THOMPSONVILLE — The 2018-19 downhill ski season was just more than a month old when Crystal Mountain Resort in Thompsonville set a single-day record.
That mark lasted all of 48 days.
Favorable weather conditions throughout the winter led a upward climb in attendance at area ski resorts. Both Crystal Mountain and Shanty Creek Resort, in Bellaire, posted double-digit increases over the previous season.
"It's been a really good year," said Brian Lawson, director of public relations at Crystal Mountain. "It's definitely been one of the best we've had in a little while and the last few haven't been bad."
"It certainly has been," said Chris Hale, vice president of sales and marketing at Shanty Creek. "Without question. Yes ... emphatically yes."
Construction of a new lodge at Hickory Hills meant a late start — Jan. 25 — to the ski season at the facility owned and operated by the city of Traverse City. Not that it mattered.
"We were surprised by our numbers," area manager Barry Smith said of Hickory's best year since 2013-14. "We had a record year despite our slow start. We broke records in terms of revenue and tickets sold."
Crystal Mountain set a record on Dec. 29 — the Saturday between Christmas and New Year's Day. That was followed by two more successful holiday weekends that preceded Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Jan. 21 and President's Day on Feb. 18.
"It was a record day historically (on Dec. 29) and then it was eclipsed slightly on Feb. 16," Lawson said. "To have two days like that in the same season ...
"In the ski industry, those three weekends are a pretty good guess of how things are going to go. To have all three of those weekend periods go so well is a pretty good indicator that it's been a pretty good ski season."
Lawson estimates that Crystal Mountain has seen business increase more than 10 percent over the 2017-18 ski season.
Hale at Shanty Creek said he hadn't yet received the final numbers from February. But the last month of 2018 and the first two of 2019 already have exceeded expectations.
"We surpassed our revenue budgets for December, January and February," Hale said. “As of the end of January, we were up 12 percent in skiing days, and we're up 12 percent in year-over-year revenue."
Crystal Mountain Resort opened for skiing on Thanksgiving Day, which Lawson said happens about half of the time.
Shanty Creek Resort began its ski season on the traditional date of Black Friday, the day after the November holiday. Hale said snowmaking and snowfall conditions made the resort fully open by Dec. 25.
"We were 100 percent open on Schuss Mountain before the holiday week began," he said. "It's really hard to make that up if you miss the holiday week. That's so valuable to us as an industry."
Ample amounts of snowfall — and plenty of cold weather to keep it around — contributed to a successful alpine season in northwest Lower Michigan.
"The conditions have been outstanding," Hale said. "It's been a very positive story this far."
Smith said the new lodge at Hickory Hills generated a lot of interest when it first hosted skiers on Jan. 25.
"Construction helped generate some interest," Smith said. "We had a lot of people that hadn't been out here in years come out just to see what we did. Word spread I guess."
The ski season at Hickory Hills ended on Sunday, March 10. But slopes remain open at the bigger resorts despite a significant warming trend this week.
"March is looking pretty good for us," Lawson said. "The conditions are holding so well. We should be able to hold on to the snow really well, so March should be able to add to that total."
Hale said the early numbers for the weekend of March 2-3 and 9-10 look promising just looking at lodging reservations.
"Last weekend we more than doubled what it was a year ago," Hale said on Friday. "This weekend we more than doubled, and are approaching triple, what it was a year ago."
Hale said the enthusiasm for skiing often wanes as the month of March wanes. Hale said he often sees a 100- to 110-day window when people "tolerate winter weather."
When the final numbers for the season are tallied and skis are swapped for seven irons, Hale said it will be interesting to see where 2018-19 ranks among recent winter seasons.
"I'm inclined to think this will be among the top three years, certainly in the last 10 years," he said. "It may end up being the best year in the last 10 years. It's very positive; it's just too early to say. There's no question it's been an extremely good season."