Ski industry takes a hit |

Ski industry takes a hit

The nation’s ski industry took a tumble last season, when about 2 million fewer skier visits were logged compared to the prior season, according to an estimate by an industry trade association.

The National Ski Areas Association’s preliminary tally shows that ski areas across the country recorded about 52.1 million skier and snowboard rider visits last season – about 4 percent less than the season before. There were 54.1 visits in 1997-98.

“It was really one of those years where everything was dependent on snowfall,” said Rob Linde, director of marketing for the Lakewood, Colo.-based NSAA.

Once it became apparent early in the season that many ski areas were off to a slow start due to lack of snow, expectations for a banner season waned.

“The alarm isn’t going off because everyone anticipated this,” said Linde.

Nevertheless, he noted, skier visits have been flat nationally for about the last decade. Industry officials know they have more to worry about than Mother Nature.

NSAA doesn’t break its numbers down by state, but Linde said the five-state Rocky Mountain Region dropped by nearly 1 million skier visits last season.

The region – which includes Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, Montana and Idaho – logged 18,256,000 skier and rider visits in 1998-99. Those states combined for 19,191,000 visits, or nearly 5 percent more, the prior season.

A visit is the use of a purchased or free ticket for any part of a day. It’s one of the prime business measurements used by the ski industry.

Like NSAA, both the Aspen Skiing Co. and the Colorado ski trade group acknowledge a loss in business for 1998-99.

Skico Chief Operating Officer John Norton said visits were down “less than 10 percent” for the season. The Skico was down 14.5 percent at one point earlier last season.

The Skico’s figures for Aspen Mountain, Snowmass, Aspen Highlands and Buttermilk will be released later this month.

Colorado Ski Country USA, the state ski areas’ trade association, will release numbers for all ski areas in Colorado at its annual meeting June 14.

“No records were set,” said Ski Country Communications Director Lisa Bremner.

Business was down about 5.5 percent statewide at the end of February, but it appeared to rebound slightly before the season ended, Bremner said. Still, a loss from the prior season is anticipated.

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