Blizzard chills ski business |

Blizzard chills ski business

Scott Condon
Skiers and snowboarders wait Saturday to ride the Alpine Springs lift at Snowmass Ski Area. Some waited as long as 20-30 minutes. (Courtesy Bob Karetsky)

Aspen, CO ColoradoASPEN The Aspen Skiing Co. had its second-best day in nine seasons Saturday but the holiday period overall was “disappointing in pure numbers,” according to David Perry, senior vice president, mountain division.Officials estimated the Skico lost 4,000 to 5,000 lift ticket sales because of the blizzard that hammered Denver late in the week before Christmas. “The effects of this storm were quite significant certainly for us and for other businesses in town,” Perry said.The storm canceled and delayed numerous flights at Denver International Airport starting Wednesday, Dec. 20, and into the following weekend. Perry said Skico’s numbers suffered for three days after the storm as well as the three days Denver was paralyzed. Some people planning trips to Aspen couldn’t fly into Denver.

Within a couple of days after Christmas, the Skico hit its usual holiday stride. Blue skies and immaculate corduroy attracted 20,435 skiers and riders to the slopes of the four local ski areas Saturday, Perry said. Only one day during the 2003 holiday period was better since the 1997-98 season, when the Skico started scanning tickets and passes, according to Perry.He said all factors were poised for strong business this holiday period. The snowpack was above average, and advanced reservations were strong. He said ski conditions were great and service on the slopes and throughout Aspen and Snowmass were excellent. Therefore, he rated it “a very good holiday season” even if the blizzard hurt Skico’s business.The effects of the big blizzard on Aspen’s lodging industry weren’t as great as initially feared. Bill Tomcich, president of central reservations agency Stay Aspen/Snowmass, said travel plans of 3,000 people headed to Aspen and Snowmass were disrupted during a three-day stretch. Many of those people flew into alternate airports or waited one to three extra days to come into Denver. However, Stay Aspen/Snowmass had a cancellation rate of only 5 percent for those three days, he said.The extra time to get to Aspen and Snowmass apparently came at the Skico’s expense. More time traveling meant less time on the slopes.

Joe Raczak, general manager of the North of Nell Condominiums, said the property lost some big reservations from groups flying through Denver from the east. However, groups from California and other points west took advantage of the openings and booked condos that typically wouldn’t be available during the holidays. Those late bookings offset the lost reservations.”We really weren’t hurt by the transportation problems,” Raczak said.Despite the slow start to the holiday period, Tomcich rated it “excellent, one of the best.” And he said there is more to reap. Occupancy is higher this week than it was in the week after New Year’s Day 2006. He believes that tourist accommodations, restaurants, retail shops and the ski areas will add impressive numbers this week to their holiday performance.Perry and Tomcich suspect that all the snow that Denver received – and the avalanche of media coverage it produced – will also pay off later in the season. There is a widely held perception that the blizzard blanketed all of Colorado. Therefore, that could make phones ring more often for advanced reservations, they said.

For that reason, Perry wasn’t bemoaning the untimely blizzard.”There is no such thing as a bad snowstorm,” he said.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is