Steamboat claims to buck destination resort trend

Tom Ross

Officials at Steamboat Ski Area say they don’t fit the trend for Colorado’s destination resorts described in a news release last week.

Colorado Ski Country USA announced Jan. 11 that its 25 member resorts set a new record for skier visits during the first part of the season ending Dec. 31. Ski areas in Colorado counted 3 million visits. However, the purely destination resorts — Steamboat, Telluride, Crested Butte and the Aspen ski areas among them, were down almost 3 percent.

“Steamboat’s reality didn’t parallel that at all,” Vice President of Marketing Andy Wirth said. “In fact, it was diametrically opposed.”

Wirth stops short of saying exactly how first-period business compared to the same period last ski season — federal regulations prevent him from making statements that could influence parent American Skiing Co.’s stock price, he said.

However, Wirth said, his office knew weeks in advance that the early period would be ahead at Steamboat. He added it’s clear that Southern Colorado destination ski areas with mediocre snow pulled down the average for the pure destination resorts.

Colorado Ski Country Pres-ident Rob Perlman said the 3 million statewide skier visits recorded from Oct. 15 through Dec. 31 represented an increase of 5.6 percent over last season. The total was almost 11 percent ahead of the five-year average for the opening portion of the ski season.

In addition to pure destination resorts such as Steamboat, Colorado Ski Country categorizes its resorts as Front Range destination resorts and “Gems/Front Range resorts.” The latter are smaller ski areas.

Front Range destination res–orts include Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Copper Mountain, Keystone, Vail and Winter Park. They are distinguished by their ability to attract vacationers and day skiers from Denver. Front Range destination resorts were up more than 10 percent early this winter and are more than 190,000 skier visits ahead of their combined five-year average. The smaller resorts also were up.

However, pure destination resorts were down 23,562 skier visits in the first period, to 818,592. That compares to 1.85 million for the Front Range destination resorts.

Telluride’s mid-mountain depth grew to 39 inches with Monday’s 8 inches of fresh snow. That resort and smaller resorts such as Wolf Creek (37 inches) and Durango (27 inches) don’t have competitive snow this winter, Wirth pointed out.

Steamboat was reporting 16 inches of new snow as of 2 p.m., Monday, boosting its mid-mountain base to a state-leading 74 inches.

During the December holidays, Wirth acknowledged, Breckenridge, Winter Park and Copper Mountain all had snow totals that were slightly ahead of Steamboat’s.

Now that Steamboat can claim the best sow in the state, Wirth said, he intends to use that marketing advantage.

Wirth said on-mountain surveys of guests during the crowded holiday period reflected high perceptions of value and a high intent to return.

The ski crowds that came to Steamboat for the long holiday weekend just past were already headed home Monday afternoon. But Wirth, who gave the product a thorough test drive Monday morning, said it appeared quite a few people were tempted to linger just long enough to get a few more runs of Champagne Powder.

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