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.

For the first part of the season (Oct. 7 – Jan. 31, 2009), skier visits were up 1 percent from the previous year, with a spike during the Christmas to New Years holiday. CSCUSA president Melanie Mills described it as a strong start for the industry, and said group business and international visitors helped the state’s resorts. More details here.

The Colorado Ski Country USA number don’t include Vail Resorts’ four ski areas, which aren’t members of the group and report skier visits separately.

Ski schools were jam-packed, an indicator that skiers and riders are spending a bit more this year. Colorado ski resorts focused on increasing ski school business and other special programs with deals on lesson and rental packages and other incentives.

After the strong early start, mid-winter snowfall was variable across the state, blasting the southern and central mountains, but leaving the northern mountains somewhat high and dry. In early March, Colorado Ski Country USA reported that skier visits had slipped about 4 percent for the January – February period from the previous season. Mills attributed the drop at least in part to lack of snowfall during important mid-season weeks. Details here.

Around the same time, Vail Resorts announced that skier visits had dropped about 1.6 percent from the previous season for the November 2009 through January 31 fiscal quarter. That included a 7.7 decline at Vail and a 3.2 percent drop at Beaver Creek, while Breckenridge saw its tally climb by 4.7 percent. Keystone was just about even with the previous season, reporting a .4 percent decline.

Nationally, preliminary figures show that the ski industry rebounded this season, and could be headed for its second best season ever in terms of skier visits.

Get more information on CSCUSA’s annual meeting here.


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