Skier numbers head downhill amid dry spell

Early 2010 visits off 4 percent from January-February 2009

Skier numbers slumped a bit in January and February, according to a ski industry trade group, due largely to a dry spell that brought fewer storms to the state’s resorts.

Colorado Ski Country USA announced Thursday that skier visits at its 22 member ski resorts declined 4 percent from Jan. 1 to Feb. 28 this year as compared to the same period last winter.

Skier visits overall are down 2 percent for the season, Colorado Ski Country USA said.

Skiers go where the snow is, and when it doesn’t snow, they have a tendency to put off ski trips for other activities.

“Snow conditions are the biggest driver of visitation,” said Melanie Mills, president and chief executive officer of Colorado Ski Country USA. “So, where conditions were dry during some important midseason weeks, we saw a sizable drop in visits.”

That coincides with the latest National Resource Conservation Service snow-survey report, which says this year’s snowpack continues to lag well behind last year’s at this time.

According to Allen Green, state conservationist with the service, the March 1 snowpack readings were only 82 percent of last year’s totals on that date.

Much of the snow that fell came in mid- to late-February. That helped boost skier numbers, Mills said.

“The combination of snow, when it arrived, and a smorgasbord of great deals really boosted visits in February,” she said.

Skier numbers were steady in southern resorts, where weather patterns were more seasonal.

However, many of the Front Range resorts, where high visitation numbers boost the state’s overall skier counts, saw less snow.

Snowpacks in southern Colorado were “at near to slightly above average snowpack totals,” Green said, while snowpacks in “central and northern Colorado remain well below average.”

Actual skier visit numbers aren’t released until after the season ends.

March usually is the year’s snowiest month, and with more than two months left in the country’s longest ski season, some resorts anticipate attracting more skiers.

Some resorts are extending their seasons beyond the scheduled closing date.

Other resorts, including Powderhorn Resort, are shifting their operating hours to take advantage of daylight saving time, which begins Sunday, and the now-plentiful snow.

Starting Sunday, Powderhorn will run its lifts from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m.


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