000), Snowmass (732,000) and Okemo (614,000).
No wonder the cafeteria lines — not to mention lift lines and parking lots — can get a little crazy at times.
The European model
Although those are some eye-popping numbers for sure, they lose a bit of their oomph when you compare them to those across the pond.
Eight of the 9 resorts worldwide that tallied more than 2 million skier days are in the Alps, with the French resort of La Plagne accounting for around 2.5 million last winter and leading the pack in that regard.
And of the 50 resorts worldwide that topped the million mark, 16 were in Austria and 13 in France.
Obviously, you will never be alone.