Resorts see skiers numbers up as snow comes down

A ski patroller and her avalanche dog takes a snowy ride up a lift during last weekend’s storm at Telluride.

If your favorite ski resort seems little busier this month compared to earlier in the winter, there are some numbers to back up that feeling.

Since most ski areas don’t release their skier numbers until after the season, one of the few ways to judge how busy resorts are is the occupancy level at resort hotels and lodging.

Tentative figures show there’s a bit of a rebound from earlier this winter although overall numbers still lag behind last year.

Data collected by the Mountain Travel Research Program (MTRiP) showed reservations and occupancy in mountain resorts across the West edged up through Jan. 31 though remaining slightly behind last year’s low figures.

The end of January is considered an economic marker of the halfway point through the ski season and an indicator of how the rest of the year might go.

According to MTRiP, which polls 201 properties in 15 resort communities, reservations taken during January for the next six months is up 9.5 percent compared to January 2009.

That’s the strongest pace seen in the past three months, said Ralf Garrison, travel industry analyst and director of MTRiP.

“It’s nice to finally be in a position to say something positive,” said Garrison. “February and March are also looking good.”

Bookings for February are up about 2.4 percent over February 2009, Garrison said, but consumers continue to wait until almost the last minute to book and confirm reservations, which makes forecasting March and April nearly impossible.

Spring always bring more skiers as most ski resorts begin amping up special deals for the last month or so of the season.

One deal the resort can’t beat is what Mother Nature offers, and this past weekend saw most Colorado resorts post double-digit snowfall.

Powderhorn Resort led the list with 30 inches of new powder in 48 hours, edging out the 29 inches reported at Wolf Creek, which normally leads the state in snowfall totals.

The big storm didn’t seem to bother the competitors in the Subaru U.S. Extreme Freeskiing Championship at Crested Butte, where Claudia Bouvier of Vail and Griffin Post of Jackson Hole, Wyo., won their respective divisions.


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