March 12, 2008
Skiing employment in the Eastern States has remained constant for the most part, with the exception of a spike in January 2003.
The East Coast experienced multiple snow storms in December 2002, which excited the ski industry's consumer base. In fact, for the rest of the winter (January-March 2003), El Nino provided fresh snow for the East at the expense of the West.
Many of the skiers in the East live in metropolitan areas that are only about 2 or 3 hours from the slopes. The flexibility that the eastern ski resorts offer is what kept their employment stable (if not gradually increasing) for 6 years until 2007. In that winter, smaller eastern slopes, which make up this industry, struggled to even make snow because of unusually warm temperatures.
The West has skiing facilities with bases at double the altitude of the highest peak in the East. The snow accumulation is more reliable due to colder temperatures. These facilities, however, are not within convenient access to major metropolitan centers and so they are more dependent on planned trips.
Weather affects the West as well as the East. For example, springlike temperatures in December 2003 and January 2004 caused January employment at skiing facilities in the West to decrease by over 1,200 jobs from the previous winter. In another example, El Nino's effect on the winter of 2006-07 brought heavy snows to the West, causing the West's ski industry to increase.
The BLS Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages program produced these data. Employment data presented here are for all private-sector workers covered by State and Federal unemployment insurance programs. Find out more in "U.S. skiing employment: East and West," (PDF) Issues in Labor Statistics, BLS Summary 08-01.
The skiing facilities industry discussed here is limited to establishments that only offer downhill or cross-country skiing and no overnight accommodations. Larger resorts with hotels and condominiums are not included in this industry, but rather in the traveler accommodation industry. The Mississippi River was used as the boundary between the States in the East and those in the West. January is typically the most popular time to ski and hence is the period covered in this analysis.