SLOW SKI SEASON SURE TO GET A LIFT
Warm fall chills ski season early, but lift likely around bend
The warm November didn’t do Colorado’s ski resorts any favors. The protracted Indian summer delayed opening dates and triggered high-profile cancellations of races, but there is strong demand for the vital Christmas-New Year’s holiday, which marks the true financial start of the ski season.
The warm November didn’t do Colorado’s ski resorts any favors.
Where resorts were opening entire mountainsides by last Thanksgiving, most ski areas had only a white ribbon of manmade snow open for last week’s holiday. The protracted Indian summer delayed opening dates and triggered high-profile cancellations of the Birds of Prey World Cup ski races at Beaver Creek and, most recently, the superpipe competition at Breckenridge’s Dew Tour next weekend. And that news threatened to overshadow the powerful snowstorms that blanketed most of the high country in the last week.
But the state’s resorts are hoping the real impact of the slow start will be no more than a marketing problem — a short delay in the delivery of the proverbial snow message that kick-starts the ski season and stokes vacation planning. While early December bookings appear soft, there is strong demand for the vital Christmas-New Year’s holiday, which, despite the latefall hype, marks the true financial start of the ski season.
“No impact at all. Bookings are as strong as they have ever been for the Christmas and New Year’s weeks,” said Bill Tomcich, whose Stay Aspen Snowmass agency books the largest collection of rooms in Colorado’s high country.
After Aspen Skiing Co. launched a
Black Friday lodging deal and landed video clips of young rippers on Snowmass during the Broncos-Chiefs Sunday night telecast, Tomcich’s agency on Monday fielded the most calls of the year.
So, yes, the age-old axiom still rings true: the Broncos on television in the fall or winter — with networks often including quick views of Colorado’s snowy slopes — prods skiers to book their vacations.
“Every little bit helps to spread awareness that it’s winter in Colorado and things are very quickly getting back to normal here,” Tomcich said.
Compared with last year, the early season has been grim. Ski-area locals were mountain biking deep into November. Purgatory offered lift-served mountain bik- ing on its opening weekend.
But last season’s powder lingers in the minds of skiers.
After consistent — and welltimed — snowfall stirred a record 13 million visits to Colorado resorts last year, the booking pace for ski vacations remains strong this season. Bookings from November through May to resorts across the Western U.S.’s top ski resorts are up 6.6 percent over the previous season, according to Denver-based DestiMetrics, which compiles reservation information from 290 property-management companies in 19 mountain destinations in seven Western states.
Even through balmy October, bookings were on pace with last year.
DestiMetrics director Ralf Garrison calls the booking momentum “positive snow equity,” built up from the previous season, and he said it’s setting up resort communities for yet another solid year.
“If Mother Nature does her part and starts delivering wintery weather, Western mountain destinations are well-positioned for another very good start to the season,” he said in a statement.
nov. 25: Skiers and riders go down the Born Free run on Vail’s opening day.
nov. 15: Vail’s Gondola One runs despite a lack of snow. (The Nov. 18 opening day had to be delayed.)
The Black Mountain Express lift at Arapahoe Basin carries some of the resort’s first skiers and snowboarders to their runs Oct. 21.