It could have been worse for ski industry | AspenTimes.com

It could have been worse for ski industry

It’s unusual for an industry to be thankful for a drop in business – but the 2001-02 ski season wasn’t usual.

While Colorado ski resort executives aren’t exactly jumping for joy about losing business compared to the prior season, they are thankful the losses weren’t worse.

Colorado’s ski resorts logged 520,500 fewer skier visits or 4.5-percent less than the season before. Season figures sagged from 11,666,672 to 11,146,131 among the state’s 23 resorts that belong to Colorado Ski Country USA, a trade association.

The Aspen Skiing Co.’s four areas experienced a decline of 6 percent. Total skier and rider visits fell from 1,349,050 to 1,268,705.

Yet, no one is complaining.

“In light of the obstacles the entire tourism industry faced post-September 11, including travel and safety fears, a national recession and below average snowfall, we are very encouraged with how the ski and snowboard industry fared in Colorado this season,” said David Perry, president and CEO of Colorado Ski Country USA.

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Perry is leaving the trade association later this summer to head the Aspen Skiing Co.’s marketing efforts. When he arrives, he will find the Skico in respectable shape, according to company executives.

Skico President and CEO Pat O’Donnell said the company’s out-of-state business didn’t slip as much as it did in the state as a whole. Statewide, destination resorts experienced a 5-percent decrease in visits last season.

The Skico suffered only a 4.5-percent drop, according to Chief Operating Officer John Norton, who is leaving the company this month to take the helm at Crested Butte Mountain Resort.

Aspen Mountain’s business dipped from 319,343 visits to 310,381 this season, a decline of 2 percent. Norton said opening the mountain to snowboarders kept numbers about the same.

Aspen Highlands and Buttermilk experienced modest drops in business, according to Norton. Buttermilk logged 145,683 visits, a drop of 2 percent, while Highlands notched 136,136 visits, or a loss of 3 percent.

Snowmass was the biggest loser for the Skico. Visits fell 8.5 percent from 740,241 to 676,505.

Norton said the statistics don’t tell the entire story. Traditionally about 20 percent of the Skico’s business comes from overseas markets. Not this season.

“I think our international business dropped by half,” Norton said. “It was in the tank.”

What that means is the loss from the international market was made up, somewhat, by domestic visits, Norton said.

Powder-starved locals didn’t hit the slopes as often. Norton said season pass sales were strong but locals were finicky about when they hit the slopes. Pass use “was off a little bit more than other business,” he said.

Nationally, skier and rider visits were down 5.5 percent to 54.2 million, according to Ski Country. All regions except the Pacific Northwest saw numbers fall.

Nevertheless, the 2001-02 season was the third-best on record for the industry.

Colorado’s season wasn’t close to record-setting years. The resorts classified as destination ski areas by Ski County suffered the biggest loss. They dropped 197,126 visits or 5 percent.

That category includes the Skico’s four mountains, Crested Butte, Howelsen Hill, Monarch, Powderhorn, Purgatory, Steamboat, Sunlight Mountain Resort in Glenwood Springs and Telluride.

The category of Front Range destination resorts experienced a decrease of 313,156 visits or 4.3 percent. Those areas are Arapahoe Basin, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Copper, Keystone, SolVista, Vail and Winter Park.

The Front Range resorts of Eldora, Loveland and Ski Copper saw a decrease of 11,209 or 2.1 percent.

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