By Gene Davis, DENVER DAILY NEWS
Colorado ski resorts are realigning their expectations this year to match the “new normal conditions” that the economic downturn has provided, according to several industry insiders.
The days between Christmas and New Year’s are traditionally among the busiest and most important for Colorado ski resorts. Additionally, the holiday season is considered an accurate forbearer of the season to come.
According to Ari Stiller-Shulman of Colorado Ski Country USA — the group that represents a majority of Colorado ski resorts — skier visits have remained relatively flat compared to last year, which saw a 5.5-percent attendance drop from the previous year.
“It’s not a record season (this year),” Stiller-Shulman said.
Rob Perlman, vice president of sales and marketing for Winter Park Resorts, said the resort has grown accustomed to non-record-breaking seasons after last year’s attendance falloff.
“Everyone is adapting to the new environment we’re living in,” he said.
The recession has changed the dynamic of holiday travel for out-of-state visitors. According to Kirsten Texler of Crested Butte Mountain Resort, more people who live outside of Colorado are driving instead of flying when they visit Colorado ski resorts. As a result, the visitors are often basing their last-second decision on which mountain to visit on snow and traffic reports.
But Loryn Kasten, PR manager for Steamboat Ski Resort, said those snow reports can sometimes be misleading. For instance, Steamboat has 80 percent of its terrain open and the conditions on the ground right now are ideal, which a quick glance at the snow report might not reflect, she said.
The last-second vacation decisions have also made it harder for resorts to predict how busy they will be on any given week, according to Jeff Hanley, PR director for Aspen Snowmass.
The attendance drop-off and recession has increased the competitiveness between Colorado ski resorts to offer the best deals to draw in customers, said Stiller-Shulman.
For instance, guests flying from Denver into Eagle Airport before April 11, 2010, can ski or ride for free at Vail and Beaver Creek on their day of arrival.
The two resorts also are offering a Ski Free Stay Free package. People who purchase three nights of lodging and three days of lift tickets receive the fourth night of lodging and day of skiing or riding for free.
Meanwhile, other resorts like Aspen Snowmass are encouraging people not to wait until the last second to book their trip. The resorts are offering a 5- to 10-percent discount on lift ticket and equipment rental packages when the package is purchased at least seven days in advance.
“(People) are bargain shopping, looking for the best deal,” Hanley said. “They want to make sure that conditions are great for their vacation and don’t want to spend their money on a sub-par vacation.”
The bitterly cold weather has proven a mixed bag for the resorts. While Perlman acknowledged that the cold weather has scared off some fair-weathered Colorado skiers and snowboarders, the consistently chilly conditions have also kept the snow fresh, powdery and not icy.
“And once we get a little more snow and continue to promote great values, people É will show up in great numbers,” he said. “Let it snow.”
Distributed by Colorado Capitol Reporters