Skier visits increase for Colorado, Aspen

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times

Good snow conditions to end the winter helped Colorado’s ski industry post a 4 percent gain in skier and snowboarder visits, and Aspen Skiing Co. posted a 3 percent gain compared with 2011-12, industry officials said Thursday.

Skico was running behind last season’s numbers during the first part of the season, which was hampered by dry conditions. Skico’s business started catching up in March, according to company spokesman Jeff Hanle.

“It was really the last week of March that pushed us over the top,” he said. “It was a good recovery.”

Colorado Ski Country USA announced at its annual meeting in Denver that its 21 member resorts logged 6.4 million skier visits last season. That is an increase of 235,000 visits, or 3.8 percent, over the previous season.

“Ski Country holds that number pretty close, so a lot of people were happy when they announced it,” said Hanle, who attended the annual conference.

The four ski areas of Vail Resorts don’t belong to the state trade association. When the skier visits of Vail Mountain, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge and Keystone are added, the state ski industry logged about 11.45 million skier visits. That’s an increase of 3.95 percent over the previous season.

The ski industry across the nation posted an 11 percent gain in visits to an estimated 56.6 million, according to the National Ski Areas Association. The record is 60.54 million skier visits in 2010-11.

The story was similar for resorts everywhere. The 2012-13 season got off to a slow start, raising fears that dry conditions would result in a second bad year in a row. Snowfall was near average in January and February in Colorado, so skiers and snowboarders turned out in average numbers, according to Colorado Ski Country USA. Then March rolled around, the snow piled up, and skiers and snowboarders flocked to the slopes.

The National Ski Areas Association reported earlier that 78 percent of ski areas said they posted gains in skier visits. The median increase was 10.6 percent.

Skico started the season in a hole. Visits at its four ski areas were down 8 percent as of Dec. 31 compared with the prior season. The deficit was reduced to 2 percent by the end of February, and then came the strong March and April.

Skico was down 1.7 percent in 2011-12 compared with the prior year, so the gain this year is tempered somewhat because it is compared with a poor season.

Hanle said Skico logged about 4,000 skier visits when it opened Aspen Mountain for Memorial Day weekend. However, those numbers weren’t added to the 2012-13 total, he said. Memorial Day weekend marked the start of the summer season, when different passes were valid, so the skier visits weren’t added to the season total.


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