Sunlight ski numbers take downhill slide |

Sunlight ski numbers take downhill slide

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Sunlight Mountain Resort recorded a 21 percent decline in skier days last season, a result of two main culprits: a hot, dry March and a sharp drop in season passholder ski visits.As a result, Sunlight had its lowest number of skiers since 1989, general manager Tom Jankovsky said. “We just got killed this year. We probably had our worst year in 15 years,” Jankovsky said.Despite the low skier numbers, Jankovsky said the resort could still break even for the year. In all, there were about 67,000 skier visits at Sunlight in 2003-2004, down from about 85,000 the previous season. “The Gems are down 163,000 skier days, but most of that is coming from the Front Range,” Jankovsky said. That translates to a drop of 12.5 percent from the 2002-03 season. The Gems of the Rockies is a classification of ski areas that includes Arapahoe Basin, Loveland, Monarch, Powderhorn, Ski Cooper, SolVista and Sunlight. “We’re probably about 20,000 of those,” he said. March is usually a cold, snowy month at Sunlight, enticing an average of 20,000 to 25,000 skiers during its 31 days. But unseasonably warm weather for most of the month this year lured only 15,000 visits – about half of the resort’s total plunge in visits.”We had nine inches of snow in early March, then three weeks with really warm weather,” Jankovsky said. Season pass holders also contributed to the slide. Jankovsky said ski days by people with passes were down nearly 10,000 from an average year. “When March hit, area skiers didn’t ski as much,” Jankovsky said. “Colorado skiers are more savvy. They’ll ski when there’s good snow.”Although the weather didn’t fully cooperate this past winter, Jankovsky said that considering the low skier numbers, the resort did OK financially.”The positive side is that as a company, we did a good job of managing the expense side of things. We’ll be close to breaking even and we might even make a profit,” he said. Sunlight had its best years in the late 1990s, peaking at 100,000 skier days during the 1996-97 and 1997-98 seasons. Since then, the resort’s numbers have fluctuated between about 75,000 and 95,000, finally bottoming out this past season. “It was a tough year, one of those years where things just didn’t work out,” Jankovsky said. Bad year or not, Jankovsky is looking ahead to short- and long-term improvements. A new sewer plant for the resort and surrounding homes and businesses is slated to be built this summer. “We’re building that and we’re going through the (National Environmental Policy Act) with the Forest Service for a reservoir above Babbish Gulch,” Jankovsky said. The 50 acre-foot reservoir would be used for water storage and snowmaking. Plans are also being formulated to replace one or more of the resort’s lifts. “There are long-term plans for lift upgrades and replacement,” he said. “I’m hoping that will happen within five years.”No decision has yet been made whether a high-speed lift will be in the mix. “They’d be newer for sure, but we’re not at a consensus yet if we want high-speed. That’s definitely a possibility,” he said. Also up in the air are lift ticket prices for the 2004-05 season. Jankovsky said he’ll probably release the season pass and day ticket prices in mid July. “Hopefully we can look forward to next year saying we’re up 10 or 15 percent,” he said.Contact Greg Massé: 945-8515, ext. 511gmasse@postindependent.comSkier days during 2003-04 season:Colorado: 11,212,364Sunlight Mountain Resort: 67,000Aspen Mountain: 298,831Aspen Highlands: 160,836Snowmass: 724,753Buttermilk: 139,213

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