Ski resorts: Slight increase in visitors

Colorado’s ski resorts hosted an estimated 11.86 million skiers and snowboarders during the 2009-10 ski season, an increase of less than 1 percent over last year, according to Colorado Ski Industry USA.

The numbers include the 22 member resorts and the four Colorado ski areas owned by Vail Resorts Inc. which is not a member of the trade group.

The slight increase in skier visits was welcome, said Colorado Ski Country USA President and Chief Executive Officer Melanie Mills, in light of a slow rebound to the leisure travel industry and a weak midseason snowpack.

“We’re pleased visitation is up even if only by a nose,” said Mills, noting the 22 member resorts were up 0.4 percent, or approximately 29,000 visits, over the previous year. “We held our own in attracting the destination skier, and even with the challenges the travel industry still faces, we found that several indicators are moving in the right direction.”

Vail, as part of its third-quarter earnings report, said skier visits last winter were up 3.7 percent over the previous ski season, while the company’s Heavenly Resort in California saw a 9.8 percent increase.

Telluride Ski Resort, blessed with more than 300 inches of snow last winter, tallied a record 454,257 skier visits, an 8.3 percent increase over the 2008-09 season.

“Our increase in numbers this season can be directly attributed to exceptional snowfall,” Telluride CEO Dave Riley said. “Winter vacationers naturally chose Telluride as their destination of choice due to great skiing and boarding conditions.”

Skier numbers for Powderhorn Resort were not available Friday.

Aspen/Snowmass reported a 4.3 percent increase in skier visits during the 2009-10 winter over the previous season.

“We still have a long way to go to dig out of this recession, but it is encouraging to see improvement over last year,” Aspen Skiing Company Vice President David Perry said.

The company did not release total skier numbers or numbers for the four individual Aspen resorts, a change from previous years.

Mills said Front Range and other in-state skier numbers were down slightly, while visitation by out of state and international guests increased.

She noted snowfall last winter was down 26 percent from the previous year, a key factor in attracting in-state skiers who base their ski trips on who has the most snow.

International visits to Colorado Ski Country USA members were up approximately 6.5 percent, ahead of the 1 percent gain in international visits seen by other Rocky Mountain region resorts, Mills said.

Still, Colorado failed to keep pace with the national and regional numbers.

According to the National Ski Areas Association, the nation saw its second-best ski season ever with 59.7 million skier ski visits, a 4.2 percent increase over the previous year.

The record of 60.5 million skier visits was set during the 2007-08 season.


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