Early ski season breaks record | VailDaily.com

Early ski season breaks record

Alex Miller
NWS Blue Sky3 BH 12-20

VAIL The Colorado ski industry is on track for a banner year, with record-breaking numbers for the early season so far.The state industry trade group Colorado Ski Country USA announced Wednesday that skier visits for the early season Oct. 15-Dec. 31 were up 5.6 percent over the same period last year. The so-called Front Range-destination resorts including Vail, Beaver Creek, Copper Mountain, Breckenridge, Keystone and Winter Park fared even better than the state as a whole, with a jump of 11.57 percent over last years early season.A lot has contributed to this success, said Rob Perlman, president of Colorado Ski Country, adding that stellar early-season snow conditions are just part of the story. Weve also used some great strategy and programs in our core markets. Weve really put ourselves in position to take advantage of the (snow) conditions.

Snowfall for the early season in the north and central mountains is one of the best in the state ski industrys history. By Dec. 5, Vail Mountain had already recorded 12 feet of snow, and some areas closed out 2005 with more than 20 feet.And while the big resorts saw increased traffic over last year, smaller areas did even better, with a cumulative gain of more than 24 percent over the five-year average.Theyve done very well in understanding their place in the market, Perlman said. They better understand and comprehend how to position themselves.Reservations up In Vail, 2005 shaped up overall to be a good year based on lodging reservations. According to Ian Anderson, spokesman for the Vail Valley Chamber & Tourism Bureau, bookings through the organization for 2005 were up 22 percent over 2004.Good snow and a rebounding economy played a big part, Anderson said.Going into December our reservation numbers were behind, but we caught up and surpassed the previous year, and we attribute a lot of that to the snow, Anderson said.The relationship between good snow and reservations was obvious, he said, from the vailonsale.com Web site for last-minute lodging deals.Youd see the huge spikes and it coordinated exactly to the dates when we had big snow, Anderson said.Even with large portions of Vail Village and Lionshead undergoing reconstruction, Anderson said it didnt appear to have affected tourism. Town of Vail sales tax figures bear that out as well, with an increase of about 4 percent on the year through September.Marketing pushPerlman said Colorado Ski Country and the individual resorts have focused their attention this season on core markets.Weve looked at the places where we have the greatest amount of share, he said. We want to do a better job of owning those markets.Outside of Colorado, that means the big states of Texas, Illinois, Florida, New York and California, as well as other regions like Arizona and New Mexico, Kansas and Nebraska. Weve also ramped up efforts internationally, especially in the U.K., Perlman said.The only segment of the state ski industry thats seen a decrease so far this year is the destination category, which includes resorts like Aspen, Crested Butte, Durango, Telluride and Wolf Creek. Poor early-season snowfall in the southern part of the state is the likely contributor to that decline. Overall, the destination category saw a drop of 2.8 percent over the same period last year.Anderson noted that its going to be a long ski season, with Easter landing in mid-April. He said the chamber has seen an uptick in bookings for that month already.Were very optimistic, he said. Its been a great season so far.Alex Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14625, or amiller@vaildaily.com.Vail Daily, Vail, Colorado

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