Association: Ski season visits top five-year average

Business at 21 ski resorts that belong to a Colorado trade association fell just short of a record-breaking season, but still topped the five-year average.

Moreover, the above-average number for skier visits defied what was below-average snowfall.

“Overall, Colorado Ski Country had a very strong season, which is great news for the Colorado ski industry. We’re buoyed by this season’s strong numbers and are hopeful this momentum continues,” said Melanie Mills, president and chief executive officer of Colorado Ski Country USA.

The 21 resorts in the association, including Powderhorn Mountain Resort on the Grand Mesa east of Grand Junction, reported a total of 7.1 million skier visits during the 2014-2015 season. That’s about a half of a percent less than the record-breaking total for the previous season, but 6.5 percent more than the latest five-year average. A skier visit represents one person participating in skiing or snowboarding for any part of one day. 

Because ski resorts that don’t belong to the association declined to report their numbers for the latest season, no statewide total is available.

“We’re thrilled with this year’s numbers, especially in a season that saw snow totals that were 36 percent below the 10-year average during the core of the ski season,” Mills said.

Colorado ski resorts benefited from improving state and national economies, strong season pass sales and increased early season bookings, Mills said.

While snow totals were down, Colorado resorts offered more snow than resorts in other areas, some affected by drought conditions. Colorado resorts account for 22 percent of the national skier market.

“Not surprisingly, we saw an increase in the destination visitor sector, a reduction in in-state visits and widespread gains in skier spending across all categories,” Mills said.

The numbers for ski schools were especially strong, Mills said, with increases in lesson volume and revenues.

Early season snowfalls and snowmaking allowed some resorts to open in October, although warm temperatures delayed openings at other resorts. Snow conditions improved in December.

“Our in-state skiers, who usually populate the slopes early in the season, didn’t really start skiing until temperatures became more in line with winter,” Mills said. “Snow didn’t come in earnest until mid-December, and that’s when the pendulum swung the other way and we were fortunate to have good snow conditions and cold temperatures over the popular holiday period.”