Aspen logs increase in skier visits |

Aspen logs increase in skier visits

John ColsonThe Aspen TimesAspen, CO Colorado
Jordan Curet The Aspen Times
ALL | The Aspen Times

ASPEN Aspens four mountains saw a greater increase in skier visits than most Colorado resorts during the 2007-08 ski season.In general, Colorado ski resorts had their second-best year ever in terms of skier numbers, Colorado Ski Country USA reported Thursday.According to Ski Country, its 26 member resorts logged 12,535,913 skier visits during the past season. It is the third year in a row that numbers have topped 12.5 million, but it is a decline of 2.4 percent over the previous years record.According to Aspen Skiing Co. spokesman Jeff Hanle, the companys mountains logged 1,470,997 skier visits for the season, up 1.8 percent from the previous season. (A skier visit represents a person participating in the sport of skiing or snowboarding for any part of one day at a mountain resort.) The increase continues a general growth trend that has lasted for six years or so.Aspens strong finish comes despite a weak beginning to the season regionally, a lack of snow at Thanksgiving that had some locals fearing economic disaster. By Christmas, the state was blanketed with deep snow and the snow did not let up until spring, resulting in record snowfall statistics for several resorts.Aspen Highlands, which has seen fairly consistent growth in recent years, topped the growth list locally with 211,635 skier days, an increase of 9.3 percent over the previous season. Even without the end-of-year extension of the season at Highlands, which drew approximately 10,500 skiers and boarders to the slopes after the official closing day, Highlands racked up an impressive growth of 3.9 percent. By comparison, skier visits at Aspen Mountain were up by 1.5 percent to a total of 332,981 skier days. Buttermilk saw 154,926 skier visits, a slightly less than 1 percent increase; skier visits at Snowmass were essentially unchanged from the previous season at 771,455.It was a strong year all round, said Skico president and CEO Mike Kaplan. It was great to see locals and visitors from around the world come out in force.Statistics detailing where the growth came from international travelers versus locals versus visitors from with the United States were not available, although Hanle said anecdotal accounts indicated that international visits rose, as did the number of locals hitting the slopes.State statsOn a statewide basis, ski resorts logged their second-best year ever, according to Ski Country, a statewide trade group holding its annual meeting this week in Crested Butte. The best year was 2006-07, when 12,566,299 skiers or snowboarders hit the states slopes; the third-best year ever was 2005-06, with 12,533,108 skier visits.Ski Country’s numbers include numbers from Vail Resorts, Inc., which dropped out of the trade group in May. Vail Resorts owns Vail Mountain, Beaver Creek, and the Keystone and Breckenridge ski areas. The report represents a decrease of approximately 30,386 skier visits, or roughly 2.4 percent, compared to last seasons record-setting numbers.The ski industry saw strong growth on the national level, too, with Colorado making up roughly 20 percent of the overall market share, down slightly from the prior season’s 23 percent, the trade group reported.International business also set a record in Colorado in 2007-08, with 21 percent more foreigners visiting Colorado to ski or snowboard.Colorado’s Gems (smaller resorts such as Sunlight, Ski Cooper and Eldora) and destination resorts (including Aspen/Snowmass) reported record numbers of skier visits this season. Colorados Gems were up more than 7 percent over last year, while destination resorts topped their previous record from last season by more than 1 percent. Abundant snow fell across the nation this winter and Colorado was no exception. Eight Colorado resorts, including Snowmass Ski Area, broke season snowfall records, and multiple Colorado resorts broke monthly snowfall records. Colorado also had the longest ski season in the country at 245 days.In Aspen, the season isnt over yet. Skico officials announced plans this to reopen the top of Aspen Mountain this weekend to coincide with the Food & Wine Magazine Classic in