Ski season starts slow, but outlook still upbeat

The turnout at Colorado ski resorts for the early  part of the season was down. But industry officials expect improving snow conditions to bring more business.

“We’re optimistic that some of the best skiing of the season is still ahead of us,” said Melanie Mills, president and chief executive officer of Colorado Ski Country USA, a trade association of 21 member resorts. “We are encouraged by early January numbers and spring bookings, and our resorts are looking forward to an exciting and busy rest of the season.”

The first period of the season, defined as opening day through Dec. 31, wasn’t as busy as the same span last year, with total skier visits at the 21 resorts down 11.5 percent. A skier visit represents one person skiing or snowboarding for part of one day at a resort.

“First period is largely fueled by in-state visitors. And an unseasonably warm October and November kept many Coloradans from tallying lots of ski days,” Mills said.

Timely winter weather helped improve conditions for holiday business, she added. “Snow did not arrive in earnest until mid-December. But when it came, it was in time for in-state and out-of-state guests to enjoy wonderful wintry holidays at resorts.”

And the outlook for the rest of the season remains upbeat, Mills said. “There is some real buoyancy in the indicators for the months ahead: February and March hotel bookings are pacing ahead of last year by 3.5 percent and 8.6 percent, respectively.”