Weather blamed for skier decline
SUMMIT COUNTY – Warm spring weather was blamed for a 4.26 percent decline in skier visits during the 2003-04 season at Colorado’s Front Range destination resorts. The figure includes the three largest of Summit County’s four ski areas.Colorado Ski Country USA, a trade and marketing organization, released the numbers Thursday.”When the weather’s not working in our favor (Front Range skiers) are very savvy about it,” said Copper Mountain spokesperson Jamie Wilson.Research indicates state residents who watch weather patterns more closely than out-of-state skiers act as a conduit for information, and at times book vacations on behalf of out-of-state visitors. The influence might have impacted Summit County’s destination business.”Half of overnight visits by Front Range residents include visitors from out-of-state on one of their trips to the mountains,” said Ski Country president and chief executive officer Rob Perlman. “Also, with the trend of shorter booking cycles, the word of warm weather definitely affects bookings.”This year, Denver recorded its driest March since 1872.The weather was a premium topic of conversation when mercury levels started hitting the 50’s in mid March. With mid-mountain snowpacks in the 40-inch-plus range, ski resorts cranked up snowcats on longer shifts to deal with bare spots on crowded spring slopes.Intrawest Corp. blamed the warm March weather for the decrease in skier numbers at Copper Mountain. Visits to the company’s Western resorts were reported in April to be down 6 percent, yet the company had a better year at Winter Park. “Winter Park had better snowfall than Copper this year,” Wilson said. “It definitely contributed to their season.”Season passholders who buy the Rocky Mountain Super Pass from Intrawest can choose between Copper and Winter Park.For the first time in seven years, the state posted an increase in the percentage of skiers from out of state. It rose from 58 to 60 percent. International visits were up 10 percent.Since Colorado skiers started purchasing buddy passes at deep discounts, area businesses worried about disappearing destination visitors who spend up to five times more than season passholders. Day skiers don’t shop, stay or spend, the business community said, urging more focus on marketing to destination travelers. “It’s great to see these numbers are up in Colorado,” Wilson said. “We continue to build and expand on that demographic.”Wilson said competitive lodging rates and continued development of the base areas at Copper will attract more destination visitors.Skier numbers from Vail Resorts are expected next week during the company’s third quarter earnings report. Spokesperson Emily Jacob said the company is in a “quiet period” under Security Exchange Commission regulations and would not comment until Monday. Statewide, skier numbers were down 3.4 percent. Colorado hosted 11.2 million skiers during the 2003-04 season, or 20 percent of the nation’s skier days. The season started on a slower pace than usual with December skier visits 9 percent behind the prior year. By February, Colorado caught up and was only 1 percent behind 2002-03 before the heat wave hit in March.
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