Conditions boost Skico’s sales
February 7, 2008
Great snow is helping the Aspen Skiing Co. offset a lackluster start to the
Skier visits at the Skico’s four ski areas were down about 10 percent at the
end of December compared to last season.
“We’ve been closing that gap ever since,” said company spokesman Jeff Hanle.
The deficit has been whittled down to 3 percent as of Wednesday.
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Skier visits measure purchases of lift tickets and season pass use.
“Highlands seems to be our top performer,” Hanle said. Snowmass Ski Area is
nearly even with last season while business at Buttermilk and Aspen Mountain
is down by a small amount.
The Skico was doing better than the Colorado ski industry as a whole as of
the end of December. Colorado Ski Country USA said skier visits were down
12.5 percent compared to the prior season at its 26 member resorts. The
trade association won’t release another assessment of business until later
in the winter.
Warm and dry conditions were blamed for the slow start to the season, both
in Aspen and around the state. Then it started snowing in early December and
There was a lag in business soon after the holiday hordes left in early
January, then it picked up again and has stayed busy.
“It looks as if the snow message is paying off,” Hanle said.
No information was available from the Skico on whether locals’ use of season
passes was up or down. Hanle suspects locals have hit the slopes more often
than last season and more often than most seasons ” simply because of the
fabulous conditions created by record snowfall at Snowmass in December and
January and near-record snowfall at Aspen.
It snowed on 18 days in January and on 20 days in January. There were 20
days over those two months where skiers and riders dove into four or more
inches of powder.
“I think we see a surge of pass usage on powder days,” Hanle said.
Business strong across country
Across the country, the ski industry is doing well, said Michael Berry,
president of the Denver-based National Ski Areas Association. Ski resorts in
the eastern U.S. are doing significantly better than last winter, when snow
was sparse. Some ski area operators say this season ranks in their top three
over the last decade, Berry said.
Midwest ski resorts also are doing well on the strength of a snowy winter.
Resorts in California, Oregon and Washington have an abundance of snow and
the promise of a long ski season, Berry noted.
“In the last two weeks they’ve had too much of a good thing,” he said. Heavy
snow has hampered travel.
Berry said the resorts in the “destination west” areas like Colorado and
Utah suffered from a lack of snow in November but are bouncing back strong
because potential customers are well aware of snow conditions. He believes
they will make up the loss of business from the early season.
“It’s a touch too early to say if it’s going to be a record year,” Berry
The record of 58.9 million skier and rider visits was set in 2005-06. Last
winter, there were 55.01 million skier and rider visits.
Questions remain for Skico season
The Skico brass budgeted for a “modest” 1.5 percent increase in skier visits
this season. Hanle said they haven’t altered that forecast.
They will make their projections only by aggressively marketing the rest of
the season. Some business leaders are worried about “soft” periods in late
February and early March, based on advance bookings.
The latest occupancy report compiled by the Aspen Chamber Resort Association
won’t be out until later this week. It will show how future weeks are
Bill Tomcich, president of Stay Aspen/Snowmass, a central bookings agency,
said the advance reservations through that organization have not improved
recently. Stay Aspen/Snowmass historically handles about 5 percent of
“I can tell you that here at central reservations, we have slipped further
backwards these past couple of weeks, so I am very interested to see whether
this is a trend mirrored by the properties, or if the trends we are seeing
are an anomaly,” he said.