2024 Powder Pursuits: Ski and Snowboard Trends in the Northeast

The Northeastern United States has long been a haven for ski and snowboard enthusiasts. This report, created by Killington Getaway, and made up of a survey commissioned to 1000 skiers and snowboarders from New England, delves into the evolving preferences and behaviors of these winter sports aficionados. The aim is to provide property owners, and the broader winter sports market with a deeper understanding of ski and snowboard trends in the northeast, thus enabling them to better align their services and offerings with the demands of this dynamic market.

Frequency and Investment in Ski and Snowboarding

Trends in Participation

When analyzing ski and snowboard trends in the northeast, frequency is key. Our findings reveal that a significant 43% of participants hit the slopes 2-5 times each year. This group forms the backbone of the customer base for ski resorts and associated businesses, bringing not just consistent traffic but also a steady demand for services and amenities. 

However, it’s the 27% who participate in skiing or snowboarding more than five times a year that truly capture the essence of dedication in this sport. This segment, likely comprising more experienced and skilled enthusiasts, tends to seek out advanced slopes and premium experiences. Their presence on the slopes can influence the overall market, driving demand for high-quality services and top-tier amenities. Resorts catering to this group may need to focus on offering not just the basics, but also advanced features like challenging runs, state-of-the-art lift systems, and luxury après-ski facilities.

Equipment Market

The passion for skiing and snowboarding in the Northeast is not just about hitting the slopes — it extends to the gear used. The survey illuminates an interesting trend among frequent skiers and snowboarders: a significant inclination towards purchasing new equipment every season. Specifically, 22% of respondents, and an even higher 35% of those skiing more than five times a year, opt for new gear each season. 

This trend shows that customers really care about having the latest and greatest in gear tech. They’re not just looking for quality; they want the cool factor and the bragging rights that come with owning the newest stuff. This is great news for retailers and makers – there’s a hungry market out there for top-notch, high-tech gear. To tap into this, companies should focus on rolling out innovative products and shaping their marketing to catch the eye of these gadget-loving shoppers.

Investment in Vacation Properties

People aren’t just purchasing new gear to keep up with their winter sport enthusiasm. They’re buying or planning to buy vacation homes at record rates! 32% of our survey respondents have already invested  vacation homes in ski-friendly areas, with an additional 33% considering such investments. This shift is further substantiated by broader real estate trends that have shown a surge in demand for second homes since the pandemic.

The pandemic, which spurred a rise in remote work and a desire for escape from city life, has significantly contributed to this shift. People are not just looking for occasional getaways — they’re investing in creating personal retreats in their favorite ski destinations. These vacation homes offer a consistent, private space that can be enjoyed year after year.

So where are people investing in these vacation spots? The majority of respondents indicated their vacation properties were in New Hampshire (28%), followed closely by Vermont (25%), Maine (19%), and Massachusetts (18%), with 11% in other areas. 

In terms of rental plans, the survey found that a significant number of property owners intend to rent out their vacation homes. 48% plan to rent their properties for 2-5 weekends a year, while 31% aim for more than 5 weekends, and 22% are considering 1-2 weekends. This trend not only indicates a savvy investment approach among property owners but also suggests an expanding market for short-term rentals in these ski regions, providing additional accommodation options for ski enthusiasts.

Travel Patterns and Accommodation Preferences

Diversity in Travel Distances

The survey uncovered a variety of preferences among ski and snowboard travelers. A substantial 47% of respondents are willing to travel between 2 to 5 hours for a ski trip, indicating a considerable market for resorts within this radius. Additionally, 18% are not concerned about distance if the destination offers an ideal experience, suggesting that some enthusiasts prioritize quality of slopes and overall experience over travel convenience. Notably,  those who ski or snowboard 5+ times a year were more likely (21% vs 14%) than others to say they’d travel more than five hours.

The findings reveal a strong preference among ski and snowboard enthusiasts for overnight stays, with 63% choosing this option. This trend indicates that these travelers are looking for more than just convenience — they seek a complete and immersive experience in the snowy landscapes.

