Aspen Skiing Co. down 10% during early season, Colorado Ski Country off 8 percent | AspenTimes.com

Aspen Skiing Co. down 10% during early season, Colorado Ski Country off 8 percent

Eric Stein from Vancouver, British Columbia, purchases a ski ticket at the Aspen Mountain ticket office Thursday. Business for the early part of the season was down 10% but momentum picked up when snow started falling.

Aspen Skiing Co. and Colorado Ski Country USA, a trade group for most of the ski resorts in Colorado, reported Thursday that skier visits during the opening weeks of the season were down compared with last season.

Aspen Skiing Co.'s early business was down 10 percent, according to spokesman Jeff Hanle.

"Destination business is strong, but we saw lower pass use due to the slow snow start," Hanle said. Destination business is from skiers and snowboarders taking an overnight trip.

Colorado Ski Country USA, which represents 22 member resorts, said cumulative skier visits were down 8 percent from opening day on Oct. 21 through Dec. 31.

The figure needs context, said Colorado Ski Country USA public affairs manager Chris Linsmayer. The 2015-16 season started with a bang because of lots of early-season snowfall. Many resorts were able to open earlier than planned. Skiers and snowboarders flocked to the mountains to score the good snow.

This season brought just the opposite. Openings were delayed at several resorts, including Aspen Mountain, because of a lack of early snow.

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"The warm fall kept Coloradans' minds on summer activities and many Colorado-based skiers and riders from heading up to the high country until December," said Colorado Ski Country USA President and CEO Melanie Mills in a prepared statement.

Above Five-year average

This season's early business wasn't all that bad, it just wasn't as good as last year, Colorado Ski Country noted in a statement. This year's skier visits were up 3 percent compared with the five-year average.

Skico officials are confident the early-season deficit can be overcome since the period from Thanksgiving to Christmas typically is fairly slow.

Plus, the snow conditions took an abrupt turn Dec. 16 when 17 to 19 inches fell on the slopes — just in time to lay a great base for the holiday hordes.

Snowfall was well above average during the first half of January. About 60 inches fell by Jan. 16. Local skiers and snowboarders have responded.

"The momentum is really strong into January," Hanle said. "Pass use has most certainly rebounded with the snow."

Overall, he said, "things are looking much better now" than on Dec. 31.

Strong holiday business

Colorado Ski Country said in its report that "several ski areas experienced all-time single day records during the week" between Christmas and New Year's Eve.

"It was a strong holiday period," Linsmayer said.

Skier visits are a standard metric used to track participation the ski industry. A visit represents a person skiing or snowboarding for any part of one day at a mountain resort.

The next reporting period for Colorado Ski Country USA will cover January and February. The trade group's statistics don't include the performances by the ski areas owned by Vail Resorts, which isn't a member of the association. Vail Resorts operates Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge and Keystone as well as several resorts in other states. The company reported that skier visits were down 13.2 percent company-wide through Jan. 8 compared with the same period the prior season.

scondon@aspentimes.com

EARLY INDICATORS

Aspen Skiing Co.’s four ski areas were down 10% from the start of the season through Dec. 31 compared to last season.

Colorado’s Ski Country USA’s 22 members were down 8% .

Vail Resorts reported its North American resorts, including four in Colorado, were down 13.2 percent through Jan. 8.