Aspen Skiing Co. strong out of the gates with skier visits | PostIndependent.com

Aspen Skiing Co. strong out of the gates with skier visits

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times
Crowds at the mall in Snowmass on Jan. 5. The holiday hordes were spread out rather than concetrated this season.
Anna Stonehouse/The Aspen Times

SKICO SKIER VISITS

1999-2000 1,324,256

2000-01 1,349,053

2001-02 1,268,704

2002-03 1,313,304

2003-04 1,323,669

2004-05 1,367,210

2005-06 1,444,802

2006-07 1,444,651

2007-08 1,407,997

2008-09 1,364,056

2009-10 1,338,210

2010-11 1,360,533

2011-12 1,336,096

2012-13 1,375,514

2013-14 1,485,544

2014-15 1,455,103

2015-16 1,521,409

2016-17 1,508,373

Average: 1,388,249

Source: Aspen Skiing Co. Sustainability Reports

Aspen Skiing Co. officials said Tuesday business is off to a solid start this season thanks to the early opening of two ski areas and an extended holiday period.

Aspen Mountain opened five days early and Aspen Highlands opened one week early. Last season, Skico struggled to open terrain in November and December.

“We’ve seen very good numbers this season,” said Jeff Hanle, Skico vice president of communications.

In addition to the early openings, business was spread over a longer time during Christmas and New Year’s Day rather than concentrated on four or five days, according to Katie Ertl, Skico senior vice president of mountain operations. That was a product of the holidays falling on Tuesdays.

Sunday, Dec. 30, was the strongest day of the holiday period. No single-day records were set, but skier visits that day were in the ballpark with the best of them, according to Hanle.

A skier visit is the purchase of a ticket for any part of the day. It includes season pass use.

Comparing skier visits for this season to last season to this point in the season isn’t valid. “The percentages exaggerate what’s happening,” Hanle said.

However, this season compares favorably to Skico’s average starts and to the start of the 2015-16 season, which also featured an early opening.

“When you look historically it’s been a strong start,” Hanle said.

Ertl’s first season as head of mountain operations came last winter, when snowfall was significantly below average. The season was widely regarded as a dud, particularly among pass holders. She said it is a lot more fun working this season for her and the mountain operations teams. Snowmaking ended prior to January, which probably hadn’t happened in the modern era, she said, and while snow might be average or slightly below, steady pulses have refreshed the slopes.

Skico officials had previously said January was looking soft while February and March were strong for advanced bookings. The hope is the good snow conditions helped fill in the “holes” this month. Skico was also running promotions. The next occupancy report is expected next week.

The entire Colorado ski industry is trying to build off the good snow conditions.

“Snow continues to fall in Colorado to kick off 2019,” Colorado Ski Country USA, a state trade association, trumpeted in a media release Tuesday.

There are plenty of wildcards to the season. Skico anticipates travel from Australia and Brazil, two traditionally strong markets, will be down because of the strong U.S. dollar.

On the other hand, the new Ikon Pass offered by Skico’s sister resort operator, Alterra Mountain Co., will have an unknown effect on business. It includes up to seven days of skiing at Skico’s four mountains. Skico officials are eager to see how much it is utilized.

“We’ll learn a lot this year,” Hanle said.

scondon@aspentimes.com