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Winter sports hit their peak in Pittsburgh after the Olympics

The Olympic rings illuminate during the closing ceremony of the 2022 Winter Olympics, Sunday, Feb. 20, 2022, in Beijing.
Brynn Anderson
The Olympic rings illuminate during the closing ceremony of the 2022 Winter Olympics, Sunday, Feb. 20, 2022, in Beijing.

The Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics wrapped up on Sunday, but Pittsburghers are still flocking to skating rinks and ski slopes, many of them inspired by the games.

February is typically the busiest month for Seven Springs Mountain Resort in Somerset County, said Alex Moser, the director of marketing and communications for the resort. And thanks to the recent snow and the greater visibility of winter sports, even more people are skiing and snowboarding.

“The average person isn’t going to watch a snowboarding event on TV unless it’s the Olympics,” Moser said, but the games may encourage beginners to give the sport a try or push lapsed skiers and snowboarders to get back on the trails. He estimates that the Olympics boost attendance between 10% and 20%.

“We wish the Olympics were every year,” he said.

Attendance at the UPMC Rink at PPG Place downtown has been strong and steady, which operations manager Andre Sanders said isn’t only attributable to the Olympics, but it “definitely doesn’t hurt” that the games were this year.

In the 2019 regular season, the rink averaged about 206 people a day. This year, the average is closer to 322 people a day.

“Especially after the Olympics we get a little boost,” he said. “The weekends have been up — way up — compared to previous Saturdays.”

According to Sanders, around 1200 skaters came to the rink on Feb. 12 to see a figure skating demonstration and Olympic flag display. That’s up from 500 to 700 skaters on previous weekends.

At Allegheny County’s South Park ice rink, attendance peaked in early December and was “maybe slightly heightened by the winter Olympics,” manager Matt Witt said. But the pandemic has played a role in boosting attendance across facilities.

Data from the National Ski Areas Association, a trade organization for ski facility owners and operators, found that roughly 5.2 million people visited the southeast ski region (which includes Pennsylvania) during the 2020 to 2021 season. Only 4.2 million people visited the sites during the 2018-2019 season.

“With the pandemic the last two winters we’ve seen a huge interest in learning how to ski and snowboard because it’s outdoors and it’s relatively safe,” said Moser. “We’re still seeing people be interested in outdoor sports.”

Moser hopes the Olympics will bring more people to winter sports.

“Who doesn’t want to emulate an incredible athlete?” he asked. “Winter can be very harsh on people mentally, physically. And I think skiing and snowboarding really offers that chance to enjoy winter.”

Julia Zenkevich reports on Allegheny County government for 90.5 WESA. She first joined the station as a production assistant on The Confluence, and more recently served as a fill-in producer for The Confluence and Morning Edition. She’s a life-long Pittsburgher, and attended the University of Pittsburgh. She can be reached at