Winter Park storm crowns epic ski season |

Winter Park storm crowns epic ski season

The chicken suit on the chairlift is Andy Peterson (Rocky Mountain Thunder Chicken) and his wife, Elizabeth Kurtak (Humble Bee), doing some spring skiing at The Jane on the last day of the season. 
By Cindy Kleh |

Winter Park Resort shut down its lifts for the 2013/2014 ski and ride season on Sunday, April 27 — a full week later than planned due to an abundance of snowfall throughout the winter.

Closing Day was originally slated for April 20, when the Annual Coca Cola Spring Splash and free concerts were held, but after receiving more than 5 feet of snow both in February and March, the resort decided to extend the season by keeping eight chairlifts open to access about two-thirds of the terrain.

The resort’s snow total for the entire season stands at 376 inches – more than 31 feet – the most since 2011, according to Steve Hurlbert, Winter Park’s Director of Public Relations and Communications. “We were 28 inches ahead of our historical average of 348 inches, which dates back to when snow records began being kept in 1976. In March, we had 61.5 inches and April finished strong with 37.5 inches, which is almost exactly average (for April).”

Fresh turns ‘til the end

Andy Petersen, who has lived most of his life in Fraser, described the 2013-14 season as excellent. “There was enough snow in the trees so that it was safe and fun, and I wasn’t worried about hitting stuff. It’s been a great year. I’ve really enjoyed it.”

Petersen was up skiing on closing day from 12:30 p.m. until the very last chair possible this season. He learned to ski at Ski Idlewild in 1973, then “graduated” to Winter Park when his parents deemed him ready. He spends most of his ski days — 51 of them this year — on the Jane side, filming tree runs with his GoPro camera.

“The past two years are the worst I can remember,” he said. “It seems like now we’re back to normal. This is what I would expect.”

Adam Cherevka, a season pass holder from Denver, was up at the resort on closing day with his girlfriend, Holli Loose. “We rented a room in the Village with some of their season-ending deals … just trying to get a last couple of days in. The snow has been great this year! This is a good way to close it out,” he beamed, as he gestured at the snowstorm in progress.

“It’s awesome! We’ve already put a deposit down on our passes for next season,” added Loose.

$eason of the $even

The Season of the Seven — the introduction to a brand repositioning that emphasizes the seven distinct territories of Winter Park and Mary Jane — was the central theme of the 2013-14 Season. “It really exceeded our expectations. It seemed like people really embraced it, and our engagement via social media was off the charts. All in all, it ended up being a spectacular year.”

Due to Season of the Seven promotion:

• The resort gained 3 million website visits overall — a 10 percent increase over last year;

• The resort’s social fan base reached in excess of 78,000 – a 25 percent increase over last year;

• 16 million people were reached via social media (quantified in likes, link clicks, shares, and comments);

• 8,500 submissions and interactions were received with the Season of the Seven social contests and games;

• 10,000 interactions with #Seasonofthe7 were recorded.

“We did monthly ‘Insta-hunts’ — online scavenger hunts using Instagram — where we’d give away various prizes,” added Hurlbert. “We did a ‘Seven Days of Christmas’ contest on our website where we ended up giving away about $16,000 worth of stuff, including a 2013/2014 season pass. We also gave away a 2014/2015 season pass each day of our bonus week as part of a ‘Season of the Seven+7’ contest.“

Skier Numbers statewide

“Colorado is up 13 percent in skier visits compared to last season,” stated Jennifer Rudolph, Communications Director of Colorado Ski Country (CSCUSA), a not-for-profit trade association representing 22 ski and snowboard areas. CSCUSA compiles skier visit numbers from skier/snowboarder visits per day of all those areas and provides that data to the public three times a year.

The first period runs from opening day of the first ski area to open — usually in mid-October — to the last day of December. The second period runs January 1 through the end of February; and the last period from March 1 to the closing day of the last resort that stays open, which can sometimes be as late as July 4.

In the first period, CSCUSA reported an increase from last year of 22 percent. “With ski areas opening earlier with more terrain open, the word naturally got out,” Rudolph explained.

Season-to-date numbers, released in mid-March, showed skier visits up 13 percent over the previous year. The final numbers will be available in mid-June, although they will be adjusted by the skier visits Arapahoe Basin accrues from then until the area closes. The skier visits of the four Colorado areas owned by Vail Resorts are not included in these numbers, but are added to the final season-to-date totals in June.

Besides abundant snowfall, CSCUSA stated in a press release that a “deluge of early-season snow,” excitement about the Winter Olympic Games and positive news about the economy all helped boost skier visits this season.

“If we could have scripted an ideal snow year, this would be it,” said Rudolph.

Good year for Nordic

As director of the Grand Lake Nordic Center for the past 33 years, Janice Peck has just seen her most amazing winter season ever. And she will retire on that high note, with the sport of Nordic skiing growing bigger and faster every year. “We grew about 10 to 15 percent this year, and 20 percent the year before. The parking lot was full on weekends and we were so busy! We’re approaching golf in the numbers of people (participating).”

Peck credits abundant snowstorms and meticulous daily grooming to the Nordic Center’s success this winter, but added that offering some dog-friendly trails, inexpensive trail passes, snowshoeing, free tubing and a warm, welcoming lodge where families can hang out all day hasn’t hurt either.

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