Skier visits across Aspen Skiing Co.’s four area mountains were up 3 percent in the 2012-13 season over the previous year’s numbers, while skiing across the state as a whole rose 3.9 percent.
The skier-visit data was announced Friday at the annual season-ending meeting for Colorado Ski Country USA, a trade group representing 21 resorts.
The group, which does not represent Vail Resorts properties, reported there were 6.4 million visits to its member resorts last winter. With the Vail numbers included, Colorado played host to an estimated 11.5 million skier visits, which is defined as one person skiing or snowboarding for any part of a day at a mountain resort.
SkiCo spokesperson Jeff Hanle didn’t have the exact number of skier visits at SkiCo mountains, but he said it was in the neighborhood of 1.3 million. He termed the numbers as “positive news.”
“A lot of people look at the ski industry and say, ‘Oh, you know, it’s not a growth industry and you’re going to be struggling,’” Hanle said. “This shows that snow trumps everything.”
Lackluster early-season snowfall — which caused some resorts to open late — gave way to better conditions over the holidays, followed by a classic Colorado spring with heavy snow through April. Due to strong conditions, SkiCo kept Aspen Highlands open for a bonus weekend in late April, and reopened the top of Aspen Mountain for skiing on Memorial Day weekend.
With strong domestic business over spring break, Hanle said it “felt like the good old days” in March in Aspen.
The 2011-12 season was one for the record books in terms of low snow fall. When asked why the rest of the state saw stronger business growth than Aspen in the winter that just ended, Hanle noted that skier visits were less bad in Aspen the previous winter than Front Range resorts. Aspen in 2011-12 saw skier visits drop 1.8 percent, while Colorado Ski County USA resorts as a whole were down 11 percent. Thus, the rebound appeared stronger for other resorts, he surmised.
The winter’s snow recovery also inflated national skier visit numbers, which were up 11 percent. Hanle noted that California resorts had almost no snow in 2011-12, while East Coast resorts also struggled, even compared to Colorado.
Still, the local, statewide and national numbers are seen as good news for an industry that must generate new business to stay vital and replace an aging baby boomer customer base.
“Other markets around the country showing growth is good news for us,” Hanle said. “The more skiers you develop, the more people want to come to Aspen.”