Aspen sees 1.8 percent drop in skier visits |

Aspen sees 1.8 percent drop in skier visits

Jeremy Swanson/Aspen Skiing Co.Skiers flock to the base of Snowmass on a snowy January day, but skier visits at the Aspen Skiing Co.'s four resorts were down 1.8 percent for the season.

ASPEN – Aspen Skiing Co. considers the 2011-12 season a success even though skier visits fell 1.8 percent from the prior winter.

“Given the state of the industry, given the state of the state, given the state of the region, we’re pretty happy with the way it came out,” Skico spokesman Jeff Hanle said. The company would have preferred continued growth, but given the snow conditions, the modest loss doesn’t seem so bad, he said.

Skico’s visits grew 1.7 percent in 2010-11 over the prior season, but the post-recession momentum couldn’t be maintained.

Nationally, skier visits were down 15 percent, according to a preliminary report released earlier this month by the National Ski Areas Association, a trade group for the ski industry. There were an estimated 51 million skier and snowboarder visits to the country’s ski areas. That is the lowest since the 1991-92 winter. In 2010-11, there were a record 60.54 million visits, according to NSAA.

Colorado Ski Country USA, a state trade association that doesn’t include Vail Resorts’ four ski areas in Colorado, reported its members’ numbers were down 7.4 percent through February. Season-ending statistics won’t be out until June.

Hanle said Skico racked up about 1.33 million skier visits at Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk and Snowmass this season. Buttermilk was up more than 10 percent, possibly because the new high-speed, four-passenger chairlift at Tiehack drew more people.

“Highlands had the toughest year,” Hanle said. He wasn’t able to say whether Highlands suffered a double-digit decrease in visits. Aspen Mountain was up a little, while Snowmass was “close to flat,” Hanle said.

Skico’s season was going well through February, when it was showing a 2.1 percent increase.

“The bottom kind of fell out in March,” Hanle said. Warm and dry conditions curbed skiers’ enthusiasm. In April, Highlands was forced to close a week earlier than scheduled.

Season-pass holders didn’t hit the slopes as often in winter 2012 as the prior two seasons, Hanle said. The percentage decrease wasn’t available, but that likely meant that destination visits – from skiers and snowboarders coming for an overnight trip – were up compared with the prior year.

“Financially, we had a good year,” Hanle said. The ski school, Skico restaurants and hotels all experienced a good year, he said.

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