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Groups fill the lifts in America’s ski areas

By Tyler Stableford, courtesy Snowmass Village

Whether they live in sunny Florida, are “flatlanders” from the Plains states or reside in metropolitan Boston, many Americans love to ski and snowboard and will travel, often in groups and at great distances, to satisfy their winter passion.

Nationally, 13.2 million people skied or snowboarded during the 2010-2011 season. The National Ski Areas Association reports that ski areas set a new all-time record of 60.5 million skier/snowboarder visits.

Take Bretton Woods, N.H., for example. Bretton Woods welcomes groups of every kind from everywhere: schools, churches, large families, family reunions, multigenerational families, retirement groups, ski clubs, social clubs, Boy Scouts and more.

“We take them all, usually an average of 40 per group. We also get international ski groups, especially from the UK [United Kingdom ],” said Matt Koroski, leisure sales manager at the resort.

“Our ski area is the largest in New Hampshire with very consistent snow quality. The hotel [Omni Mount Washington Resort, opened in 1902] is a true New England grand hotel.”

Visitors love the variety of terrain for all abilities and the wide slopes. “We get almost a daily amount of snow. It’s a weather-effect off Mount Washington; a few inches each morning,” said Koroski.

John Peters, vice president and general manager for digital strategy and travel at Rand McNally, has spotted some skiing/snowboarding travel trends.

“We see strong trends in family travel, specifically multigenerational travel [grandparents, children and grandchildren on the same trip]. The honeymoon and destination wedding markets are always strong as well,” Peters said. “That said, no matter what the market, everyone still looks for value.”

Rand McNally reports the No. 1 U.S. ski destination, again, is Lake Tahoe, Calif. Colorado owns half of the top 10 spots, with Steamboat Springs, Vail, Aspen, Breckenridge and Telluride occupying places two through six on the list.

Speaking of Colorado, many resorts see huge ski groups, sometimes numbering in the hundreds. Snowmass Village hosts groups from surprisingly warm climates.

“We have the Florida Ski Council, Orlando Ski Club and Texas Ski Council [17 clubs] coming here,” said Patsy Popejoy, Snowmass public relations manager. “We get many from Texas and the Dallas area, one of our biggest markets. Los Angeles is, too.”

To that you can add the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic visiting in March with 1,200 people. The clinic will promote rehabilitation by instructing veterans with disabilities in adaptive Alpine and Nordic skiing.