The 2022-2023 cross country ski season was a mixed weather bag for trail areas, featuring epic snow in the west and warmer- than-average conditions in the East, Midwestern U.S., and Eastern Canada. The number of cross country skiers was up 8.5% in the calendar year 2022, but the number of trail visits fell more than 5% in the 2022-23 season. Although the reports may seem to have conflicting facts, both agree that the frequency of skiing dropped in 2022-23 for a variety of reasons including warm weather, lack of snow, too much snow, and a general trend of decreasing frequency of outdoor activity across the participant base.
The Outdoor Industry Association released 2022 participation data showing the number of cross country skiers increased by more than 8% in 2022 to 4.9M skiers from 4.5M in 2021.
Snowshoeing also showed significant growth, with a 21% increase in 2022 to 3.8M snowshoers. However, the Cross Country Ski Area Association’s End of Season Trail Visits study indicates a decrease in the average number of trail visits in the 2022-23 season.
Trail areas in Eastern North America had a very slow start, and trail areas in the West had so much snow that some experienced closures. Trails areas in the East, including Canada, showed a slight increase in trail visits despite variable conditions. Trails areas in the West suffered from too much of a good thing – snow. Many Western trails areas had unexpected closures due to lack of access, which was also due to the epic snowfall of winter 2022-23.
All outdoor recreation participation (hiking, camping, climbing, etc.) was up 2.3% to 168.1M, or 55% of all Americans ages 6 and older. Outdoor recreation activities favored by cross country skiers including hiking, biking, trail running, and wildlife viewing/birding, all showed increases in the number of participants in 2022. Click HERE to download the 2023 Outdoor Participation Trends report from the Outdoor Foundation.
The percentage of trails areas reporting snowmaking increased to more than 30% in 2022. Cross-Country Ski Areas Association [CCSAA] plans to formally correlate snowmaking, trail visits, and revenue late this summer to begin the process of building projection models useful in planning and in finance.
The increase in 2022 in the number of cross country skiers is likely further indication of the strong 2021-2022 season. Cross country participation was above the rolling three-year average of 4,697 in 2022 and will probably settle a few points in 2023 due to conditions in 2022-23 season.