Aspen looks to avoid another quiet March |

Aspen looks to avoid another quiet March

ASPEN – The Aspen Skiing Co. is on a mission this year to stop March madness.

The recession really took a toll on the Skico’s business in March last season. This winter the company will try to prevent a repeat by offering a discount to try to attract families during that big spring break month, according to Skico Senior Vice President David Perry.

The special package is called Kids Ski and Stay Free in March. Families that purchase a minimum of four days of lift tickets and five nights of lodging get free skiing and accommodations for kids between 7 and 12 years of age any time in March 2010.

One child is eligible for the discounted lift tickets for each adult purchasing tickets. The packages must be purchased by Jan. 15.

The Skico and its lodging partners created the Kids Ski and Stay special last winter to try to salvage late-season business. This winter they have more time to market the discount, and there is good reason to suspect consumers will respond, Perry said.

Last season, travelers stopped making reservations to Aspen-Snowmass and other destination resorts when the recession hit like a tsunami in late September. By that time, a lot of business was already booked for December and January, so those months were respectable, Perry said. But the loss of calls was reflected over the last half of the season. Business dropped in February and got worse from there.

The Skico typically logs about 220,000 total skier visits in March, according to Perry. The number dropped by about 50,000 in March 2009, he said.

For the season, the Skico’s skier visits were down 7.6 percent, or 104,000, to a total of 1.36 million.

Business was down so drastically in March because families didn’t travel as much for spring break as they did before the recession, Perry said. The discount is designed to get them thinking about ski trips again for spring break.

Even though it plans to increase its marketing budget for 2009-10, the Skico is projecting business to be flat for the season. “We’re really going to have to work hard to achieve that, in my opinion,” Perry said.

And so far, the numbers bear that out. Advance reservations are lagging behind what they were at this point last season for most of the winter. Perry said bookings should “catch up” because more people are expected to travel this winter.

The Skico also revived a discount from last season called “The Perfect Storm.” People who buy four days of lift tickets get a fifth day free and can get various discounts for ski school, equipment rentals, food and lodging. Those packages must be purchased by Dec. 1, and are valid between Jan. 5 and Feb. 9.

“We think people looking for value will appreciate that,” Perry said.

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