Aspen, other ski areas pay record amount for use of public lands
SKI AREA PAYMENTS
Here are the amounts paid by the 11 resorts that operate in the White River National Forest during the U.S. Forest Service fiscal year 2015. The fees are paid for use of public lands and revenues generated from use of public lands.
Aspen Mountain $95,568
Aspen Highlands $309,024
Vail Mtn. $$5,973,624
Beaver Creek $1,434,696
Copper Mtn. $1,246,665
The 11 ski areas in the White River National Forest — including the four operated by Aspen Skiing Co. — paid a record of nearly $18 million in fees to the federal government for use of public lands last year.
The resorts paid a little more than $17.9 million during the U.S. Forest Service’s fiscal year 2015, which covered the 2014-15 ski season. That was an increase of more than $2 million, or 12.5 percent, than fiscal year 2014, according to statistics provided by the White River National Forest.
The ski areas combined to pay $15.92 million the prior year.
The ski industry doesn’t automatically pay more each year. The combined fee of the 11 resorts fell in fiscal year 1997, again in 1999 and in 2003, reflecting poor seasons for skier visits.
But a drop in ski visits doesn’t always translate into a lower fee. Aspen Skiing Co.’s skier visits fell 3 percent last season, but the company’s ski area fee increased. It’s also influenced by revenue from other operations, such as ski school and restaurants.
“Last year was a good year. Business was strong,” said Skico spokesman Jeff Hanle.
Skico’s fees on the rise
Skico’s increases in fees in 2015 ranged from 9 percent at Snowmass to 16.5 percent at Aspen Mountain.
Snowmass — where Skico uses the most public land and logs the most business — saw its fee increase to $1.57 million from $1.45 million the prior year. That is an increase of 9 percent.
Aspen Mountain’s fee increased to $95,568 from $81,950. That is an increase of 16.5 percent. Aspen Mountain uses little public land.
The fee at Aspen Highlands increased to $309,024 from $266,800, up 16 percent.
Buttermilk paid $239,090 last year compared with $209,239 the prior year. That is an increase of 14 percent.
For its four ski areas combined, Skico paid around $2.2 million for use of public lands in fiscal year 2015, up $205,602 or 10 percent from the prior year. It paid $2 million in fiscal year 2014.
Vail pays the highest fee
Vail Mountain alone pays 33 percent of the ski area fees paid to the White River National Forest. That reflects the high use of public lands and the high amount of business at the massive resort.
Vail Mountain paid $5.97 million last year in fees. That was $540,155, or 10 percent, more than in fiscal year 2014.
Breckenridge, another ski area under the Vail Resorts umbrella, was right behind in fees. It paid $4.35 million in fiscal year 2015, the second most among resorts in the forest.
Keystone paid $2.27 million, while Beaver Creek paid $1.43 million in fees. Both are operated by Vail Resorts.
The four ski areas combined to pay $14.02 million in fees for use of public lands in 2015 — about seven times as much as Aspen Skiing Co.
Vail Resort’s bill went up $1.63 million in fiscal year 2014, or an increase of 13 percent.
Paid their way ‘in spades’
White River National Forest Supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams said the ski areas paid their way “in spades” in the Forest Service’s 2015 fiscal year. He noted that receipts from ski area fees have shot up in the past few years.
The fees collected in fiscal year 2015 were up about $5.5 million, or 45 percent, compared with five years ago.
The money collected goes to the U.S. Treasury. It isn’t kept it the White River National Forest.
The only resort that paid less in 2015 than the prior year is Sunlight Mountain Resort outside of Glenwood Springs. Its fee was $16,572 last year compared with $17,667 the year before.
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