Airbnb/VRBO vs. Hotels

When it comes to ski and snowboard trends in the northeast, accommodation preferences are interesting to note. Our findings underline the trend towards Airbnb/VRBO for longer stays. 35% of respondents (and up to 44% among those who ski more than five times a year) favor Airbnb/VRBO, reflecting a continued shift in the perceived value of these accommodations compared to traditional hotels.

The preference for platforms like Airbnb and VRBO suggests a desire for accommodations that offer more than just a bed to sleep in. These travelers are looking for spacious, home-like environments that provide comfort and convenience after a day on the slopes. Such preferences are particularly pronounced among those who ski frequently and may impact the traditional hotel market in ski areas. Hotels might need to adapt by offering more personalized services or enhancing their amenities to compete with the homely charm and tailored experiences that private rentals offer.

This trend points to a growing demand for unique and personalized lodging experiences. Platforms like Airbnb and VRBO offer a diverse range of options, from quaint cabins to luxurious chalets, allowing travelers to find spaces that resonate with their personal tastes and needs. These accommodations often provide a home-like feel, equipped with amenities specifically catering to winter sports.

Booking Preferences

The survey also highlights a clear preference for direct bookings through Airbnb/VRBO, with 36% of respondents favoring this method for securing ski trip accommodations. This trend underscores the importance of a robust online presence for property owners in ski areas. In today’s digital era, travelers are increasingly seeking convenience and transparency in their booking processes. Platforms like Airbnb and VRBO offer a user-friendly interface, comprehensive information about the properties, including photos and reviews, and a straightforward booking process, making them attractive to potential guests.

This preference for direct bookings through these platforms also reflects a shift in how travelers plan and organize their trips. The ease of comparing different options, the ability to filter based on specific needs, and the convenience of a secure online payment system are aspects that traditional booking channels may struggle to match. For property owners, this means that maintaining an attractive, up-to-date listing with clear, high-quality images and detailed descriptions of amenities is crucial. Additionally, encouraging guests to leave reviews can significantly enhance the visibility and attractiveness of their listings.

Decision Factors and Value Perception

Preferred Destinations

When it comes to carving their paths down the mountains, preferences for specific destinations become clear. Vermont, with its picturesque landscapes and versatile ski facilities, stands out as a favorite. Within Vermont, Killington Ski Resort, with its rich history, is particularly favored, as evidenced by its top ranking among preferred resorts. This preference for Vermont and its top ski destinations can be attributed to several factors.

Vermont’s diverse range of slopes caters to a variety of skill levels, from beginners to seasoned pros, making it an attractive destination for a broad spectrum of skiers and snowboarders. The state’s commitment to maintaining high-quality facilities and its additional recreational offerings, such as vibrant après-ski scenes and family-friendly activities, further enhance its appeal. The survey’s findings suggest that destinations like Vermont, which offer a comprehensive and high-quality skiing experience, are likely to continue attracting winter sports enthusiasts.

Balancing Quality and Affordability

In the intricate world of ski and snowboard travel, the decision-making process of enthusiasts is a complex interplay of seeking high-quality experiences while simultaneously keeping an eye on costs. The survey data paints a vivid picture of this balance, with crucial insights into how skiers and snowboarders make their destination choices.

Quality of Slopes as a Prime Factor

The survey underscores a clear preference for the quality and variety of ski slopes, with destinations like Vermont emerging as favorites. This state, known for its picturesque landscapes and top-tier ski resorts like Killington, appeals to enthusiasts for its broad range of slopes that cater to various skill levels. It’s not just about having numerous slopes but offering a spectrum of experiences – from gentle runs for beginners to challenging terrains for the experts. 

Affordability: A Key Consideration

While the allure of quality slopes is undeniable, the survey reveals that cost factors, such as lodging affordability and season pass pricing rank second and third when it comes to playing a significant role in destination choice. In fact, affordability ranks as the second most critical factor. This finding is a strong indicator that while skiers and snowboarders are willing to invest in high-quality experiences, they are also acutely aware of their budgets.

