Ski industry woos younger generation in hopes to boost numbers
SUMMIT COUNTY – War, a slow economy and reduced traveler confidence coupled with fickle weather in 2004 to challenge local ski areas trying to capture a larger piece of the skier number pie.Nationally, skier numbers continued to climb slowly – up to an average 57 million skiers from 52 million in the 1980s and 1990s, but local areas reported across-the-board declines of 5-12 percent for the 2003-2004 season.The decline in skier numbers was blamed in part on an unseasonably warm March, when a week of 60-plus-degree days kept Front Range skiers away and melted much of the snowpack.Resort officials were optimistic about the future of the industry, however, and recognized that growth is likely to occur in youth. Snowboarders continued to represent about 30 percent of the market, but up to 60 percent of new sport entrants are riding their sticks sideways, according to the National Ski Areas Association.In attracting the younger generation, the resorts continued to host park and pipe events and installed more rails for the latest type of fancy trick-making. Smaller terrain park venues popped up next to the huckers so that newcomers to the sport could give the high-flying tricks a go.It’s all in an effort to woo the kids, and Copper Mountain in October announced it would make a hug effort to do so by hosting the Gravity Games in March 2005.A six-year price war between Intrawest and Vail Resorts continued as season passes still cost less than $300. Copper upped the ante when it announced a $69 price for four lift tickets, bringing the price for a day of skiing down to less than $18.The low-cost season passes and four-pack deals continued to bring hoards of Front Range skiers and riders to local slopes, and resort officials renewed efforts to embrace the urban denizens.Keystone Resort was the sole local area to open new terrain in 2004 with the February launch of snowcat tours in 861 acres of back bowls. Shortly after the opening, Little Bowl was renamed Bergman Bowl in honor of a resort founder, Bill Bergman.With the 2003-2004 ski season behind, Vail Resorts suffered through a monthlong rumor of its sale, perpetuated by newspaper stories that reported unconfirmed evidence of a sale, based on torrid trading in the company’s stock.Company chairman and chief executive officer Adam Aron deflected the rumors that fizzled by August, by refusing to comment on sale speculations.The ski industry lost a pioneer in June when Olav Pedersen, a long-time Summit County resident, coach of the blind U.S. Ski Team and a founder of the Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center, died at the age of 87.The 2003-2004 ski season opened first at Loveland Ski Area in m,id October. The ski area won a friendly two-year competition with nearby Arapahoe Basin to be first. A-Basin was working its snowmaking system that was credited for an additional 50,000 skiers the prior year, but was unable to beat Loveland to the punch.Breckenridge started the season shortly after an announcement of the planned Peak 8 Summit Lift, a $4 million project still under public scrutiny that would provide lift-accessed skiing in 500 acres that are currently accessed by an above timberline hike. The proposal came under some outcry as locals voiced a desire to preserve some hike-to-only skiing at the resort.The season also opened with modifications to the Colorado Skier Safety Act that had been approved in the spring. Skiers and riders saw new signs in terrain parks and near cliffs to denote extreme terrain.As the 2004-2005 season churned on, several foot-deep dumps – in September, November and December – prompted locals and ski area officials to dare to hope the five-year drought might be ending. Kim Marquis can be contacted at (970) 668-3998, ext. 249, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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