SLOW SKI SEA­SON SURE TO GET A LIFT

Warm fall chills ski sea­son early, but lift likely around bend

The Denver Post - - FRONT PAGE - By Ja­son Blevins

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.

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