Aspen skier numbers down 8 percent |

Aspen skier numbers down 8 percent

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Janet Urquhart/The Aspen TimesSkiers head up Aspen Mountain's Lift 1A in sunshine Thursday morning. Skier visits are down 8 percent at the Aspen Skiing Co.'s mountains this season through February, according to the company.

ASPEN, Colorado ” Skier visits are down 6 percent at Colorado ski resorts and 8 percent at the Aspen Skiing Co.’s mountains this season through February, tourism officials said Thursday.

Aspen Skiing Co. Senior Vice President David Perry said the difference in the statewide and local figures was expected. It has been widely discussed in the ski industry this season that destination resorts ” those that rely on customers taking an overnight trip ” are faring worse than those that heavily rely on major metropolitan areas like Denver.

“We’re far from Denver. We’re a long-haul destination,” Perry said.

While many skiers in the country are unwilling to take a big trip because of the economy right now, Colorado’s Front Range residents are still driving to nearby resorts for day trips. Vacation destinations like Hawaii and beach towns in Mexico are reporting greater business losses than destination ski resorts ” sometimes 30 percent or more, Perry said.

Colorado Ski Country USA, a state trade association, reported the numbers for its 22 member resorts Thursday. All ski areas in the state belong to the association with the notable exception of the four under Vail Resorts’ umbrella.

Earlier this week, Vail Resorts reported a 9 percent increase in skier visits at Vail, and more than a 7 percent hike at Beaver Creek through January. The company reported its other ski areas had seen as much as a 10 percent drop in skier numbers. Overall, visits at Vail Resorts’ mountains were down 4.5 percent, reported the company, which also owns Keystone and Breckenridge in Colorado and Heavenly Ski Resort in California.

Aspen Skiing Co. officials anticipated a 5 to 15 percent drop in skier visits before the season started, because of the recession. Perry said the skier numbers will fall within that range, but will probably get worse than the current deficit of 8 percent.

“The economy is too powerful of a force for even good snow to counteract,” he said.

Even so, the drop in skier visits isn’t as great as the drop in sales tax revenues for December and January in Aspen and Snowmass Village. Collections are down by double digits.

Perry said the Skico’s ski school business, food and beverage revenues and retail sales at its own shops also are down by a greater percentage than skier visits.

“People are still taking their ski trips, they’re just being much more careful about what they spend,” he said. “For skiers, their ski time is not discretionary.”

Colorado Ski Country will release final numbers for the season at its annual meeting in June. Skier visits is the standard measure of business for the industry. A visit represents one person skiing or snowboarding for any part of one day.

” Scott Condon

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