Skier numbers expected to be up, thanks to snow | AspenTimes.com

Skier numbers expected to be up, thanks to snow

Steve Benson

If it snows, they will come. The Aspen Skiing Co. will release figures on skier visits to Aspen/Snowmass through February later this week, and it believes those numbers will be up over the same period last season. “Things are trending good, and we’re looking forward to March, it’s the busiest time of the year,” Skico spokesman Jeff Hanle said. “Reservations in town are strong, and we’re excited about the potential.” As for how visits will stack up to last season, Hanle said, “It’s hard to tell, but we’re right in there if not better.” Through December, skier visits in Aspen/Snowmass were down 1.4 percent compared to the previous season. The Skico attributed that decline to a huge early season in 2003-04 and a high pressure that dominated much of December 2004. “Very few locals were going up in December with the little snow,” Hanle said at the time. Bill Tomcich, president of the central reservations business Stay Aspen/Snowmass, said they’re having a banner year. “We’re so far up I don’t even want to go into specifics,” he laughed. Aside from the snowpack, which Hanle said is about 35 percent above average compared to the last five years, Tomcich said Stay Aspen Snowmass has made some changes this season to boost reservations. Most of the improvements are technology driven, such as the business’ website – http://www.stayaspensnowmass.com – which now has an airline component comparable to, and competitive with, major travel sites like Expedia, Travelocity and Orbitz. “That’s clearly creating more demand,” Tomcich said. Stay Aspen Snowmass can now also track availability instantly through an automated system, instead of manually, which means last minute bookings can be done quicker and more effectively. “That has helped us increase the supply side,” he added. Tomcich said having an outstanding year is not just good for the immediate future. He said it will prove beneficial for several years to come. “The momentum of bad years takes several years to recover from,” he said. “And the momentum from good years can carry us for some strong years to come.” Judging by the bookings, the week of March 19-26 appears to be the busiest of the month, but there’s still some availability. Hanle said March is normally the biggest month of the season due to a variety of circumstances – the base is typically the deepest of the season to date, it’s normally the biggest month for snowfall, and schools are on spring break. “All those factors make us very optimistic,” Hanle said. Of course, there’s still that ugly monster known as a high pressure system that could make an unwelcome appearance. Last season, a prolonged high pressure shot temperatures in Aspen into the 60s for several days, ate up the snowpack like an ice cream cone in July, and caused several vacationers to make alternate plans. But Dan Zumpfe, a meteorologist with the National weather Service, said long-term models indicate March precipitation will be near normal, while temperatures could be slightly above average, as they have been all winter. The southern part of the state could see above normal precipitation.Steve Benson’s e-mail address is sbenson@aspentimes.com


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