Data compiled by the Canadian Ski Council shows that skier and boarder visits climbed to a new record of 19,520,000 in the 2003/04 season, despite a significant decline in visits from the U.S. and other countries.
And B.C. made the strongest gains, up 10.3 per cent from the previous year to 6,128,000 visits.
Alberta was also up three per cent, to 2,473,000 visits. However, the trend reversed in the east. Ontario was down 5.5 per cent.
President of the Canadian Ski Council Colin Chedore said international skier/boarder visits to Canadian mountains peaked in the 2001-02 season and have declined 31 per cent in each of the past two years, down to 3,237,000. Chedore said this trend could be attributed to the rise in the Canadian dollar, poor snow conditions and less long-haul travel from U.S.
"However, these declines were more than matched by strong gains in the domestic market," said Chedore. "We have learned from this survey that Canadian skiers and boarders are passionate about their sport and intend to increase their participation this season."
Chedore said it was also a credit to Canadian ski areas that Canadians had been choosing to stay at home rather than travel overseas.
"Places like Whistler have been adapting very quickly with their marketing strategies and this has worked," he said. "Weve been preaching that weve got the best areas in the world so our people our educated.
"I talk to so many people in Ontario and theyre not taking vacations to the U.S. or Europe, theyre going to Big White or Whistler or Mont Tremblant so to these people, theyre obviously thinking the best conditions are closer to home.
"And I think we have such a great choice of product in Western Canada we can now keep our skiers at home."
Each winter season the CSC collects detailed demographic information at ski resorts across Canada as part of its National Demographic Survey. In the 2003-04 season; 33,280 surveys were collected.
The survey showed that Canadians skier/boarder visits increased by 7.2 per cent in 2002-03 and there was another 7.2 per cent gain last year, but Chedore confirmed that this season would be a real test because the Canadian dollar is at a 12-year high.
Whistler-Blackcombs Director of Public Relations Christina Moore said she was surprised by the results of the survey but also excited that more Canadians were choosing to play at home.
"I am a little surprised this year because other studies have shown that as the Canadian dollar strengthens more Canadians will be travelling abroad and this really contradicts those findings," said Moore.
"But its very exciting to hear because Canada has a great ski story to tell, we have some incredible regions that offer a really diverse experience."