Great snow from start to finish helped Colorado ski areas tally a record-breaking season, with skier visits surging past the 12.5 million mark for the first time ever. The state outperformed the rest of the country, solidifying its position as the market leader, with 22 percent all skier visits nationally.
Most of the Colorado Rockies were blanketed by snow early and often, and even in the San Juans, there was enough snowfall to maintain good conditions all season long, although the snowpack was near or below average for parts of the season in the southern third of the state.
This year's total of 12.6 million skier visits is a 10 percent increase from last winter and 8 percent above the running five-year average.
“Seeing our visitation punch through the 12.5 million level and best our prior mark demonstrates the vibrancy of Colorado’s ski industry and the passion of our resident and visiting skiers and snowboarders,” said Melanie Mills, president & CEO of Colorado Ski Country USA. “With two consecutive years of growth, momentum is certainly in our favor as our resorts continue to set the industry standard in terms of snow quality, skier safety and guest service.”
Colorado resorts outperformed the ski industry nationally, which saw the Pacific regions heavily impacted by drought. Colorado resorts also bested the growth rate of 6.4 percent in the Rocky Mountain region of the U.S. where snow conditions were more comparably favorable.
“Owning 22 percent of the national skier market speaks volumes to the reputation of our state as the top ski destination. Visitors choose to come here because of what our resorts have to offer; superior skiing, easy access, resorts of every variety, and resort staff who provide unparalleled guest service,” said Mills.
Never one to miss a chance to take a swing at the media, Mills critiqued press coverage of Colorado's marijuana legalization as "sensationalized media hype."
The publicity probably didn't hurt, she acknowledged during the Colorado ski industry trade group's annual post-season powwow.
“From the start of the season Colorado was in the national spotlight as media focused on the snow and the legalization of marijuana. All eyes were on the ski industry as the two stories unfolded during the ski season,” Mills said.
Some resorts were able to open early this year, while others extended their season, and the snow also enable resorts to open terrain earlier than normal.
“By Thanksgiving the ski season was off on a brisk pace backed by excellent early season conditions,” said Mills. “We got the word out that Colorado had snow and prime winter conditions, and that helped set up a robust holiday visitation period.”
In January and February, snow storms continued and were widespread across the state. During this time several factors kept visitors engaged in skiing and snowboarding: ideal snow conditions, enjoyable winter temperatures, positive economic news and the Winter Olympics.
“A variety of things came together to fuel mid-season visits and the results had major ski weekends bustling with guests, particularly Martin Luther King and President’s Day,” added Mills.
Snowfall continued well into spring and bolstered Easter visitation despite the unfavorable late calendar date of the holiday. Healthy conditions allowed many resorts to extend their season or add additional weekends to their operating schedule.
“Overall it was a very positive season, we’re encouraged by the numbers and are hopeful this momentum continues,” said Mills.