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CO Season Roundup: Skier visits, record Vail, lodging and more

Arapahoe Basin is the only ski area still open in Colorado now, but that didn't stop the state from breaking the 12 million skier visit mark for the first time in three years, while Vail set a new record overall. Lodging revenue also rose in what was a tremendous season all-around.

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With only one Arapahoe Basin still running the chairs, Colorado is calling it a season, reporting more than 12 million skier visits from Colorado Ski Country USA (CSCUSA), and a record season at Vail.

CSCUSA, which reports Colorado visits separately from Vail Resorts’ Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge and Keystone ski areas, said more than 6.9 million skier visits were recorded at its 22 member areas–a 2.6 percent increase from the past season. Combined with Vail Resorts’ skier visits, the grand total of Colorado visits is likely more than 12 million, marking the first time Colorado has had that many visits in the past three years. 

Vail Mountain in particular enjoyed the upswing (as well as incredible snowfall), hitting an all-time high of 1.75 million skier visits for the season, an increase of 150,000 skier visits over the previous year. In announcing the news as part of the company’s 3rd quarter financial report on June 9, 2011, Vail CEO Robert Katz noted, “We gained market share in all of our key markets as we continue to further differentiate the experience we provide at our resorts. For the 2010/2011 ski season, visits to our Colorado resorts were up 4 percent compared with a gain of 1 percent for the rest of the Rocky Mountain region.”

In regards to the company’s other ski areas, Katz said, “We saw a nice recovery at Keystone Mountain due to a renewed focus on kids and families, with Keystone Mountain skier visits improving by 7.1 percent and, once again, exceeding the one million visitation mark.” He added that the momentum seems to be carrying forward, as season pass sales at all of the company’s ski areas are already up 19 percent in units and 27 percent in dollars over the previous year. 

Net income for Vail Resorts was up 5.6 percent to $76.9 million for the period, with special note made of the increase in on-mountain and private lesson bookings. In lodging, Katz said that the company’s hotel and managed condominiums revenue was up 13.2 percent over the period, even though occupancy fell by almost 1 percent at the same time.

According to a summary of Colorado lodging properties in destination mountain resorts released today by the Mountain Travel Research Program (MTRiP), the 2010-11 winter season ended with a 5.3 percent increase in occupancy compared to the 2009-10 season. Results were obtained from the Reservations Activity Outlook report that collects lodging data from 10 major Colorado resorts including Vail Resorts. 

The summary also revealed that average daily rate among participating resorts was up 1.6 percent and that increases in both occupancy and nightly rate combined for a 7.0 percent increase in the Revenue Per Available Room (RevPAR), a commonly used measurement in the lodging industry.

“MTRiP’s lodging data is distinct from skier and snowboard visits because it tracks destination guests,” said Ralf Garrison, MTRiP’s director. “While occupancy dropped during the early part of the recent recession, it is bouncing back. The “long-haul” destination guest started traveling again and it is certainly good news that Colorado enjoyed increases in both overall skier visits and destination occupancy.” 

The analysis also revealed that although MTRiP resorts outside of Colorado outperformed the state in occupancy, with non-Colorado resorts reporting an aggregate increase of 11 percent, they still experienced a 1.6 decrease in average daily rate. “Though other western resorts experienced a greater increase in occupancy than Colorado, those destinations were unable to increase rates from last season’s level as Colorado did–albeit modestly,” said Tom Foley, MTRiP analyst.

As for if and when this ski season may ever officially end, Aspen Mountain’s weekend revival to keep the lifts turning has officially come to a close. Lasting over two weekends beginning on the Memorial Day holiday, spiking temperatures and slushy snow canceled plans to fire the chairs up one more time on June 11 and 12. 

“We recommend everyone ski Independence Pass,” Rich Burkley, Skico vice president of mountain operations told the Aspen Times, which added that “the start of the 2011-12 season is only 168 days away.”

As the last ski area still standing, Arapahoe Basin will operate the chairlifts for two more weeks, while Utah’s Snowbird and California’s Squaw Valley, Mammoth Mountain and Alpine Meadows have all announced plans to open the slopes for July 4th.

Peter Kray

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