Sunlight skier numbers up 9% for 2015-16
Skier visits at Sunlight Mountain Resort this past season were up 9 percent from the previous season, reflecting a trend across Colorado ski resorts in recent years.
“We were aided by good snow conditions, an improving economy and cheap gas prices,” said Troy Hawks, marketing and sales director for the Glenwood Springs-based resort.
Sunlight started the season off strong with more than 2 feet of natural snow in November, which helped the area open early.
“That definitely helped build excitement for the season,” Hawks said. “We did see a few dry weeks in February where we saw visits from our local market dip a bit, despite having very good spring-loaded conditions during that time.”
Sunlight also had strong visits during the Christmas/New Year’s holiday and over President’s Day weekend in February.
Fortunately, the rockslide that closed Interstate 70 through Glenwood Canyon for six days happened on Monday of that holiday weekend and didn’t disrupt skier visits, although some visitors to Sunlight and the Aspen Skiing Co. mountains weren’t able to return home via eastbound I-70.
The extended highway closure did result in a few groups having to cancel their ski trips to Sunlight, Hawks said.
“The snow returned in force in March, though, and we finished the season strong,” he said, noting that Sunlight will celebrate its 50th season in 2016-17. “We’re busy making plans and are already excited for the snow to start flying again.”
Meanwhile, the trade association Colorado Ski Country USA, of which Sunlight is a member, announced last week that skier visits at its 21 member resorts totaled 7.4 million in 2015-16. That was up nearly 5 percent compared with last year’s numbers, for a new single-season record.
Skier visits this past season also bested the five-year average by more than 10 percent, making it the third consecutive year skier visits have outpaced the five-year average, according to a Ski Country news release.
“Seeing our members’ visitation overtake the previous record demonstrates the passion and dedication our guests have for Colorado’s signature sport,” Melanie Mills, president and CEO of the organization, said in the release.
Colorado’s skier visits also outpaced the ski industry nationally, which saw gains in visitation by .05 percent despite weather challenges in the East and Midwest, according to the release.
A skier visit represents a person participating in the sport of skiing or snowboarding for any part of one day at a Ski Country member resort. Hawks said that Sunlight’s individual skier numbers are not released publicly.
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Doug Stenclik and Randy Young had a feeling that ski touring — everything from uphilling at ski resorts to more adventuresome trips to the backcountry — would surge in popularity, so in 2011 they took a chance and opened a shop dedicated to the niche sport. It paid off and they have continued to grow. This winter they teamed with Aspen Expeditions to take over retail operations at the base of Aspen Highlands.