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Colorado: Mid-season skier visits down a smidge

Cold snaps, transportation woes cited as possible factors in small decline

Good snow conditions prevailed across much of the country in mid-winter, possibly resulting in fewer destination visits to Colorado.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Skier visits in Colorado dipped a fraction during the first couple of months of 2011, but remain ahead of last-year’s to-date totals by 3.4 percent, according to a tally released March 18 by Colorado Ski Country USA.

In a press release, the trade group said a couple of cold snaps during key weekends and transportation issues including I-70 congestion may have been factors in the small drop. Snow conditions in other parts of the country have also been very good this season, which sometimes translates into fewer destination trips to Colorado.

For the Jan. 1 to Feb. 28 period, skier visits were down .75 percent from the same period last season at the trade group’s 22 member ski areas. Continue reading

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Skiing: SIA Snow Show set to start in Denver

This year's SIA snowsport trade show in Denver includes downtown events, as well as demo days at Winter Park.

Officials expecting 19,000 delegates at the downtown convention center; post-show demo days set for Winter Park and Devil’s Thumb Nordic center

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Denver and Colorado will stake another claim to being the country’s winter sports headquarters with the Jan. 27 opening of the  SIA Snow Show including a bell-ringing ceremony by Gov. John Hickenlooper and and Denver Mayor Guillermo (Bill) Vidal, 8:30 a.m. shaprt in the Colorado Convention Center lobby, 14th and California Street entrance.

If you’re on Twitter, you can follow SIA here and at the #SIA11 hashtag.

The SIA event will bring more than 19,000 delegates to the Mile High City. Now in the second year of an 11-year run, the show is expected to result in $30 million of economic impact to Denver. Surrounding the show,  running from Jan. 25-30, is “Mile High Snowfest,” a citywide celebration of all things snow with more than 30 events and activities for locals and visitors, including the first-ever Denver Big Air Competition. Continue reading

Vail going big with on-mountain social media app

Vail to launch nw social media app for tracking ski stats and connecting with friends.

Tracking stats and sharing them is at the heart of the new EpicMix pachage

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Vail Resorts this week launched a new integrated social media app that could become the virtual equivalent of the apres ski lodge, as a place to share stories about a day on the slopes.

EpicMix will track skiers and riders on the company’s five mountains via radio-frequency scanners installed on lifts. The scanners  read chips embedded in passes to calculate vertical footage and other on-mountain stats. That information can then be shared via Facebook and Twitter.

The mobile application will work across the company’s five resorts: Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone and Heavenly Valley, in California. The app will go live when Keystone opens just a little more than two months from now, on Nov. 5.

The app will enable guests to send messages to their private groups of Facebook friends on the mountain and will alert guests when any of their Facebook friends are skiing and where they are on the mountain. Guests will be able to create special EpicMix leader boards with their Facebook friends and get grooming updates, snow and weather reports, as well as resort news and traffic information. Continue reading

Powder and politics in Colorado ski country

A telemark skier enjoys some late-season powder at Arapahoe Basin.

A telemark skier enjoys some late-season powder at Arapahoe Basin.

Annual ski trade group meeting features all of the major candidates running for governor

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — This year’s annual Colorado Ski Country USA meeting will have a political focus, as all the main candidates — John Hickenlooper, Scott McInnis, Jane Norton, Ken Buck and Andrew Romanoff — are  scheduled to speak at the June 9 – 10 confab at the Denver Convention Center.

The meeting also features a presentation by Rocky Mountain regional forester Rick Cables on the ongoing pine beetle issues that are affecting Colorado’s ski resorts, most of which operate on public national forest land, as well as a panel discussion on the airline industry and a talk on why loyalty matters, by Luke Williams, director of financial services for Ipsos Loyalty. The traditional awards dinner on June 10 will recognize Colorado’s top ski industry pros, including instructors, patrollers, groomers, snowmakers and athletes.

The trade group generally announce season skier visit totals at the meeting. Skier visits were up in the early season, then dropped by about 4 percent during January and February, according interim reports from the ski industry trade group. Continue reading

Vail buys out remainder of Specialty Sports Venture

A skier at Arapahoe Basin, in Summit County, Colorado.

A skier at Arapahoe Basin, in Summit County, Colorado.

SSV’s retail offices to consolidate in Vail’s Broomfield headquarters

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Anyone remember Gart Sports Castle? The name may live on, but an era of sports retailing ends in Colorado this week, as Vail Resorts announced it will buy, for $30 million, the remaining 30 percent interest in what was the joint retail operation known as Specialty Sports Venture.

The deal is expected to close April 30. The acquisition by Vail of the remaining interest was contemplated under the 12-year joint venture agreement between the two parties, according to a press release from Vail Resorts.

Tom and Ken Gart will be leaving their leadership positions with Specialty Sports Venture. Current executive vice president and chief operating officer Kat Jobanputra will take over leadership of the company and will relocate to the Vail corporate headquarters in Broomfield at the end of the summer.

Read a Denver Post story about Vail Resorts’s retail strategy here.

