Colorado Ski Country USA (CSCUSA) announced at its 47th Annual Meeting (June 9-10), that its 22 member resorts hosted an estimated 6.74 million skier visits during the 2009-10 ski season. This represents an increase of 0.4 percent, or approximately 29,000 skier visits, compared to last season's final numbers.
"We're pleased visitation is up even if only by a nose", explained Melanie Mills, President and CEO of Colorado Ski Country USA. "We held our own in attracting the destination skier, and even with the challenges the travel industry still faces, we found that several indicators are moving in the right direction".
Visitation from Front Range and other in-state skiers was down slightly, while visitation by out of state and international guests increased. "CSCUSA and our members have had a strong presence in a diverse array of international markets for several years and we are really seeing those efforts rewarded with growth in international visits", explained Mills. International visits to CSCUSA members were up approximately 6.5 percent, ahead of the one percent gain in international visits seen by other Rocky Mountain region resorts.
Ski school business was healthy at many resorts this season. Preliminary data shows an increase in overall lesson volume with a five percent increase in children's lessons specifically.
Overall snow totals across the state were a contributing factor to this season's visitation patterns. Snowfall amounts were down substantially, by 26 percent compared to the 2008-09 season, and down 26 percent compared to the 10-year average. "Snow always plays a role in skier visits, especially with our in-state guests", continued Mills. "And while some resorts saw near record amounts of snow, others relied on their expert snow maintenance staffs to provide a great product all season long".
The strong Colorado brand carried momentum through the season to a solid finish this spring. Skier visits were up a bit at the beginning of the season but softened in the middle. The season ended with a robust spring and showed signs of visitation getting back on track. "Starting March 1, visitation rallied, growing by five percent over the previous year during that period. This was fueled by heavy spring snows and a favorably-timed Easter", said Mills.
Total Colorado skier visits for the 2009-10 season, including non-member resorts (in 2008 Vail Resorts withdraws from the trade group), are once again approaching the 12 million visit threshold, ending the year at 11.86 million. Total Colorado skier visits are up by 0.8 percent compared to last season. On a national level, skier visits overall are up 4.2 percent with the Rocky Mountain region seeing an increase of 3.4 percent.
Skier visits are the metric used to track participation in skiing and snowboarding. A skier visit represents a person participating in the sport of skiing or snowboarding for any part of one day at a mountain resort.
In a dramatic rebound from the previous season, the U.S. ski industry recorded 59.7 million visits, the second best season ever, according to the preliminary 2009/10 Kottke National End of Season Survey. In spite of continued pressures from a weak economy and without the catalyst of an exceptional snow year, skier visits this season increased by 4.2 percent, only 1.2 percent below the all time record of 60.5 million visits achieved in 2007/08.