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Sunlight skates through winter better than most

Donna Daniels

It may not have been a banner year, but for Sunlight Mountain Resort, indeed for all Colorado ski resorts, it was better than expected.

On Thursday, Colorado Ski Country USA reported end-of-the-year skier visits.

“We did a little bit better than the state average,” said Sunlight general manager Tom Jankovsky.

Skier visits for the Glenwood Springs ski area were down 2 percent over last year. Statewide, visits were down 4 percent.

Much of that downturn can be attributed to the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, which caused a widespread fear of traveling and resulted in decreased bookings at ski resorts.

But what also hurt Sunlight was lack of snow early in the season, causing it to open Dec. 1 instead of around Thanksgiving.

“We opened down 4,500 skier visits right out of the chute,” Jankovsky said. “We were 5 percent down on opening day because we didn’t have any November business.”

February and March were very strong for the resort, Jankovsky said. But lack of snowfall in April hurt.

“With 9/11 and the economy, we were very nervous, but we were pleased with the season,” he said.

Group bookings during Christmas and spring break were down 10 percent, he said.

On the up side, the resort’s ski-swim-stay package, which offers free skiing and a swim at the Hot Springs Pool for the price of a room, brought skiers into town, Jankovsky said.

For Sunlight, as for all the ski resorts in Colorado, despite 9/11, this year’s season was the third best on record.

Overall, 11.1 million skiers visited Colorado resorts during the 2001/2002 season, a decrease of 521,491 visitors over the previous ski season, Colorado Ski Country USA reported Thursday.

Destination resorts such as Aspen and Snowmass saw an average 5 percent decrease. Sunlight also is considered a destination resort.

Destination resorts such as Vail and Winter Park, popular with front-range skiers, saw a 4 percent average decline. And resorts attracting mostly local skiers, such as Eldora, Loveland and Ski Cooper, had a 2 percent decrease in skier visits.

“In light of the obstacles the entire tourism industry faced post-September 11, including travel and safety fears, a national recession and below average snowfall, we are very encouraged with how the ski and snowboard industry fared in Colorado this season,” said outgoing Colorado Ski Country USA president David Perry. Perry resigned his job this week to work for the Aspen Skiing Company, replacing John Norton.

Nationally, skier visits fell off 5.5 percent, Colorado Ski Country USA reported. All regions except the Pacific West declined in skier visits this season.


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