LS: PEOPLE LOOK FOR DEALS, TIGHTEN BELTS TO KEEP SKIING, BOARDING

Austin Shepherd on his snowboard.



Claire Grossman, 5, can’t hide her excitement as her father Jesse and she pull a pair of skis from a rack at the Powderhorn ski swap. Claire and Jesse were shopping at the ski swap with her mother Stephanie Shrago and one-year-old little sister Kate.



Stephanie Shrago and Dave Grossman live in Colorado for the state’s outdoor opportunities, so they have no plans to abandon the slopes because of a weaker economy.

When their older daughter, Claire Grossman, 5, started skiing two years ago, Shrago and Grossman decided skiing was a recreational activity they did not want to take away from themselves or their daughters. Kate Grossman, 22 months, may start skiing this year.

“Skiing costs money, but you make it work,” Shrago said.

Ski industry professionals at area resorts hope thousands of others will follow the lead of Shrago and Grossman and make plans to ski or snowboard this winter even if family or individual budgets are tight.

“I think people live in Colorado to go skiing,” said Dylan Lewis, marketing manager at Sunlight Mountain Resort outside Glenwood Springs. “Skiing is something people shape their lives around.”

Growing up in Taos and Durango, Grossman started skiing so young he doesn’t remember learning.
Shrago’s Oklahoma family didn’t ski as often, but she remembers vacationing in Breckenridge to ski several times as a child.

When Grossman and Shrago decided to settle down, they selected Grand Junction for its proximity to ski resorts, campgrounds and mountain bike trails.

“You live here for your passion for the outdoors,” Shrago said.

It is that same passion to be outdoors that has Austin Shepherd, 22, searching for a way to afford to snowboard this winter at Powderhorn Resort on Grand Mesa.

Recently unemployed, Shepherd, 22, plans to teach snowboarding lessons a couple days a week at Powderhorn so he can get an employee season pass for free. He will have to get a second job to pay his bills, but the Grand Junction man will work multiple jobs if it means he can snowboard this season.

“What else are you going to do in the winter in Colorado?” Shepherd asked. “You might as well take advantage of what’s there. You can’t skateboard in the winter because it’s too cold. The alternative is to go up on the mountain and ride with your friends. It’s a work-life balance.”

Admittedly, Shrago and Grossman aren’t financially strained. He is the publisher of Drift, a magazine for snowkite enthusiasts, and Shrago is a family physician with Family Physicians of Western Colorado.

Still, Shrago said she is “frugal” and “hates spending money on things.”

The family packs lunches when they go skiing and shops online for discounted prices on gear.

When it came time to purchase passes, “we ran the numbers and looked for the most value out of the deal,” Grossman said.

Grossman and Shrago purchased a Powderhorn Plus Card for themselves and a $60 children’s season pass for Claire.

The Plus Card costs $50 up front per card and the card owner gets a $7 discount off individual lift tickets plus several free ski days during the season.

“We just watch for deals,” Shrago said.

Grossman said most of their friends already have purchased passes with no plans to spend the season off the slopes for economic reasons.

Some of his friends, however, have mentioned they will ski more at Powderhorn this year because it is closer to Grand Junction and more affordable than the larger resorts.

Officials with Sunlight, Powderhorn and Telluride Ski Resort, a destination about two hours south of the Grand Valley, said families are essential to their business every year.

All three resorts offer cheaper lift tickets for children as well as kids’ learn-to-ski programs.

“This is a great place to ski,” said Maryhelyn Kirwan, communications director at Telluride. “It’s a very safe place to bring kids. Without lift lines, with new terrain (opening this year), and the fact it’s so easy to get around, people are finding it the perfect place to avoid hassle for a family of four.”

During peak season, an adult single–day lift ticket at Telluride is $92. Adult single–day lift tickets are $53 at Powderhorn and $50 at Sunlight during the same peak times.

Telluride is one of the largest resorts in western Colorado with new terrain opening this year, as well as several other on-mountain improvements.

Escalating lift ticket prices at resorts are a direct response to rising operating costs in the industry, representatives from Powderhorn, Sunlight and Telluride said.

Steve Bailey, Powderhorn’s chief executive officer, said he hated to raise ticket prices, but hopes people’s loyalty to Powderhorn as well as their interest in skiing or riding will be stronger than budget concerns.

“We are in Grand Junction’s backyard,” Bailey said. “I think being a locally supported facility will be to our advantage this year.”

Season pass sales are slightly up at Telluride and Powderhorn and steady at Sunlight compared to last year, the resorts’ representatives said. Lodging reservations at Telluride are down during the holiday season compared to one year ago, Kirwan said.

Both Powderhorn (83,000 people) and Telluride (450,730) recorded a record number of skier visits last year, and Sunlight had more visitors last year than it did during the 2006–07 season, Lewis said.

Colorado also enjoyed record or near-record snowfall at most of its resorts last year, industry professionals added.

A snowstorm earlier this month dumped 3 feet on Telluride, blanketed Powderhorn and topped off most ski resorts in the state. Kirwan said people walking in Telluride’s streets were instantly excited
about the season.

Early season storms build resort visitor confidence, particularly among Coloradans, who don’t have as far to drive to ski and ride.

If it snows, people will come, said Sarah Allen, Powderhorn’s marketing director, paraphrasing a line from the movie “Field of Dreams.”

“Snowfall is the most important,” she said. “Our numbers do not trend as much with consumer confidence as they do with snowfall. We aren’t going to put all our eggs in one basket, but more than 20 years of research says snowfall is the most important.”


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