No business like snow business: Colorado ski resorts report record-breaking season

Colorado ski resorts took advantage of timely and plentiful snowfalls in enjoying a record-breaking season.

According to Colorado Ski Country USA, the 21 resorts that belong to the trade association reported a total of 7.4 million skier visits during the 2015-2016 season.

That number constitutes a nearly 5 percent increase over last season and 10 percent gain over the five-year average.

“Seeing our members’ visitation overtake their previous record demonstrates the passion and dedication our guests have for Colorado’s signature sports,” said Melanie Mills, president and chief executive officer of Colorado Ski Country USA. “It also makes clear the nonstop commitment our member resorts have to providing the best ski product in the world by setting the industry standard for guest service, skier safety and quality snow conditions.”

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

Member resorts, including Powderhorn Mountain Resort on the Grand Mesa east of Grand Junction, also captured almost a quarter of the national skier market last season, Mills said. “It’s a testament to our members’ dedication to provide a top-notch guest experience from friendly employees who offer a welcoming spirit to a consistent snow surface with plenty of powder days.”

Early season storms combined with snowmaking operations allowed the Loveland and Arapaoe Basin resorts to launch the season Oct. 29.

“The season started with excellent conditions and resorts handedly delivered on skier demand fueled by buzz of a Godzilla El Nino,” Mills said of the weather pattern that tends to bring more snow to Colorado.

“Our savvy in-state skiers took advantage of the best early season conditions Colorado had in recent memory,” she said.

More snow came in November and December, which allowed resorts to open ample terrain for the holidays. Storms led to 100-inch milestones being met before the end of the year.

Despite spells of warm weather in January and February, typical of an El Nino pattern, resorts provided mid-winter show conditions complemented by sunny days and mild temperatures.

Wintery weather returned in April, adding powder days and snowpack, Mills said. “In many ways it was a story of two springs with the latter half bringing a deluge of snow resulting in resort season extensions, re-openings and bonus weekends.”