This dual focus on quality and affordability presents a unique opportunity for ski destinations and resorts. There’s a clear need for pricing strategies that strike a balance between providing premium experiences and offering competitive, value-oriented options. By balancing the demands of quality and affordability, these destinations can not only attract a wider range of visitors but also cultivate loyalty among a diverse base of winter sports enthusiasts.

Amenities and Host Interaction

In the world of ski and snowboard travel, the choice of accommodation is about much more than just a place to stay. It’s about enhancing the overall experience of the trip, as highlighted by the preferences and expectations of skiers and snowboarders in the survey.

Key Amenities

The survey reveals that when it comes to choosing accommodations, specific amenities play a crucial role. Proximity to ski resorts is a top priority, with 65% of respondents favoring locations that offer easy access to slopes or shuttle services. This preference underscores the desire for convenience and efficiency in maximizing time spent on the slopes.

Beyond just location, respondents also place high value on relaxation amenities. In fact, the second most sought after amenity was a “cozy, comfortable living space.” Features like fireplaces and hot tubs are also in high demand as essential components of the ski trip experience. 

Importance of Host Interaction

Another critical aspect that emerged when it comes to ski and snowboard trends in the northeast is the importance of host interaction in short-term rentals. Effective communication with Airbnb/VRBO hosts is highly valued, especially among frequent skiers, with 46% considering it extremely important for a seamless experience. This interaction goes beyond mere transactional exchanges — it’s about hosts providing valuable local insights, recommendations, and a personal touch that can significantly enhance the guest experience.

Local recommendations from hosts, considered very important by 42% of frequent skiers, can offer guests insider knowledge on the best ski spots, dining options, and hidden gems in the area. This local expertise can make a significant difference in the quality of the ski trip, allowing guests to discover unique experiences that they might not have otherwise found. 

Skiers and snowboarders are looking for accommodations that not only meet their basic needs but also add value to their overall experience. Properties that offer desirable amenities and hosts who provide personalized service and local insights have a distinct advantage in attracting and retaining guests.

Community Impact 

The integration of short-term rentals like Airbnb and VRBO into ski communities has been a topic of much discussion and debate. The survey sheds light on how these platforms are perceived by those who frequent ski areas and how their booking preferences are evolving in this digital age.

The survey reveals a largely positive outlook towards short-term rentals. A significant majority of respondents view platforms like Airbnb and VRBO as beneficial to the local economy of ski communities. This positive perception is reflected in the 52% of respondents who believe these rentals boost the local economy by providing more options for travelers. Only a small portion (22%) expressed concerns about their impact on local housing and community dynamics.

This sentiment suggests a welcoming environment for the growth of Airbnb and VRBO options in ski areas. The benefits seen by respondents likely include the increased tourist traffic that these rentals bring, which can translate into more business for local shops, restaurants, and ski facilities. Additionally, the diversity of rental options available through these platforms can attract a broader range of visitors, catering to different tastes and budget levels, further stimulating the local economy.

The Future of Ski and Snowboard Travel in the Northeast

This comprehensive survey of ski and snowboard enthusiasts in the Northeast highlights the opportunities that exist for the winter sports community. The increasing demand for high-quality slopes, as seen in the popularity of destinations like Vermont, reflects a market that values diverse and challenging experiences. This is paired with a strong consciousness towards affordability, indicating a nuanced customer base that seeks value in their ski vacations.

The rising trend in owning vacation properties, particularly in ski-friendly areas, aligns with broader real estate movements and signifies a shift towards more personal, long-term engagements with these destinations. This presents unique opportunities for ski resorts and communities to adapt and cater to these evolving preferences, potentially reshaping the future of ski tourism.

Furthermore, the survey highlights a positive outlook towards short-term rentals like Airbnb and VRBO, seen as beneficial to local ski economies. This suggests an evolving accommodation landscape, where the diversity and personalization offered by these platforms are highly valued. The insights from this survey provide a clear view of ski and snowboard trends in the northeast which stakeholders in the ski industry can use as a roadmap to navigate and capitalize on these emerging trends, ensuring a vibrant and sustainable future for ski and snowboard travel in the Northeast.


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