Aspen skier visits off to flat start |

Aspen skier visits off to flat start

Skier visits were “about flat” for Aspen Skiing Co. as well as the members of Colorado Ski Country USA over the first couple months of the season compared with last year, both entities announced Wednesday.

Skico and Colorado Ski Country cited different reasons for the flat numbers through Dec. 31. Skico spokesman Jeff Hanle said Thanksgiving was earlier last year, which affected the opening of Snowmass. And although Aspen Mountain opened earlier than scheduled both years, it was open sooner last season, he said.

December business was slightly better for Skico, but November lagged simply because there were more days last season, according to Hanle.

“Things were building in December and carried over to the first week of January,” he said. “We’ve got great momentum from the early season.”

Colorado Ski Country USA reported that its members’ skier visits were down about 1 percent through Dec. 31. Colorado Ski Country is a state trade association representing 21 member resorts. The four Colorado ski areas under the Vail Resorts umbrella aren’t members.

Lack of snow delayed the opening of some resorts in the state and cold temperatures during the holidays weren’t good for business, according to Colorado Ski Country.

“Many in-state skiers didn’t head to the slopes at the beginning of the season, a time when most visitation is our Colorado-based skiers and riders,” Melanie Mills, president and chief executive officer of the trade group, said in a statement.

During the 2013-14 season, skier visits were up more than 20 percent compared with the prior season for the first reporting period, Colorado Ski Country noted. So this year’s start was being compared to a strong jump out of the gates. Both last season and this season exceeded the five-year average for skier visits through Dec. 31.

Vail Resorts reported Jan. 14 that season-to-date skier visits were up 1.8 percent compared to the prior year.

At Aspen, Hanle said there was good use of season passes by Roaring Fork Valley residents and strong destination customer business from people who take overnight vacations during the first part of the season. History shows that ski pass use dips during dry periods, like Aspen is experiencing this month, he said. He suspects that pass use had fallen in January.

“Destination visitors have more than made up for it in January,” he said.

There are strong bookings during critical periods later in the season, so Skico officials are optimistic for the outlook, according to Hanle.

“We don’t want to get too excited,” he said. “We want to see it start snowing again.” It’s been a season of extremes in weather so far (see related story on page A2).

A skier visit represents a person participating in skiing or snowboarding for any part of a day at a mountain resort. It’s a main metric used to track ski resort business. The next reporting period for Skico and Colorado Ski Country will cover January and February.

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