By ROBERT WELLER
DENVER (AP) – The nation’s No. 1 ski state reported a big comeback this year from two straight dismal skiing seasons, but much of the gain came at the cost of reduced revenue from lift ticket sales resulting from discounted season passes.
Most resorts were able to maintain their revenue per skier numbers by making money in restaurants, ski shops and elsewhere, said David Perry, president of Colorado Ski Country USA.
The trade group announced Wednesday that skier-snowboarder visits were up 5.8 percent last season to 11.5 million after two seasons that saw the state lose a combined 1.1 million skier-snowboard visits. Late snow and last year’s Y2K fears scuttled the 1998-99 and 1999-2000 seasons.
Although some resorts have grumbled that the war for Colorado skiers has knocked prices down too much, Perry said discounts are likely to continue. He noted the cheap season passes, started three seasons ago by Winter Park, are now the norm nationwide.
Perry said the number of all season passes sold at the nation’s resorts doubled last season.
Andy Daly, president of Vail Resorts, said in a report to the trade group that Colorado skiers took advantage of the deals “in greater numbers than ever before at prices they loved, but which caused resort managers heartburn and strained relationships among Colorado Sky Country members.”
Perry said the deals are likely to continue. “Regional skiers can count on getting really good deals,” he said. This season, some East and West Coast skiers took advantage of cheap passes at local resorts instead of traveling to Colorado.
“Overall, it is encouraging. Those people are going to be destination skiers and Colorado is the premier destination,” said Perry. Rose Abello, spokeswoman for the Aspen Skiing Co., said, “Once the passion for skiing is ignited, they will want to come to Colorado.”
For the first time in seven years, the trade organization did not report individual figures. This year’s meeting was held several weeks earlier than normal, and publicly traded resorts would not release their figures before their quarterly earnings reports.
The National Ski Areas Association reported earlier this month that skier visits nationwide set a record. The preliminary total of 57.3 million was up 10 percent from the previous season.
The rebound was reported in all markets, from small ski areas in regional markets to big resort destinations.
Record snowfall and optimal snowmaking conditions early in the season contributed to a record season for ski areas in New Hampshire, and near records in Maine and Vermont.
Squaw Valley in northern California was up 3 percent, despite fears that construction would drive skiers away. Mammoth in Southern California was up 20 percent from last year and 11 from projections. Joani Saari credited discounted ski passes for much of the increase.
Utah’s 14 resorts had a record 3.3 million skier days, breaking the previous mark by 6 percent.
On the Net:
Colorado Ski Country USA: http://www.coloradoski.com