Snow falls, skier visits rise |

Snow falls, skier visits rise

Abigail Eagye

Skiers and snowboarders gave the Aspen Skiing Co. its busiest season since the record winter of 1997-98, the company said Thursday.The Skico reported a 5.7 percent increase for 2005-06, which spokesman Jeff Hanle attributed to a great snow year and improvements at Aspen Highlands.All four local mountains recorded increases, but visits to Aspen Highlands were up more than 15 percent. New expert terrain at Deep Temerity debuted last season, following the opening of Highland Bowl.Snowmass saw the most use, with 768,010 visits; Aspen Mountain had 324,468; Aspen Highlands recorded 193,244 visits and Buttermilk hade 159,081.Hanle said locals and tourists contributed to the rising numbers. Although the Skico doesn’t release details of season pass sales, he said the company “had strong increases in both season pass usage and ticket sales.”Skico’s numbers are in line with the state as a whole, which saw a 6 percent increase in skier visits and also bested the 1997-98 record. The rise in state numbers bodes well for Aspen, even if the numbers reflect a lot of Front Range skiers.”Any time kids are getting up out of the city, it’s good news,” Hanle said.Although Front Range skiers tend to make more day trips to closer areas, Hanle said, the more they ski, the more they seek out destination resorts.”We’d like to be that resort,” he said. “Destination visitors are what drive the economic engine of the town.”This is the fourth consecutive season that numbers have risen. The Skico anticipates the same kind of results as it moves ahead with more on-mountain improvements for next season. At Highlands, the company plans to add 40 acres of advanced and expert terrain by extending some existing trails in the Deep Temerity area and glading other areas toward the bottom of Highland Bowl. The start of construction of Base Village improvements at Snowmass is also under way, as is installation of the Elk Camp Gondola.Aspen Times Staff Writer Janet Urquhart contributed to this report.

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