Heavy snowfall in Colorado brings out skiers | SteamboatToday.com

Heavy snowfall in Colorado brings out skiers

Joanne Kelley/Rocky Mountain News

— A white Christmas in the mountains has been a boon to the state’s ski areas, giving them a much-needed holiday boost during an economic slide.

After touting freebies and discounts to jump-start business, Colorado’s mountain resorts said heavy snowfall in recent days has gone a long way to entice visitors to the slopes.

“I was sweating bullets in November, so I’m completely grateful for the snow,” said Paul “Bubba” Iudice, owner of Bubbas Boards at Durango’s Purgatory ski area. “There’s no doubt Mother Nature is getting us through this bad economic time.”

The snowboard shop owner said families have been driving up from Texas and other nearby states, sharing the lifts with the locals who frequent the southwestern resort in far greater numbers after storms dump fresh powder.

The white stuff, which could beat last year’s record levels, comes just in time for the week between Christmas and New Year’s – the peak period of the year for Colorado’s winter playgrounds. Holiday reservations at base lodges are “on par” with last year, according to Durango Mountain Resort spokeswoman Liz Witte.

“The snow is helping to offset the economy . . . as everyone wants to go on vacation where it’s snowing,” said Silverton Mountain owner Aaron Brill.

However, all the snow brings its own challenges.

Roads to and from Silverton were closed early Friday after record amounts of snow fell and created avalanche hazards.

Many flights into Aspen’s airport were canceled the day before Christmas because of weather conditions. Travelers got off at Denver International Airport or were diverted to Grand Junction instead, arriving in Aspen and Snowmass Village by bus.

“In general, there are very few no-shows,” said Bill Tomcich, of Stay Aspen Snowmass central reservations agency.

“People are being delayed, but they’re getting here, very largely on their scheduled day of arrival.”

About 80 percent of available lodging in the area has been booked for the coming week.

“We’re not totally sold out, but we’re very busy,” Tomcich said. “I’ve been here since 1989, and I’ve never seen this much snow.”

To encourage skiers to keep coming this season, Aspen’s “Kids fly, ski and stay free” deal has been extended to Dec. 31 after proving to be popular with those sitting on the fence about whether to book a Colorado ski vacation this year.

The 2008-09 season has been marked by an unusual number of deals and pass breaks, particularly during the holidays.

Businesses in Vail report that Vail Resorts Inc.’s creation of an unlimited “Epic” ski pass for $579 ($270 for children) has worked to lure Front Range skiers and out-of-town guests.

Last year’s most comparable pass cost $519 and offered unlimited skiing at Breckenridge and Keystone but only 10 days at Vail and Beaver Creek.

“A lot of traffic is coming from Denver, but a lot of our guests (from outside the state) are doing two or three trips this year instead of one,” said Troy Goldberg of Troy’s Ski Shop in Vail.

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