Skico is counting on a 10% gain in skier visits |

Skico is counting on a 10% gain in skier visits

Aspen skiwear maker Klaus Obermeyer is fond of saying that good snow makes people in the ski industry look like geniuses.

If that’s the case, then a lot of ski area operators could look really smart this season, thanks to Mother Nature.

Even before the snow started falling, Aspen Skiing Co. officials set a goal of a 10 percent increase in skier and rider visits this season. Skico Chief Operating Officer John Norton said the biggest gains can be made between Thanksgiving and mid-January.

The Skico’s skier visits were down about 7.5 percent last season. About 90 percent of the loss was suffered before mid-January because early-season snow conditions were lousy.

Last season’s loss came on the heels of an 8.5 percent drop the winter before. There’s no realistic chance of gaining all that back in one year.

“Historically, ski areas don’t increase their business by double digits,” said Norton in a recent interview. “Five to 10 percent is regarded as strong growth.”

Since Aspen’s ski areas have received a record amount of snow for November at the midpoint of the month, there’s reason for optimism.

“We’re pretty bullish right now,” said Norton. “All those lines are sizzling.”

He referred to calls coming into Aspen Central Reservations, Snowmass Village Resort Association, the Skico’s ticket offices and private ski tour operators. Calls “have taken a quantum leap” since national coverage of heavy snows in the Rockies began earlier in the month, he said.

Reservations for Thanksgiving and the month of December “didn’t look great” about two weeks ago, but have improved significantly, he said.

Even though the Skico spends hundreds of thousands of dollars on marketing – the company won’t release an exact figure – snow conditions still make or break a season’s performance.

“Hardcore customers will always come, but 20 to 25 percent book within a couple of weeks of their vacations,” said Norton. Those people often wait to check snow conditions.

Locals apparently gambled on good snow this season. Norton said season pass sales are up, although he wouldn’t say by how much. Locals have suffered through two years of poor snow conditions.

“The local community was betting it couldn’t happen three years straight,” Norton said.

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