Aspen Skiing Co. ‘clawed back’ from poor start to season; state trade group isn’t talking |

Aspen Skiing Co. ‘clawed back’ from poor start to season; state trade group isn’t talking

Paula Phillips skis down a run at Aspen Highlands on Wednesday. Aspen Skiing Co. said business has recovered somewhat since a slow start through December.
Anna Stonehouse/The Aspen Times

A trade association for the Colorado ski industry is staying tight-lipped on whether business has picked up at its 22 member resorts after a rocky start to the season.

Business was down 13 percent through December at Colorado Ski Country USA’s resorts, according to a report that was released in mid-January. Another report was scheduled for release in mid-March to reflect business performance in January and February, but it was abruptly canceled. Traditionally, the trade association would release numbers three times a year.

The organization decided it will no longer release skier visits during the season, according to Melanie Mills, president and CEO of the trade association. They will only be released after the season, coinciding with the organization’s annual membership meeting in June, she said this week in a phone interview.

“That numbers story — whatever it is, good, bad or neutral — seems to get an enormous amount of attention,” Mills said.

“We’re not going to have a banner year by any stretch of the imagination but we’ve clawed back.”Jeff HanleAspen Skiing Co.

That attention tends to overshadow the organization’s marketing initiatives, such as spring break deals and skiing conditions, she said.

Mills declined to say if business picked up for resorts in January and February.

Aspen Skiing Co., which is a member of Colorado Ski Country USA, said its skier visits have improved since the dreadful start to the season. Skico reported it was down 20 percent through December compared with last season.

“We’ve seen improvement since then,” said Jeff Hanle, Skico vice president of communications. “January was decent. February, we saw an improvement from last year.”

February was fantastic for both snow conditions and business, he later added.

March brought a mixture for business, Hanle said. The last week was strong because of spring break and with Easter falling on April 1. However, numbers were down earlier in the month because the World Cup Finals filled so many beds in March 2017.

Hanle said Skico’s four mountains would not be able to make up the 20 percent deficit from early season by the time the lifts stop spinning over the next two weekends.

“We’re moving the right direction but we’re not going to catch up,” he said. “We’re not going to have a banner year by any stretch of the imagination, but we’ve clawed back.”

He said the company will have to discuss if it will continue to release skier visit percentages during the season or follow Colorado Ski Country USA’s lead and release them at the end of the season.

The trade association previously released skier visit reports to the public three times per year — at the end of December, the end of February and the end of the season. Rather than disclose business at each individual resort, the report compared cumulative skier visits with the same point of prior seasons.

A skier visit is the purchase of a lift ticket for a full or partial day and includes use of season passes. It’s a standard measure of business for the ski industry.

Mills said the decision was made by the trade association’s staff and board of directors to stop releasing the reports during the season. Data was being collected from member resorts at the same time the Colorado Ski Country USA staff was busy promoting spring skiing.

“We asked ourselves, ‘Why are we doing this?’” Mills said, referring to the skier visit report. “We didn’t have a good reason.”

The decision was made to focus on the marketing duties and discontinue the skier-visit reports.

“There wasn’t a whole lot of deliberation to this,” Mills said.

Chris Linsmayer, public affairs manager for Colorado Ski Country USA, said that reporting skier visits after the season will be consistent with what other state ski associations do.


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