Dreams of winter: Skier days go up most in 30 years

Big snow and great spring weather brought Colorado a 3.8-percent jump in skier days, reflecting a trend seen nationwide during the winter of 2012-2013.

Something to help keep you cool during the last hot days of summer: Skier and snowboarder visits last winter showed the biggest year-over-year gain in 30 years.

Wipe the sweat off that iced tea and read on. According to the National Ski Areas Association, a ski-industry trade group, U.S. ski areas countered a slow start to winter to register an estimated 56.6 million skier and snowboarder visits during the 2012-13 season.

That’s an 11 percent gain over the previous winter and gave the entire industry a boost closer to what are considered typical visitor numbers.

Closer to home, Colorado skier numbers were up 3.8 percent, not great but positive and better than the overall Rocky Mountain Region, which reported a 1.9 percent gain.

Powderhorn Mountain Resort reported a 3 percent jump in visits, rebounding from a delayed opening to where the resort had enough snow to reopen for an extra weekend in April.

“It was an interesting year,” Powderhorn General Manager Daren Cole said. “Great preseason snow in November, and then it cleared up and delayed our opening. And then in late December and early January it picked up again, and we had great snow throughout the season.”

So great, in fact, that for most of the winter Powderhorn was among the state’s top three or four resorts in terms of snowfall. According to the trade group Colorado Ski Country USA, the group’s 21 member resorts hosted an estimated 6.4 million skier visits during the 2012-13 ski season. This represents an increase of approximately 235,000 skier visits over the previous season.

Add to that total the 5 million or so visits at Vail Resorts-owned ski areas (Vail, Beaver Creek, Keystone, Breckenridge) and the statewide total hovers close to 11.4 million.

“We are very pleased with where we ended up for the 2012-13 season and are thrilled to see such a strong recovery trend for both Colorado and the ski nation,” said Melanie Mills, president and CEO of Colorado Ski Country.

The entire state lagged early in the season, as the same dry spell that caught Powderhorn stalled openings at several resorts.

The season ended with the expected Colorado flourish: Nonstop storms and plenty of lifts and terrain open until the last day.

The commitment to reopen for one extra weekend proved the community was eager for more skiing and riding, Cole said.

“We had great community support, and I think our numbers were higher that weekend than for the closing weekend,” he said. “I don’t know if it was the first time ever Powderhorn reopened, but it was the first time in recent memory.”

Cole said the resort initially closed “with a 60-inch base and reopened with 70-74 inch” midway base.

“A lot of people wanted us to open the next weekend, too, but once the snow started going, it went fast,” he said.


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