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Colorado resorts feel the pain of low-snow year

Powder days were few and far between at Colorado ski areas. PHOTO BY BOB BERWYN.

Visits at Colorado Ski Country USA resorts drop by 790,000 from last season during dry winter

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Skier visits at Colorado Ski Country USA resorts dropped by about 790,000 from last year, mainly because of sparse and inconsistent snowfall, according to industry leaders gathered for the trade group’s annual meeting.

Early snow helped some resorts open ahead of schedule, but the heart of the winter was dry, and visitation dwindled, especially during the crucial spring season, when March was reported as one of the driest winter months on record.

“Fortunately, seasons such as the one just ended have proved to be historically rare and the ski industry has exhibited a remarkable ability to bounce back after poor snow years in the past,” said CSCUSA president and CEO Melanie Mills.

The organization’s member resorts tallied an estimated 6.16 million skier and snowboarder visits during the season, a drop of 11.4 percent from last season, which was the fourth-best on record.

Compared to the five year average, CSCUSA member resort skier visits are down 11.9 percent. The decline interrupted the recovery resorts had been building since the 2008-2009 season.

Adding in skier-visit estimates from non-CSCUSA resorts, statewide skier visits for Colorado are estimated at 11,010,584 million, or down about 9.8 percent, to a total of 1.195 million, from last season.

Nationally, skier visits dropped 15.7 percent, with the Rocky Mountain region seeing a decrease of 7.2 percent.

Colorado resort leaders say the weather was the big factor in this year’s performance, as the Colorado West Slope experienced its third driest and seventh warmest winter in records going back to 1895. Precipitation across the region was 43 percent below average, and down every month of the winter.

“Much of the ski industry in the US was confronted with weather challenges last year, but several of our resorts bucked the national trend and showed signs of resilience during what was clearly an uninspiring winter,” Mills said.

A few ski areas actually saw increases in skier visits, the trade group said. The state’s resorts also saw strength in both domestic and international destination visitors which helped soften the economic impacts to resort operators and resort communities of the overall decline in visitation.

Snow finally fell in the middle of the season and several resorts broke single day snowfall totals, but at that point, many skiers and snowboarders were already convinced that conditions were less than stellar.

“We’ve had dry years in the past, and we’ll have dry years again,” Mills said. “Not every year can be a record breaking year, and with nary a snowflake in what is normally our snowiest month in Colorado, season visitation numbers are disappointing, but not unexpected.”

These numbers are preliminary results and subject to final adjustments by CSCUSA members. The decision to release individual numbers is up to each individual resort.

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