Aspen Skiing Co.’s skier visits down 19.5 percent but Aspen Mountain posts gain |

Aspen Skiing Co.’s skier visits down 19.5 percent but Aspen Mountain posts gain

Skiers and riders climb the stairs to the Silver Queen Gondola in Aspen on a powder day December 22. Aspen Mountain has managed to increase its skier visits through December compared to last season.
Anna Stonehouse/The Aspen Times |

Aspen Skiing Co.’s skier visits fell 19.5 percent for the season through December compared with the same period in 2016 but Aspen Mountain actually managed to show some growth, a company official said Tuesday.

The lack of natural snowfall delayed the openings of Aspen Highlands and Buttermilk in December and forced Snowmass to limp along with limited terrain. All three ski areas saw their business fall during the first few weeks of the season, said Jeff Hanle, Skico vice president of communications.

Aspen Mountain was able to open the most terrain the fastest thanks to a snowmaking system that covers more ground. Aspen Mountain offered top-to-bottom skiing from the start on Thanksgiving.

“Aspen Mountain has had a strong start,” Hanle said.

The Aspen-Snowmass lodging industry fared respectfully in December considering the slow start to the ski season.

Colorado Ski Country USA reported Friday that business was down 13 percent for the season-to-date through December compared with the same period last season. The state trade association has 23 members.

Vail Resorts, which isn’t part of the trade association, reported its skier visits from the start of the season through the first week of January were down 10.8 percent at its 11 resorts in Colorado, California, Utah, Vermont and British Columbia.

A skier visit is the purchase of a lift ticket for any part of the day. It factors in season-pass use.

The Aspen-Snowmass lodging industry fared respectfully in December considering the slow start to the ski season. Paid occupancy in Aspen properties was down 1.7 percent in December from 2016, according to a report released Tuesday by Bill Tomcich, president of Stay Aspen Snowmass, a central reservations agency. The occupancy for the month was 60.6 percent.

Snowmass properties saw occupancy fall 3.6 percent from last season. Total paid occupancy was 48.9 percent for the month.

“What is also interesting to note is that total paid and unpaid occupancy, which includes complimentary and owner stays, was down more significantly in December than total paid occupancy, suggesting there were more owners who chose not to use their units this year than last,” Tomcich wrote in his report.

The biggest decline in business occurred the week prior to Christmas.

However, the holidays were strong as always with occupancy soaring above 90 percent by Dec. 26. It peaked at 98.79 percent full Dec. 29 “marking the highest single night of occupancy ever recorded” in Aspen or Snowmass since the DestiMetrics firm started tracking it, Tomcich wrote.

Tomcich noted in his report that there was a caveat to the high holiday occupancy in both towns. There were 94 fewer rooms to rent in Aspen this season, largely because of the demolition of the Sky Hotel.

There were 53 fewer rooms to rent in Snowmass, in part because some properties had to use rooms to house employees, the report said.

Aspen and Snowmass fared better in December than many Western U.S. mountain resorts, according to DestiMetrics, which tracks occupancy and bookings trends for 20 mountain resorts.

“Many Western mountain resorts struggled throughout December with a combination of below-average snowfall and shifts in school breaks, which together caused a dip in occupancy and revenues for the month,” said a report released Tuesday by DestiMetrics, an affiliate of the company Inntopia.

Aggregated occupancy for December was down 4.4 percent at the 20 mountain towns compared with 2016. The average daily rate was flat, so revenue declined 3.5 percent in December.

DestiMetrics said occupancy for the full winter is down 0.6 percent based on reservations on the books as of Dec. 31. November and April have higher occupancy, but the meat of ski season is currently down.

The dry season is taking an increasingly bigger toll on the full season, DestiMetrics reported. Bookings made in December for arrivals in December through May were down an aggregated 14.5 percent compared with last December 2016 for arrivals over the same period.

“We’ve been tracking the lack of snowfall across much of the West with some anxiety, expecting occupancy, daily rates and revenues to take a hit as we move into the peak season,” Tom Foley, vice president of business intelligence for Inntopia, said in a statement. “And while we’ve seen a dip in occupancy figures, room rates have slipped only slightly from last month and we’re still seeing some revenue gains even in a challenging snow year.”

The picture for advance reservations isn’t as bleak at Aspen and Snowmass. Tomcich said reservations on the books as of Dec. 31 were up 13 percent from 2016 and 3 percent behind in Snowmass Village. January is strong thanks to traditional Australian business, the U.S. Grand Prix, Gay Ski Week and the Winter X Games.

Tomcich’s report also noted a slowdown in the pace of advance bookings for February and March compared with last year.

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