Early snows have ski resorts seeing white — and green

Winter storms that dumped snow early and often on Colorado ski resorts helped to get the latest season off to a quick start.

Colorado Ski Country USA reported that skier visits to its 21 member resorts were up 22 percent during the first period of the 2013-2014 season compared to last year. The last numbers also topped the first-period average for the past five years by 6.7 percent.

A skier visit is defined as one person skiing or snowboarding at a resort for any part of one day. The first period of the season ran from Oct. 13 to Dec. 31.

“Riding momentum from last spring and buoyed by early season snow this fall, the season got off to a very positive start,” said Melanie Mills, president and chief executive officer of Colorado Ski Country USA, a trade association for ski resorts. “While we’ve set a brisk pace, there is still a lot of ski season left. With such wonderful conditions, we’re optimistic that the momentum will continue.”

Mills said early season snows allowed several resorts to not only open early, but also open more lifts and terrain than what’s usually available at that time of year. In addition, the snows also helped to get the word out about ski conditions in Colorado and bolster holiday business, she said.

Occupancy rates at Colorado ski resort lodging also increased.

Colorado Ski Country USA and DestiMetrics reported the occupancy rate at resort properties increased 11.6 percent during the first period of the season compared to the same span last year. Moreover, bookings for January and February increased nearly 2 percent.

“Excitement surrounding the early snow, combined with positive economic news, has prompted strong early season bookings in Colorado, said Ralf Garrison, director of DestiMetrics. “A favorable holiday experience along with forthcoming Olympic coverage could help sustain positive momentum.”