Nordic centers skate through season despite low snowfall |

Nordic centers skate through season despite low snowfall

Kimberly Nicoletti

SUMMIT COUNTY – In terms of dollars, this season’s lean snowfall didn’t impact the Nordic centers in Breckenridge, Frisco and Keystone.

However, it did cause the Breckenridge Nordic Center to close April 5, 10 days earlier than normal, and Keystone’s cross-country center to close April 9, at least a week early.

This year, snowmelt began about three weeks early, in the second or third

week of March, said Michael Gillespie, the snow survey supervisor for the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

As of April 1, Summit County’s snowpack measured 69 percent of its 30-year average. Statewide, snowpack was about 52 percent.

Vail Resorts was “cautiously optimistic” about business this season, but

after Sept. 11, “incredible amounts of families and people (were) gathering more and valuing time with family and nature,” said Jana Hlavaty, director of Keystone’s cross-country center.

Keystone’s numbers are up by at least 15 percent, Hlavaty said, though she

doesn’t yet have final statistics.

She described the beginning of the season for Keystone as “like a 100-year-old locomotive – the train was going very slowly. At first, it was swan song

until Christmas. Then it became rock ‘n’ roll until Easter.”

The Frisco and Breckenridge Nordic centers experienced a similar trend.

Gene Dayton, operator of the Frisco and Breckenridge Nordic centers, said he had predicted a slower season due to the Sept. 11 tragedy and the


But, co-operator Therese Dayton said her past experience in recreational therapy taught her that, “In hard times, the one thing people will not give up are their recreational opportunities. People love nature. They want to be with their family, in a healthful, nature-orientated setting.

Everything we are benefits those things.”

Delayed snowfall did affect business early in the season, leading the Daytons to spend $1,500 more on advertising than they normally would.

The Frisco Nordic Center couldn’t open until the first week of December, and

the Breckenridge Nordic Center opened Nov. 30, just missing out on Thanksgiving Day. Breckenridge has opened for Thanksgiving once in the last three years, while Frisco has consistently opened in December.

“When you lose the beginning of the season, you lose some of that really

intense enthusiasm, so that always hurts us,” Therese Dayton said.

The following months made up for November’s loss.

Business increased by 20 percent in December, 15 percent in January and 8

percent in March over the two previous seasons, she said. Lessons were up by 15 percent to 20 percent, and season pass sales increased by 30 percent.

The Winter Olympics had a positive impact on business, creating enthusiasm

for the sport, Gene Dayton said.

He added that the schools’ participation with the Nordic centers brought in more people because “when kids get involved, parents get involved.”

The opening of Gold Run at the Breckenridge Golf Course brought in 1,500

skiers, not including those involved in various events held at the new


The number of skier visits at Breckenridge, Frisco and Gold Run combined

were down about 12 percent from last year -from 18,500 to 16,000 – but

income remained similar to the 1995-96 season, when skier visits numbered

more than 20,000.

“We’re in a holding pattern in terms of actual dollars,” Therese Dayton said.

A $2 increase in trail passes and careful purchasing kept the centers running successfully, she said.

To offset light snowfall, the Frisco and Breckenridge Nordic centers

purchased three lightweight grooming machines this year.

“It doesn’t take as much snow as it did to make a good surface when you use

a cat that’s one-third lighter,” Gene Dayton said.

They’re also moving forward with a hydro-mulching program and rock and stump removal so less snow is required to open trails.

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