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Destination visitors going somewhere else

Now we know what the big number is – 1.23 million destination skiers. That’s how many have disappeared from Colorado the last six years, according to a confidential report that’s not so confidential anymore.

Colorado Ski Country USA commissioned the report to once and for all detail what everybody already knows – that destination skiers have been on the decline.

Main Street merchants already know this fact, even if they didn’t know what the big number was for the state. Ski resorts know it, too, but in a microcosm of their own numbers.

The Denver Post wrote about the Colorado Ski Country report because somebody leaked it. Not a bad move, if you think about it.

The Legislature will convene in January and one of the budgetary issues will be how much to fund the Colorado Tourism Office, which this year started promoting the ski resorts for the first time in 10 years.

The loss of destination visitors, in our opinion, is the No. 1 reason local businesses that feed off the ski resort economy are hurting.

Locally, day skiers from the Front Range have backfilled the loss and created a growing category of visitor, the Colorado overnight.

But it’s not the same as the weeklong vacationer, the coveted person or family that’s ready to spend, spend, spend.

Many things are attributed to the decline – low snow since the middle 1990s, Y2K, the Sept. 11 attacks and aging baby boomers – but the biggest factor appears to be a loss of business to Utah and Canada.

In a sense, Colorado lost some of its cachet.

Other factors were a gold-plated pricing strategy targeted at a demographic that seemed as if it would never subside. It did.

One reason is that many became second homeowners, and many of them are living here longer. They’re locals, if you will.

Today, ski resorts are scrambling to appeal to the young. Why not? They steer parents and they someday become the senior vice presidents who can afford their own destination vacations.

We’re pretty sure we haven’t heard the last of what this report has to say. Those who are smart will read closely, adjust and work for a better economic future.

Maybe Vail Resorts chairman and chief operating officer Adam Aron will have something to say about this at tonight’s town meeting, 5:30 p.m. at the Mountain Thunder Lodge in Breckenridge.


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