Aspen Skiing Co. says skier visits up 3% this season | AspenTimes.com

Aspen Skiing Co. says skier visits up 3% this season

A skier plows through powder after an April snowstorm. Aspen Skiing Co. said extended seasons at Aspen Mountain and Aspen Highlands helped the ski areas increase visits this season.

Aspen Skiing Co. reported its skier visits increased by about 3 percent in 2015-16, while Colorado Ski Country USA said its 21 members logged a nearly 5 percent increase.

Both organizations released their numbers Thursday during Colorado Ski Country's annual meeting.

Skico spokesman Jeff Hanle said company officials were "happy to have come out on the plus side" given some of the challenges this season. That included a strong U.S. dollar that discouraged travel for some international visitors. Skier visits from international markets were down for Skico, though Hanle didn't know by how much.

However, those losses were offset by gains in destination visitors — travelers who come for an overnight trip — and locals' pass use, according to Hanle.

"Pass use was good, and we had great fill-in with destination business despite the expected decline from Australia and Brazil," Hanle said. Australia and Brazil are two of Skico's biggest overseas markets.

Skico's business was down 2 percent in 2014-15, so visits have been flat over the past two seasons. The figures are cumulative for Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands, Snowmass and Buttermilk.

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"Aspen Mountain and Highlands had the best years," Hanle said. "That could be because they had the extended season."

Snowmass was flat in skier visits while Buttermilk was up slightly, he said. A skier visit is the purchase of a lift ticket for a full or partial day. It includes season-pass use.

Colorado Ski Country, a state industry trade group, reported Thursday that skier visits totaled 7.4 million during the 2015-16 season for its 21 member resorts. That was up nearly 5 percent from the prior season.

It was a record visitation for the 21 resorts, Colorado Ski Country reported. The four ski areas operated by Vail Resorts aren't included in the total because the company doesn't belong to the marketing collective. Therefore, the figures don't include Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge and Keystone, some of the biggest and busiest ski areas in the state.

Colorado Ski Country said its members' visits outpaced the five-year average by about 10 percent.

Skier visits were up just 0.5 percent for the national ski industry compared with the prior season. The National Ski Areas Association estimated visits hit 53.9 million.

"Colorado's reputation as the No. 1 ski destination is evidenced by our ownership of 24 percent of the 2015-16 national skier market," said Melanie Mills, Colorado Ski Country president and CEO.

Mills credited snow conditions with drawing skiers out. Cold temperatures in the fall allowed snowmaking and "ideally timed snow storms" blanketed slopes with large amounts of early snow. The snow kept falling in November and December. A warm and dry spell in January and February didn't harm business because skiers and snowboarders were treated to so many bluebird days.

Snow returned in spades late in the season to drive business up to closing. The closing date was extended at Aspen Highlands and Aspen Mountain to produce a 161-day season.

scondon@aspentimes.com

WINNING WINTER

Aspen Skiing Co. says its skier visits increased 3% this season.

Colorado Ski Country USA said its 21 members had 7.4 million skier visits, an increase of 5%.