Colorado ski business flat; Aspen Skiing Co. reports 4.3 percent gain
ASPEN – The Aspen Skiing Co. will keep its skier and snowboard rider visits for last winter secret for “competitive reasons,” senior vice president David Perry said Thursday.
The Skico won’t release its total visits or individual numbers at its four ski areas. However, it claimed its business was up 4.3 percent for the season.
Colorado Ski Country USA, a state trade association, announced Thursday that business was flat for its 22 members during the 2009-10 season. Its member logged about 6.74 million skier visits last season. That is an increase of 29,000 visits, or 0.4 percent, from the recession-ravaged 2008-09 season. Business was down about 7 percent for Colorado Ski Country members that season from the prior year.
“We’re pleased visitation is up, even if only by a nose,” said Melanie Mills, president and CEO of Colorado Ski Country USA.
The Skico reported 1,364,056 visits during the 2008-09 season. Using that baseline, a 4.3 percent increase last season would mean the company logged 58,654 more visits for a total of 1,422,710.
Perry wouldn’t confirm or deny the accuracy those figures. He said the Skico traditionally releases more information about its business than other resorts. “That’s not a level playing field,” Perry said.
Skier visits aren’t universally reported in the ski industry nor are they consistently calculated, he added. But the main reason for keeping the numbers under wraps is to prevent competitors from learning too much, Perry said.
Skico spokesman Jeff Hanle said the company will no longer share information with the media about its top international or domestic markets. That is also a departure from the past.
When asked if the company was keeping a tighter grip on its statistics because of the tough economics times, Perry said that the recession had nothing to do with it. The Skico has released its skier visits for years but decided this year to change its policy, he said.
The Skico under the guidance of former president and CEO Bob Maynard also refused to share skier visits for its individual areas for the 1992-93 season, but even then it released an overall figure.
Vail Resorts releases skier visits for its four ski areas in Colorado as part of its quarterly earnings reports.
The Skico’s 4.3 percent increase for the season might be slightly inflated, according to Perry. The company installed a precise scanning system at all four ski areas this year. That probably resulted in better tracking of pass use by off-duty employees, he said. Nevertheless, the 4.3 percent mark supplies a good “apples to apples” comparison to the season before, he said.
Perry said Buttermilk registered the biggest gain among the local ski areas.
Business at Aspen Mountain and Snowmass benefited from an extended season this winter, he said. Late-season snow conditions allowed the ski areas to remain open longer than scheduled. Aspen Highlands was down slightly, in part because it didn’t have an extended season, he said. The Skico also did away with a pass good only at Highlands for the 2009-10 season.
Colorado Ski Country reported that visitation from Front Range and other in-state skiers was down slightly in 2009-10. Destination business from out of the state was up an unspecified amount. International business was up 6.5 percent for the trade association’s members. Vail Resorts’ ski areas don’t belong to Colorado Ski Country. However, Colorado Ski Country reported that the state’s total skier visits were 11.86 million when Vail Resorts’ four areas were figured in.
Colorado’s below-average snowfall for the 2009-10 appears to have hurt business, Colorado Ski Country reported. Snowfall amounts were down substantially, by 26 percent compared to the 2008-09 season, and also down 26 percent compared to the 10-year average.
“Snow always plays a role in skier visits, especially with our in-state guests,” Mills said in a prepared statement. “And while some resorts saw near-record amounts of snow, others relied on their expert snow maintenance staffs to provide a great product all season long.”
Colorado resorts as a whole didn’t keep pace with the national ski industry or the Rocky Mountain region resorts. Skier visits were up an estimated 4.2 percent overall, and 3.4 percent in the region.
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Produced by Colorado State University’s J-school, the documentary examines the economic potential of the plant.