Aspen Skiing Co. reverses decision on skier visit information |

Aspen Skiing Co. reverses decision on skier visit information

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times

ASPEN – The Aspen Skiing Co. announced Wednesday that it will release its skier visits, a reversal of its recent decision to keep the information confidential.

“After internal discussions, we reconsidered,” said Skico Vice President of Marketing Jeanne Mackowski.

The company recorded 1,338,210 skier visits at its four ski areas last season. That was up 4.3 percent from the recession-plagued 2008-09 campaign, the company said.

The Skico broke decades of practice in June when it decided not to disclose its visits – defined as a skier or snowboarder visiting a ski area for any part of a day. Visits are a basic metric for business used by the ski industry.

Skico officials said at the time the company was withholding the information because it didn’t want to give competitors an advantage. It also stopped discussing information about its top international and domestic markets, a decision that stands, Mackowski said.

Colorado Ski Country USA, a trade association for 22 resorts in the state, also stopped reporting visits this season based on competitive reasons.

For the Skico, the concern about handing information to competitors “on a platter” is still valid, Mackowski said. But company officials were concerned about creating confusion by not releasing data to media, after pondering their move. Skier visit data is shared with public and private entities “in various formats” for planning purposes, according to Mackowski. For example, Skico might give its marketing partners skier visits generated by destination customers who come for an overnight stay, a subset of its overall business. The various formats of releasing data could be confusing if the media got a hold of it and tried to compare it to general skier visits from prior seasons, Mackowski said.

As it is, the skier visit data is confusing enough. The Skico switched to automated gates at all four of its ski areas last season so officials believe they now have extremely accurate tallies, Mackowski said.

The company recalculated the skier visits for the 2008-09 season because officials didn’t feel they provided a good apples-to-apples comparison. The Skico originally reported 1,364,056 skier visits for the 2008-09 season. That was revised to 1,283,348, or a decrease of about 80,700.

There was no easy explanation for the difference, Mackowski said.

It originally looked like skier visits fell by 7.5 percent in the recession winter of 2008-09 compared to the prior season. The revised number would place the loss of business closer to 13 percent.

However, Mackowski said the Skico is going to use the revised 2008-09 tally of 1.28 million visits as a new baseline figure for future comparisons. Comparisons to prior seasons aren’t as valid because the current tracking is so much more advanced, she said.

For the 2009-10 season, Snowmass recorded the biggest increase in skier visits at 30,936, or an increase of 4.5 percent, according to the Skico’s revised statistics.

Buttermilk saw the healthiest percentage gain at 19 percent after attracting 23,000 more skier visits.

Both ski areas gained business because more families returned to the slopes last winter compared to the winter in the heart of the recession, Mackowski said.

Aspen Highlands saw its business drop by 8,763 visits, or nearly 5 percent. Mackowski said the ski season was extended at Highlands in 2008-09 but not last winter. That accounts for the loss, she said.

Conversely, Aspen Mountain gained 9,658 visits, or 3.4 percent, because its season was extended compared to 2008-09.