Ski season not as bad as feared |

Ski season not as bad as feared

ASPEN, Colorado ” The U.S. ski industry logged its fifth-best season ever, despite the recession, according to preliminary estimate by the National Ski Areas Association.The nation’s ski areas logged 57.1 million visits for the 2008-09 season, according to a report released Friday. That is down 5.5 percent from the record 60.5 million visits set the prior season. However, it is slightly higher than the 10-year average.

Over the last decade, ski areas amassed 56.7 million skier visits per season. A skier visit is the industry’s standard measure of business. It measures purchases of lift tickets and use of season passes.

“Relatively favorable snow and weather conditions in most parts of the country during much of the season provided a strong counterbalance to the challenging economic conditions,” the trade association said in a statement. “Based on resort comments, the impact of the economy varied somewhat depending on resort location and resort type. Many day-ski areas in close proximity to major metropolitan markets benefited as many guests chose to ski and ride at locations closer to home. Meanwhile destination resorts often reported fewer overnight visits and shorter stays.”

Aspen and Snowmass are destination resorts, where out-of-town customers generally take overnight visits. Aspen Skiing Co. projected before the season that its skier visits would fall between 5 and 15 percent. In mid-April, company executives estimated performance fell in the middle of that projection ” at a 10 percent drop.

Skico spokesman Jeff Hanle said it would be difficult to say the company is satisfied with its skier visits this season. But given the recession and its effect on destination resorts, Skico executives aren’t complaining.

“If you can be happy with those kind numbers in this day and age, then yeah, we are,” he said.

Generally good snow conditions locally helped ease the challenges created by the economy.

Skier visits were up 1.3 percent in the Rocky Mountain region compared to the 10-year average. Elsewhere in the country, compared to the 10-year average, resorts in the Northeast were up 5.5 percent; those in the southeast were up 3.8 percent; Midwest ski areas were down 1.1 percent; and the Pacific West businesses were down 5.8 percent.

A final report by NSAA will be issued in July.

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