Snowmass Jan. 11 storm

Seventeen inches of snow in the last week at Snowmass Ski Area, shown here on Thursday, have made for a much prettier picture. Statewide, skier visits dropped 13 percent in the snow-starved first third of the ski season, through Dec. 31.

Low-snow conditions through the beginning of the winter season depressed skier visits across the state, a mountain resort trade group reported on Friday.

Skier visits were down 13 percent across the 23 member resorts represented by Colorado Ski Country USA, which include Aspen Skiing Co.-owned hills but not those under the Vail Resorts umbrella.

Colorado Ski Country USA in mid January discloses the year-over-year percentage change in skier visits for the first third of the season, which runs through Dec. 31.

SkiCo typically follows suit by releasing it’s percentage-change data, but that information was not available as of 5:30 p.m. on Friday, according to spokesman Jeff Hanle.

Ski areas across the Rocky Mountain region, including Colorado, experienced prolonged warm weather patterns in November and December that contributed to reduced natural snowfall statewide, notes a Friday afternoon press release from the trade group.

“There was a promising start to the season in October when most ski areas received double digit snowfall and Colorado opened for the season ahead of last year,” Melanie Mills, Colorado Ski Country USA President & CEO, said in the press release. “Unfortunately, the weather stopped cooperating and the warm temperatures in November and December kept many skiers and riders from visiting the high-country.”

Resorts across the state mainly relied on snowmaking to supply open terrain for the holiday crowds. Snow has been more plentiful since the first of the year, with up to 17 inches falling in the upper Roaring Fork Valley over the last seven days, according to SkiCo’s snow report.

Just in time for the Martin Luther King, Jr., holiday weekend, storms on Wednesday and Friday have allowed more terrain to open, including Walsh’s and Face, Shoulder and Ridge of Bell on Aspen Mountain, which is now 84 percent open, SkiCo reports.

More upper mountain intermediate terrain at Snowmass that was not operative, including the Big Burn and Elk Camp, is also now open.

“With weather forecasts calling for a shift in the weather pattern and snow through January, Colorado’s historically snowiest months are still ahead.” the ski country press release says. “We know skiers and riders are ready to enjoy powder days and additional terrain and our resorts are ready to meet that pent-up demand.”

Skier visits are the metric used to track participation in skiing and snowboarding. A skier visit represents a person participating in the sport of skiing or snowboarding for any part of one day at a mountain resort.