Aspen ski areas and Colorado resorts show strong skier visit growth
The Aspen Times
Above-average snowfall through the winter helped Colorado ski resorts log a record season in 2013-14 and fueled strong growth for Aspen Skiing Co.
Colorado Ski Country USA announced Thursday that statewide skier visits totaled an estimated 12.6 million. That is up about 10 percent compared to the 2012-13 season and up about 8 percent from the state’s five-year average, the trade group said.
Aspen Skiing Co. logged a 7.8 percent increase in skier visits compared to 2012-13, according to spokesman Jeff Hanle.
“We had a fantastic year. One of the best we’ve ever had,” Hanle said.
Skico doesn’t release specific skier visits, just the percentage gain or loss. However, Hanle said this ski season logged in the “high 1.4 million.”
Season pass use by Skico customers was up, as was destination visits by skiers and riders traveling for overnight visits. International business was also up, although there was a shuffling among some of the main markets, according to Hanle.
Skico and Colorado Ski Country said customers were well aware of the numerous snowstorms and took advantage of the ski conditions.
“Early opening and late closing helps boost numbers,” Hanle said.
Skico gained momentum early in the season and the numbers stayed strong late into the winter. The company reported a 20 percent increase through Dec. 31 compared to the same period the season before. It was up about 9 percent through the end of February.
Skico reported a 3 percent gain in skier visits in 2012-13 compared to the prior season.
Melanie Mills, president & CEO of Colorado Ski Country USA, said in a statement that the season’s numbers show the enthusiasm for skiing.
“Seeing our visitation punch through the 12.5 million level and best our prior mark demonstrates the vibrancy of Colorado’s ski industry and the passion of our resident and visiting skiers and snowboarders,” Mills said.
Colorado Ski Country USA’s 21 member resorts racked up an estimated 7.1 million skier visits during the 2013-14 season. Vail Resorts’ ski areas aren’t in the trade group because of a feud over marketing strategy. Vail Mountain, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge and Keystone boosted the skier visit total over 12 million.
Nationwide, the ski industry saw skier visits drop by about 700,000 or 1.3 percent this season, according to National Ski Areas Association, based in Lakewood, Colo. An estimated 56.2 million skiers and snowboard riders purchased lift ticket for a full or partial day. That was down from 56.9 million in 2012-13.
Drought in the Pacific region hurt ski resorts in California. The Rocky Mountain region as a whole logged a 6.4 percent increase in skier visits, but Colorado outperformed other states in the region.
Colorado Ski Country USA said the state’s resorts performed well despite challenges such as congested traffic on icy and snowpacked roads throughout the season and “sensationalized media hype surrounding the new recreational marijuana law.”
“From the start of the season Colorado was in the national spotlight as media focused on the snow and the legalization of marijuana,” Mills said in the statement. “All eyes were on the ski industry as the two stories unfolded during the ski season.”
Good snow conditions allowed some resorts to open early. Savvy travelers were well aware of the excellent ski conditions in the state. President’s Day weekend was one of the strongest periods of the season, according to Colorado Ski Country USA.
Skico’s Hanle said the increase in business was accomplished by the actions of the community as a whole.
“We’re extremely happy. It was a great year,” Hanle said. “Everything worked in our favor.”
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