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Aspen Skiing Co. makes up ground in skier visits

ASPEN – Aspen Skiing Co. is making up ground in skier visits after a tough start to the season at the company’s four ski areas, spokesman Jeff Hanle said Wednesday.

Skico was down 8 percent in skier visits from Thanksgiving through Dec. 31 compared with the same period last season.

“We’ve definitely made up ground,” Hanle said. “Both January and February were good – not great but good.”

Skier visits are now 2 percent behind last season’s pace as of the end of February, he said. Skier visits were up slightly in both January and February compared with the same months last season, according to Hanle.

Skico executives hope to erase the deficit this month. The lodging reservations on the books for March and April would boost the numbers beyond last season’s level of business. However, business in March 2012 tanked because of warm and dry weather. More people were interested in golfing and cycling than skiing.

“We’re not anticipating that drop off the cliff that we experienced last year,” Hanle said. Aspen Highlands already has received more snow in March than for the entire month last year.

While Skico struggles to catch up from last season, the ski industry as a whole will outperform last season, according to the head of a national trade association. Michael Berry, president of the National Ski Areas Association, said ski resorts nationwide are on track to boost their skier visits by 5 million, or about 10 percent, over last season.

Berry summed up this season by saying, “Slow start, strong finish, average or slightly above average year.”

The national ski industry’s fortunes have risen and fallen drastically over the past couple of seasons. Ski resorts set a record with 60.54 million visits in the snowy winter of 2010-11. The numbers plunged to just 51 million visits in the snow-deprived winter of 2011-12.

This year will fall in the middle around 56 million, according to Berry. “In comparison to last year, the industry’s ecstatic,” he said.

The recovery this year once again is related to the weather.

“It’s all a function of snow,” he said.

Aspen-Snowmass has a lower snowpack than last season, but more snow fell earlier in the winter and created a decent base. Skiing conditions have been better than what snowfall totals would suggest, in the eyes of many skiers and riders.

Berry said no region of the country is performing particularly well, but resorts throughout the country are doing OK.

“Usually we have winners and losers,” he said. “This year it’s pretty even across the country.”

Vail Resorts, which operates four resorts in Colorado and three at Lake Tahoe, reported last week that its skier visits were up 2.9 percent in the second quarter of fiscal 2013.

The 22 resorts that are members of Colorado Ski Country USA were down 11.5 percent from the start of the season through Dec. 31. Jen Rudolph, a spokeswoman for the trade association, said skier-visit percentages for the middle section of the season – Jan. 1 through Feb. 29 – will be released next week.

scondon@aspentimes.com


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