International skier visits up 14.5 percent so far for Skico
Hurrah for the U.K., the Aspen Skiing Co. is saying this season.
Unexpectedly strong lift ticket sales in the United Kingdom are helping the Skico offset sagging sales to residents of Australia and Germany, according to Ann Wilkinson, Skico director of international sales and marketing.
Lift ticket sales are up 89 percent for residents of the U.K. Sales were also up to residents of Mexico, Brazil, Canada and Argentina, placing them all within the top seven markets for the young season.
Overall, the Skico’s lift ticket sales to visitors from foreign lands were up 14.5 percent through Jan. 3.
“We are being cautiously optimistic that [overall] international skier days will remain the same as last year,” said Wilkinson. “We never put all of our eggs in one basket.”
About one out of every five of the Skico’s lift ticket sales have been to international visitors in recent seasons. That’s up from 17 percent three seasons ago.
Hitting the 20-percent mark could be a challenge this season because of the strength of the U.S. dollar against the currencies of Australia and Germany. Those two countries have historically been two of Aspen’s top international markets.
The U.S. dollar was recently exchanging for 2.1 German marks.
“It’s killing us,” said Wilkinson. “They’re staying home. They’re skiing Europe.”
The Skico’s lift ticket sales to travelers from Germany through Jan. 3 were down 71 percent from the same point last season.
The exchange rate has also discouraged Australians from taking the trip. The rate was recently one U.S. dollar for 1.86 Australian dollars.
Consequently, lift ticket sales to Aussies and New Zealanders were down 38 percent as of Jan. 3.
Conversely, Wilkinson credited the strength of the British pound for sparking sales in the U.K. The rate was recently at $1.76 to the pound.
Lift tickets sales to Mexico were up 41 percent. Brazil showed an increase of 44 percent. Canada, somewhat surprisingly, was up 55 percent as of Jan. 3, and Argentina was up 18 percent.
The Skico is especially enthusiastic about overseas business because foreign guests tend to spend more time on the slopes. Their length of stay is 11 or 12 days, and they typically buy lift tickets for 10 days, said Wilkinson.
Because a discounted lift ticket offer, which dropped the price to as low as $39 per day, proved so popular, the Skico needs to make up in volume what it loses in financial yield.
The next six weeks should determine if loftier numbers are possible. Residents of many international markets take trips in January and February, Wilkinson said.
For last season as a whole, the top three foreign markets in terms of skier days were Australia, U.K. and Brazil. Australia could be knocked from that top spot if this season’s trend continues.
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Had Hailey Swirbul decided against going to Europe, she would not have finished with a career-best result in Friday’s World Cup opener. Yes, there was a time, and not long ago, when the U.S. ski team member and Roaring Fork Valley native questioned her desire to put on a race bib.