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Ski resorts set record pace

Jon Maletz
A holiday crowd gathered at the gondola at Aspen Mountain, helping the resort post a 5 percent jump in early season skier visits. (Aspen Times file)
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Aspen’s ski mountains helped Colorado resorts set a new early season record for skier visits even though numbers dropped at other destination resorts in Aspen’s category.

The four Aspen Skiing Co. resorts collectively reported a 5.1 percent increase so far this season, which is on par with the state average, according to figures Colorado Ski Country USA released Wednesday.

“It’s great to look at the Front Range resorts and see big growth as a result of local snow-driven excitement,” Skico spokesman Jeff Hanle said. “When we look at where our biggest growth is, we see that our destination business is booming.”

From opening day on Oct. 15 through Dec. 31, Colorado resorts hosted more than 3 million skiers, according to Colorado Ski Country USA. That is 5.17 percent ahead of the same point last season, 10.9 percent ahead of the state’s five-year average and on pace for a record season.

“This record pace clearly established critical momentum for a successful ski and snowboard season in Colorado,” Colorado Ski Country USA President and CEO Rob Perlman said in a release.

The so-called Front Range destination resorts – Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Copper Mountain, Keystone, Vail and Winter Park – led the way with a 10 percent increase from last season. With skier visits totaling more than 1.85 million over the period, the resorts are 191,852 skier visits ahead of the five-year average.

However, the state’s destination resorts – Skico’s four mountains, along with Crested Butte, Durango, Howelsen Hill, Silverton Mountain, Steamboat, Telluride and Wolf Creek – had a 2.8 percent drop in skier visits when compared with last season.

There is a clear cause, Hanle said. Poor snow conditions have given many resorts in the southern part of the state an “unfortunately tough start to the season.”

Skico resorts managed to escape with record snowfall and another successful holiday season.

A comparison of skier visits during the 12-day period from Dec. 22 to Jan. 2 this season and last revealed a 10 percent increase, Hanle said last week. Buttermilk even set a record with 3,163 visitors on Dec. 28. The mountain’s previous high of 3,006 came on New Year’s Eve 2003.

The valley has benefited from strong early-season snow conditions. More than 13 feet of snow has fallen since opening day on Thanksgiving. Snowmass’ mid-mountain base depth is currently 133 percent of its five-year average; December snowfall was 171 percent of the average for the past eight years.

With advance hotel bookings outnumbering those from last season – and promising early skier-visit numbers – there is reason for optimism, Hanle said.

The small “Gems” and Front Range resorts, including Arapahoe Basin, Eldora, Loveland, Monarch, Powderhorn, Ski Cooper, SolVista and Sunlight, also set a record for skier and snowboard visits for the second straight season, according to Colorado Ski Country USA. The resorts hosted an all-time best 404,345 visitors during the first period last season; the number increased by nearly 3 percent this season.

Jon Maletz’s e-mail address is jmaletz@aspentimes.com


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