The early season in Colorado was like a waiting game. When would the snow start to fall? Locals in ski towns waited, and waited, and waited. Small storms teased Colorado residents and skiers but nothing big hit. Many resorts struggled with a “Ribbon of Death,” as it is called. That’s one long run primarily made with machine-made snow, and everyone, of every level, had to share it. It was a tough start to the 2013-2013 season.
But then midway through December, the snow started to fall. And it didn’t stop. Locals in the ski towns had to refill gas tanks on snow blowers, pull out the heavy boots, and get snow tires put on their cars. Winter was here.
“First period is largely fueled by in-state visitors, and an unseasonably warm October and November kept many Coloradoans from tallying lots of ski days,” Said Melanie Mills, president and CEO of Colorado Ski Country USA (CSCUSA). “Snow did not arrive in earnest until mid-December, but when it came, it was in time for in-state and out-of-state guests to enjoy wonderful wintery holidays at resorts.”
But numbers were down. CSCUSA reports that total skier visits at its 21 member resorts decreased 11.5 percent during the first period of the 2012/13 ski season, which is defined as opening day through Dec. 31, compared to the same period last year.
Now resorts are again looking to the skies for heavy snowfall, as Presidents Day Weekend, spring break, and Easter seasons approach.
"Like the rest of the state, we had a slow start due to snowfall. The holidays were strong, but abbreviated. We are having a good run right now, and with a few exceptions, bookings moving forward look strong and are outpacing last season," says Jeff Hanle, the Director of Public Relations for the Aspen Skiing Company.
“We’re optimistic that some of the best skiing of the season is still ahead of us,” said Mills. “We are encouraged by early January numbers and spring bookings, and our resorts are looking forward to an exciting and busy rest of the season.”
Steamboat experienced its highest occupancy levels in the past three seasons during the Christmas and New Year holiday period. Mountain Travel Research Program, or MTRiP, reports the booking pace in December for Western U.S. mountain resort communities was up 10.4 percent for those scheduling trips to ski towns through May 13.
Loveland looks forward to staying open through May. “We have also seen a decrease in skier visits over the first period of the season similar to the statewide average. The early season snow has been below average as well, but our trail maintenance crew is doing a great job and the snow we have is in excellent shape. The holiday weekend was busy as skiers and snowboarders enjoyed blue skies and warm temps. March and April are typically two of the snowiest months of the season, so we are still optimistic that the season will turn around. Loveland will be open through early May so there is still plenty of time for lots of powder days before the season is over,” says Loveland’s Marketing Director, John Sellers.