Holidays give Skico a lift
December snow and new terrain brought skiers out in droves during the holidays, boosting numbers at local ski areas and even helping set a record at Buttermilk. A comparison of skier visits during the 12-day period from Dec. 22 to Jan. 2 in 2004 and in 2005 revealed a 10 percent increase, Aspen Skiing Co. spokesman Jeff Hanle said. There were only four days during this year’s stretch when the Skico recorded smaller numbers than last year. “We’re pretty darn happy,” Hanle said. Hanle said he could not divulge many specifics because the Skico and other destination resorts first release their numbers to Colorado Ski Country. But he said Buttermilk set a “modern-day record” for visits with 3,163 on Dec. 28. The mountain’s previous high of 3,006 came on New Year’s Eve day in 2003. Snowmass’ largest crowd – 10,835 skiers – was that same day. The Skico started tabulating skier visits with reliable electronic ticket scanners eight years ago. All four mountains had marked increases this season, with Aspen Highlands garnering the most pronounced change – a 26 percent increase, Hanle said. The recent opening of the Deep Temerity lift and terrain was apparently successful in wooing the holiday crowd.”Highlands far and away leaped the pack,” Hanle said. “The investment we made is paying dividends.” The Skico was anticipating strong numbers and continued momentum during arguably its busiest time of year, Hanle said. For several seasons there has been a trend toward skier growth. Also, the nearly 50 inches of snow that fell in December had many calling these early-season conditions the best on record.While snow has been favorable, other factors are working in Aspen’s favor, Hanle said. He said people around the country and world are aware the Skico is investing heavily in its resorts, with large-scale projects at Highlands and Snowmass. The community and its wide-ranging events set the area apart. “The snow helps, and everything couldn’t happen without it, but there’s more to it than that,” Hanle said. “We’ve been riding a wave.”Hanle acknowledged comparing holiday seasons is “really not apples-to-apples,” because Christmas and New Year’s fall on different days of the week each year, which affects the flow of vacationers. The figures, however, are no less significant. Only after the full season is through will the company be able to gauge its progress efficiently, Hanle said. With advance bookings for the coming months vastly outnumbering those in 2004, there is reason for optimism.”With all these factors, this is looking like a positive year,” Hanle said. “I’m sure we’ll see a lot of positive news out of the state this year, as well. The more people who get excited about skiing and riding, the more we can cash in.” Jon Maletz’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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