This week, I had the privilege to attend the Michigan Snowsports Industry Association's (MSIA) annual meeting held at Shanty Creek. The MSIA was formed back in 1991 and was assembled to improve awareness of snowsports in Michigan, while attracting new individuals to the sport. You can thank the MSIA and their members for some of the best snowsports programs around.
Anybody take advantage of the Ski Free with Shell program last season? They're the ones behind that along with the Discover Michigan Skiing program with McDonalds and the Cold is Cool Passport program for 4th graders. Every year the group gets together to take a look at the successes and failures the industry experienced last season, while looking ahead to this season.
I originally attended the meeting for a couple of reasons. First, to learn what the group was all about. Second, to try and provide our readers with some insight as to what the resorts and ski areas actually do to make sure that you have a good experience every season.
The first part of the meeting was a presentation by a Lansing based lobbying firm that works on behalf of the MSIA and other organizations concerned with changes to state legislature as it relates to travel and tourism. I know, sounds boring, right? It was actually somewhat interesting to listen to them talk about some of the issues the industry has dealt with in the past and things to consider for the future. I have a better understanding of the infamous 'services tax' implemented a few years ago, along with why it's actually important to know how some of these issues are handled at the state level and how they can impact the sport I'm so passionate about.
One thing to remember, Michigan is not a state that just focuses on manufacturing and life sciences. We have a huge tourism draw and many of the up and coming state reps and senators are not educated about tourism in Michigan. It's on all of us to hep educate them.
Enough on the political babble – next up were items such as the successful Pure Michigan campaign many of us have witnessed on TV, radio and print ads. The first campaign for winter tourism was in '08/'09 and unfortunately, due to budget reasons, winter was cut out of the campaign last year. If the MSIA and its members can provide some of the much needed funds, we could see a winter campaign this season.
Next, Dr. Dan McCole from MSU, presented his 'state of the industry' report. This was a great opportunity to see what's influencing skiers and snowboarders to visit Michigan resorts and how this compares on a national level. What all the data boiled down to was the number of skiers and snowboarders has dropped nationwide. Much of this can be attributed to things like consumer spending, lack of job growth, and all those other economic woes I'm sure you're aware of.
So, the economy sucks, we know this – what does it mean for Michigan? Last season the number of average skiers per visit was up 9% in Michigan, the second best year for the state and higher than the 7% growth seen across the midwest, even with the low amounts of snowfall we received.
What's attributing to the increase in traffic to Michigan ski areas? The growing trend seems to point to the fact that people are traveling around, but spending less. Instead of getting involved with everything a resort has to offer, visitors are being more selective about their activities. Finding bargains is cool again and more visitors are making last minute travel decisions. Air travel expenses are up, especially when you include your oversize baggage fees for your skis or board to head out west.
I think you can anticipate another good year for Michigan ski areas. There's a lot of buzz around how the resorts can make your experience more memorable, so be on the lookout for deals and packages popping up this season.
Help keep the industry strong, get out there and support your local hill, the resorts and shops.
What's your plan this season, ride more in-state or planning a big trip out west?