Colorado resorts’ skier visits tumble 13% through December | PostIndependent.com

Colorado resorts’ skier visits tumble 13% through December

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times

Locals Alex Golden, front, Johnny Williams, and Jonathan Ashleigh enjoy the fresh 4 inches of powder reported on Aspen Mountain on the Gentlemen's Ridge area Thursday morning.

Colorado's ski resorts paid the price for low snowfall to start the season with skier visits tumbling by double digits during the first third of the season.

Colorado Ski Country USA, a state trade association, reported Friday afternoon that its 23 members experienced a 13 percent decrease in skier visits from the same time last season — opening day, Oct. 13, through Dec. 31.

Aspen Skiing Co.'s performance for the early season wasn't immediately available Friday.

Colorado Ski Country USA's statistics don't include the four Colorado ski areas of Vail Resorts. The company doesn't belong to the state association due to a marketing strategy dispute.

However, Vail Resorts said Friday skier visits from the start of the season through the first week of January were down 10.8 percent across its 11 resorts across Colorado, California, Utah, Vermont and British Columbia.

Skier visit numbers are usually released each season by Ski Country at the end of December, the end of February and for the season as a whole. However, it never releases the actual number of skier visits.

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A skier visit is the purchase of a lift for any part of a day. It includes ski pass use. It's a common metric used to gauge ski industry business.

Aspen Skiing Co. vice president of communications Jeff Hanle said Thursday that he suspected both pass use by Roaring Fork Valley residents and lift tickets sold to destination visitors were down.

"We definitely have taken a hit," he said previously.

Colorado Ski Country USA said in its statement that ski areas across the Rocky Mountain region were plagued by prolonged warm weather in November and December. It was dry and warm temperatures hampered snowmaking.

"There was a promising start to the season in October when most ski areas received double-digit snowfall and Colorado opened for the season ahead of last year," said Melanie Mills, president and CEO of the trade group. "Unfortunately, the weather stopped cooperating and the warm temperatures in November and December kept many skiers and riders from visiting the high country."

Snowmass received about 48 percent of average snowfall in November and December.

Ski industry officials are hoping the weather pattern returns to normal so the season can be salvaged.

"There is still plenty of ski season ahead of us including the traditionally snowy months of February and March," Mills said. "We know skiers and riders are ready to enjoy powder days and additional terrain and our resorts are ready to meet that pent-up demand."