More people hit the slopes of Grand Mesa during the 2021-2022 ski season than ever.
Powderhorn Mountain Resort was unable to provide specific numbers, but General Manager Ryan Schramm said the resort set a record for visitation this past winter. He said visitation was about 10% higher than the previous record ski season and 25% to 30% above the resort’s 10-year average.
One of the major factors in Powderhorn’s success, according to Schramm, is the snowmaking equipment brought in two years ago. Despite some drier winters with minimal snowfall on the mesa, Powderhorn welcomes more and more visitors each year.
“We’re able to open without relying on Mother Nature to provide natural snow,” Schramm said. “We can make snow — provided it’s cold enough — and kind of guarantee a certain length of season for our guests, which is beneficial. Powderhorn is one of the last resorts in Colorado to add top-to-bottom snowmaking, so for us, that’s been a game-changer. We’ve been able to open earlier in December than we ever really have before, and that’s just set us up for really good winters.”
To accommodate the increase in visitors, the resort expanded its parking options by utilizing a nearby meadow to serve as a fourth parking lot. Schramm said this expansion proved useful on busier days, as the lots would have otherwise been jam-packed.
As figures continue to rise, Schramm said Powderhorn will look at other expansions and renovations to increase customer satisfaction, including increasing snowmaking capacity and adding and replacing ski lifts.
“Continuing to expand the reach of the snowmaking system will be key,” he said. “Adding snowmaking to more and more trails over the next few years, even out to 10-15 years from now, is going to be very important.
“We’re also looking to add another conveyor carpet for expanding the beginner area so we can teach more novice and beginner lessons and expand that existing area. We haven’t finalized the Forest Service approval yet, so it’s not necessarily a completely done deal for this coming winter, but we have ordered a new carpet lift.
“Looking at the future west-end lift replacement, the existing lift was installed in the late 1960s or early 1970s, so we’re looking to expand snowmaking and change out that lift on the west end are in the near future.”
Employment at the resort almost returned to pre-pandemic levels, but there were still obstacles, such as workers catching COVID-19 and quarantining during some of the busiest times of the season.
However, Schramm believes the pandemic created a scenario for Powderhorn in which it had more local traffic than usual, and that this helped get the snowball rolling on recent trends of skyrocketing visitation numbers without overwhelming available staff members.
“COVID, in certain ways, helped us,” Schramm said. “Maybe not this past winter, but the year prior, a lot of people just didn’t travel. They didn’t travel to go skiing. They didn’t go to a destination resort. They stuck around Powderhorn a little bit more, and that certainly helped us.”