Colorado skier visits down 5.5 percent last season
DENVER, Colorado – The number of people skiing and snowboarding at Colorado resorts fell 5.5 percent last season amid a travel slump, according to preliminary figures from Colorado Ski Country USA.
Despite strong results at some ski areas, the trade group said Thursday that there were 11.85 million skier visits overall to Colorado resorts last season. Visits to the group’s 22 member ski areas, which don’t include Vail Resorts Inc.’s four Colorado resorts, fell 6.9 percent last season to 6.79 million.
Vail Resorts has said it had about 5 million skier visits at Vail, Beaver Creek, Keystone and Breckenridge last season, down about 3.5 percent from 5.2 million the season before.
The results are in line with a 5.5 percent drop the National Ski Areas Association reported for the season. It said preliminary figures showed there were 57.1 million visits to ski resorts across the country, down from a record 60.5 million visits the season before.
Ski company officials had said they expected resorts within driving distance of big cities to fare better in 2008-2009.
Loveland Ski Area, about 50 miles from Denver, was among the few Colorado resorts to see skier visits rise last season. Spokesman John Sellers didn’t release numbers but said last season was the best for Loveland in its 72-year history.
“Our lift tickets, season passes and lessons are all very affordable. Our tickets are close to half that of some of the other resorts,” Sellers said.
The National Ski Areas Association said destination resorts suffered most last season, although Vail reported a 3.3 percent increase in visits and Beaver Creek reported a 1.3 percent bump up. In March, Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz said the new Epic pass that allowed unlimited access to both resorts may have been helping to boost visits.
Aspen Skiing Co. said Thursday that visits to its four mountains were down 7.6 percent from the 2007-2008 season to 1.36 million. It had expected a drop of 5 to 15 percent.
Skiers and snowboarders are already looking ahead to next season.
Vail Resorts said that as of May 31, the number of passes it had sold for next season was up 37 percent from the same period last year.
“The travel industry as a whole was put to the test this past year,” Colorado Ski Country USA President and CEO Melanie Mills said in a written statement. “But visitation numbers show not only the enduring value of a Colorado ski vacation, but the strong commitment our resident skiing and riding community has to our state’s signature sports.”
Snow usually comes and goes in this part of the state. A forecasted storm is expected to stick around for a while. Forecasters are calling for snow to persist throughout the weekend in the high country, with a prospect of a couple of feet of powder by the time the storm starts to diminish on Monday.