Continue reading

Colorado ski areas holding their own in tough times

State ski group reports 1 percent increase in skier visits for early season; group and international business helped resorts

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — Not counting skier visits at Vail Resorts’ four mountains, the 22 members  of Colorado Ski Country USA reported a 1 percent increase in business from last year during the first part of the season, between Oct. 7 and Dec. 31, 2009.

Colorado ski areas were especially busy during New Years week, according to the trade group, which said that skier visits were up by 1 percent compared to the similar period last year.

The preliminary tally is good news for the state ski industry, still feeling the pinch of the ongoing recession, as well as the effects of spotty snowfall so far this season.

“It’s a solid start,” said CSCUSA president and CEO Melanie Mills. “However, we still have a long way to go with a lot of season left. For now, we’re glad to see a little momentum in the way of increased visitation and are hopeful it will continue.”

Continue reading

Real estate tax revenue down in Frisco, Breckenridge

Frisco from the air, courtesy Google Earth.

Real estate slump takes bite out of towns’ revenue

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — The two-year slump in High Country real estate sales has cut into Frisco’s revenue stream, but strong reserves will enable the town to move ahead with some capital projects this summer.

Even though revenue from Frisco’s real estate transfer tax dropped by 30 percent from last year, the town still took in more money than it budgeted for, said town manager Michael Penny.

The latest available figures don’t include final numbers from December, but the preliminary tally for 2009 shows revenue of $504,043 from the town’s real estate investment fees, down from $752,688 last year, but over budget.

The year to year declines are even more startling going back to the record numbers of 2007, when Frisco reaped almost $1.49 million from its 1 percent transfer fee. Penny said the town doesn’t expect to get back to that level until 2015. Continue reading

Mountain News Roundup

A colorful sunset at Loveland Pass, Colorado. PHOTO BY BOB BERWYN.

Weekly headlines and links from the mountains of the world

Compiled by Bob Berwyn

Routt housing bust?

Steamboat Today reported on the 2008 collapse of the real estate development market, publishing statistics from the building department showing that only eight single-family home building permits were issued. The combined value of the construction — for permitting purposes — was $6.4 million. Get more details by reading the full story here.

Also on Steamboat Today is an interesting feature story about a local photographer, Jim Steinberg, who has been hitching across the Western U.S. and documenting the trip with his camera. See a map of his trip here, and read the story online here.

Epic Sierra storms

The Mammoth Times is reporting on how the eastern Sierra town is bracing for what could be an epic series of storms expected to roll through the Sierra Nevada this week. The story also highlights forecasts calling for above-normal precipitation in the region through March.

Continue reading

Ski deal: 21 resorts for $99 with 6th-grade passport

Summit County skier Dylan Berwyn carves up a steep gully at Loveland courtesy of Colorado Ski Country USA's free fifth-grade ski passport.

$99 ski pass helps with quest for powder and perfect chili-cheese fries

By Bob Berwyn

When Dylan and I started shifting seasonal gears last April, the snow was still falling.  But we started focusing on tossing baseballs and practicing a hands-free move on his new Pogo stick. While we enjoyed more than few good spring sessions at A-Basin, we often talked about the season in the past tense.

It was a good one for us. Dylan had a fifth-grade passport, courtesy of Colorado Ski Country USA. The pass offers three days of free skiing at each of the 21 member resorts in what has to be one of the best deals in skiing.So the plan at the start of the season was to ski as many of Colorado’s areas as possible. We knew we probably wouldn’t be able to ski them all, but we had a great time trying.

Our season started, as it always does, at Arapahoe Basin in late October on unforgiving man-made snow. Dylan kept a journal of our travels, and his entry for Day 1 described the skiing surface as “slick as a banana peel.” Not to worry, I said, knowing there would be plenty of soft-snow days ahead at A-Basin.

One of our best early season days was a pre-Christmas session at Copper Mountain. We walked from our home in Frisco to the Summit Stage stop near town hall and rode the bus, feeling smug about not having to deal with parking, and thankful for our county’s great free public transit system. Our best runs of the day were on the steep east-facing runs off A-lift. That side of the mountain had just opened for the season. With no moguls in sight, we screamed down the steep pitches again and again, and enjoyed the lazy ride back up through the shadowy blue winter dusk.

Continue reading

November, December snowfall about half of average

Buffalo Mountain rendered in black and white by the light of dawn. PHOTO BY BOB BERWYN. If you like our daily weather picture, click on the photo to visit an online gallery where you can browse and buy framed prints and greeting cards with Summit County images. It's a great way to support Summit Voice and independent journalism.

Snowpack, streamflows down, but not disastrous, spring storms could boost water supply, experts say

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — Snowfall continued to lag in December, with both local observation sites for the National Weather Service reporting totals well below the historic average.

The larger weather pattern has been dominated by a strong El Niño, as warmer-than-average sea surface temperatures in the eastern Pacific have shifted the storm track, causing stronger weather systems to move north and south of Summit County.

Weather experts said they’re not expecting any big change in January. But past El Niño winters have delivered significant snow late in winter and spring.

In Dillon, where Denver Water officials track precipitation and temperatures for the National Weather Service, only 10 inches of snow fell in December, compared to the average 17.5 inches. For the calendar year, average snowfall at the Dillon site is 127.5 inches. In 2009, the total was just 80.5 inches. Continue reading

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