Colorado ski resorts start season with bang |

Colorado ski resorts start season with bang

Staff report
Guests come and go at the Gondola Plaza in downtown Aspen Tuesday. Aspen Skiing company is up 12.9 percent in visits this season.
Jeremy Wallace/The Aspen Times |

Ski season started with a bang for the 21 members of Colorado Ski Country USA, the industry trade group reported Tuesday.

It started even better for Aspen Skiing Co.

Skier visits were up 10 percent from the beginning of the season — which varied by resort — through Dec. 31, compared with the prior season for the members of the trade group. The strong opening also was 13 percent better than the five-year average, according to Colorado Ski Country USA.

The four ski areas of Aspen-Snowmass experienced “a very strong start,” according to Skico spokesman Jeff Hanle. Skico opened Aspen Mountain for a sneak preview two weekends prior to Thanksgiving, then opened Aspen Mountain and Snowmass for the season five days ahead of schedule. That suggests numbers were up over last season, which opened as scheduled.

“We are up 12.9 percent in visits,” said Christian Knapp, Skico’s vice president of marketing. “We opened early. We’ve had more passholder use because of the good, early season conditions.”

Business from out-of-town travelers also was up compared with last season’s start, thanks to a flurry of late bookings, he said.

Colorado Ski Country USA said in a statement that the start to the season was boosted by “excellent winter conditions” and “pent up skier demand fueled by El Nino buzz.”

“Before ski season even started there was a lot of talk about this being a Godzilla El Nino year and what that would look like for Colorado,” said Melanie Mills, president and CEO of the ski trade group. “As resorts opened and ski season got underway, many skiers and snowboarders, particularly our savvy in-state riders, took advantage of some of the best early season conditions we’ve had in recent memory.”

The ski areas under the umbrella of Vail Resorts don’t belong to Colorado Ski Country USA. Those include Vail, Beaver Creek, Keystone and Breckenridge.

Snowstorms prior to Christmas created good conditions on the slopes for the holiday hordes. Skico said skier visits exceeded 20,000 on its four mountains on at least two days between Christmas and New Year’s Day. That is a benchmark for business.