Colorado ski resorts report near record-breaking season

Melanie Mills
Melanie Mills

Ski resorts that belong to a Colorado trade association reported a near record-breaking season.

The 22 members of Colorado Ski Country USA reported a total of 7.3 million skier visits during the 2016-2017 season.

That’s second only to the 7.4 million skier visits during the 2015-2016 season. The latest total also comes in 6 percent higher than the five-year average.

A skier visit represents one person skiing or snowboarding for any part of one day.

“These are very strong numbers, especially considering the warm start to the season,” said Melanie Mills, president and chief executive officer of Colorado Ski Country USA.

“Our resorts continue to set the industry standard for guest experience, which is reflected in this year’s numbers,” she added.

A good season is important not only for the ski industry in Colorado, but also the economy. According to a study conducted in 2015, the industry contributes $4.8 billion annually to the state economy and supports the equivalent of more than 46,000 year-round jobs.

Mills said a warm fall kept skiers off the slopes, but heavy snows in December and January attracted record numbers of guests during the busy holiday period. The season ended with heavy snows that extended skiing at four resorts.

The latest ski season included other notable events, Mills said, including the return of train service between Denver and Winter Park. The World Cup finals were held in Aspen in March, the first time the competition has been staged in the United States in 20 years.

Member resorts also celebrated milestones, Mills said. Powderhorn Mountain Resort on the Grand Mesa east of Grand Junction and the Sunlight Mountain Resort near Glenwood Springs both marked their 50th anniversary seasons. Arapahoe Basin celebrated its 70th year in operation.

Sunlight Mountain Resort received an award from the National Ski Areas Association for its marketing campaign celebrating its 50th anniversary. The Sunny 700 was the nation’s most expensive lift ticket, but came with custom skis.

Mills said she’s looking forward to another strong season in 2017 and 2018. “Colorado’s consistently great snow conditions are a draw for in-state, out-of-state and international guests,” she said. “Colorado Ski Country USA resorts truly have something for everyone and with a family friendly environment that is second to none.”