Good snow, lots of skiers |

Good snow, lots of skiers

Dominique Taylor/Daily file photoVail Resorts has not released its ski numbers for the season, but good snow mean record visits to Rocky Mountain resorts.

VAIL ” Northeast and Pacific West ski resorts apparently had tough years when it comes to skier numbers. The Rocky Mountains, on the other hand, did quite well.

That comes as no surprise to Buzz Schleper, longtime Vail ski shop owner.

“The only place that had good snow besides us was the Northwest,” said Schleper, owner of Buzz’s Ski Shop.

Many Northeast ski resorts stayed closed in the early part of the winter because of low snowfall and mild temperatures.

“If the ski areas aren’t open, you’re going to miss that weekend traffic,” Schleper said.

There were 54.8 million ski area visits nationwide this year, down 6.9 percent from last year’s record-setting amount, according to preliminary numbers from the National Ski Areas Association.

This year’s total skier visits are 1.3 percent less than the average over the last 10 seasons. Despite the nationwide decrease, skier visits in the Rocky Mountain region increased to 20.9 million visits, a new record. That’s 38 percent of the nation’s skier visits.

The Northeast saw a decline of 6.7 percent and the Midwest’s visits dropped 5.9 percent. Skier visits in the Southeast and Pacific West each saw a drop of 16.5 percent.

“I think that what that means to the Vail Valley is that we are very fortunate to have some good snow when other areas of the nation didn’t,” said Michael Robinson, president of the Vail Valley Partnership, a regional chamber of commerce.

Vail and Beaver Creek’s snow totals were close to historical averages this year.

Eagle County hotels saw visitors who would have otherwise gone skiing in the Northeast or Europe, where there was little snow, Robinson said.

“Because the East Coast was so dry and Europe was bone dry, we did see a spike in guests who normally would go to one of those locations and came here instead,” he said.

Perhaps Vail and Beaver Creek, as high-end destinations, can be more resilient against economic downturns, Robinson said.

But the bottom line is that snow matters, he said.

“At the end of the day, we need the snow,” he said.

Schleper said he would rate this season as “great” when it comes to business.

“People know Vail is the best skiing in the world, and they’re not going to stop coming here,” he said.

Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 748-2929 or

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