State resorts see 10 percent bump in skiers

There’s nothing like November snow to get people excited about skiing.

Thanks to abundant early-season snow across much of the state, Colorado ski resorts are reporting a 10 percent increase in skier visits for the first part of the 2010–11 ski season.

Those numbers are for the 22 members of Colorado Ski Country USA, an industry trade group.

Similar numbers were reported by Vail Resorts Inc., a privately held company that isn’t a Colorado Ski Country member. Vail reported a 10.1 percent jump in skier numbers through Jan. 6 on its investors’ website.

“Getting early-season snow as bountifully as Steamboat had during November is really important for skiers planning holiday vacations,” said Loryn Kasten of Steamboat Ski Resort. “We had record snowfall in November, and that’s certainly something skiers look at when deciding where to ski.”

Steamboat received 90 inches of snow in November, and as of noon Wednesday the resort’s midmountain season total had climbed to 223.5 inches.

Not all resorts enjoyed as much early snow because storms this year generally have been tracking north because of the La Ni&#241a conditions resulting from cool water in the South Pacific.

However, the snow arrived at all resorts in time for a successful holiday season and a very good January.

Although resorts are reluctant to release exact skier-visit numbers, spokeswoman Sarah Allen said Powderhorn Ski Resort has shrugged off a late opening to post strong numbers compared to last year.

“We started a week late, but now we’re showing a real good trend,” Allen said. “Our skier days over 12 of the last 14 days have been higher than those from the same period last year.”

Colorado last year attracted an estimated 11.86 million skiers, said Jennifer Rudolph of Colorado Ski Country USA. That includes the four Vail resorts of Vail, Beaver Creek, Keystone and Breckenridge.

Without those, the state drew an estimated 6.74 million, an increase of 0.8 percent over the prior year.

“When we get early snow, it really helps us get the word out that Colorado is the place to ski,” Rudolph said. “Having those great early-season storms is our greatest marketing tool.”

Melanie Mills, president and chief executive officer of Colorado Ski Country USA, said the early snow and strong skier visits have resorts anticipating a strong spring as the state enters what historically is the snowiest period of the winter.

“There is a lot of ski season left, but we’ve set a good pace, have great snow conditions and hope the momentum continues,” Mills said.



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