Skier visits up 4 percent in January and February

by Curtis Wackerle, Aspen Daily News Staff Writer

Above-average snowfall has helped Aspen Skiing Co. resorts see a bump in skier visits this season through the end of February, although SkiCo is reporting smaller gains than the state as a whole.

SkiCo spokesman Jeff Hanle said skier visits — defined as one skier or snowboarder using resort facilities for any part of one day — were up 4 percent in January and February over last year, and up about 8 percent from the beginning of the winter through February.

“We built some strong momentum in November and December from all the snow” —  skier visits in that early period were up 20 percent over the snow-starved opening of the 2012-13 season — “and that momentum has carried on,” Hanle said.

Colorado Ski Country USA (CSCUSA), which represents 21 ski resorts in the state but not including hills owned by Vail Resorts, is reporting 8.6 percent more skier visits in January and February, and a 13 percent jump over last season.

With many of CSCUSA’s resorts serving day skiers from the metro Denver market, Hanle said apples-to-apples comparisons between Aspen and the statewide number are not fair.

 Chris Council/Aspen Daily News
A massive crowd descended up Aspen Mountain at the end of January following the largest snowfall in recent memory. The Aspen Skiing Co. is reporting, like the rest of the resorts in Colorado, an uptick in business this season over last.

“They get a bigger bump with snowfall from people driving up from Denver,” he said. “It’s hard to compare destination resorts” versus drive-to resorts.

CSCUSA’s announcement noted that lodging occupancy at a sampling of its resorts was up 2.9 percent in January and February — a smaller number than the overall jump in skier visits. Jennifer Rudolph, communications director for CSCUSA, credited in-state skiers with the difference.

“We have half a million active skiers in Colorado,” she said. “We are thinking that those people are doing more day trips. ... This group is quite savvy in terms of snow and traffic conditions.”

The snowpack in the Roaring Fork basin is at 127 percent of average, according to last week’s report from the Roaring Fork Conservancy.

According to Hanle, a cumulative total of about 260 inches of snow has fallen on local slopes this winter. That puts Aspen in good position to beat the 20-year average of about 300 inches of snow each winter. Aspen Mountain and Snowmass close on April 20 this year.

“It’s good to see people responding to the good snow this year,” he said.