Winter Park Resort closes its ski season after Spring Splash
While skiers can still enjoy the Mary Jane for a few more days, most of Winter Park Resort closed down this weekend following the 50th Annual Spring Splash. After a slow start, and a few worries about snowfall, the resort closed right on target.
“It was an interesting one for sure,” said Steve Hurlbert, director of communication for the resort. “If you look at the resort over the course of the ski season it’s almost like a living organism. There are so many ups and downs over a six-month period. After a slow start snow wise, it really picked up, and any time you can extend your season into May, it’s a successful season.”
A lack of snowfall in November and December was at least mildly worrisome for ski areas around the state, but after a wet spring season the resort was able to record about as much snow as usual. Hurlbert said that the resort is sitting at 306 inches to date, just short of their 10-year average of 322 inches — the resort will continue to count snowfall until the Mary Jane closes May 6.
While Front Range skiers were able to differentiate between Winter Park Resort and ski areas that were less fortunate with snowfall numbers, destination visitors were more susceptible to the narrative that all of Colorado was scuffling.
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“There was a perception that Colorado is struggling, and it was incumbent on us to accept that challenge and reach out to destination markets like Texas, Chicago the Midwest and all those places that we rely on to come and spent spring break here,” said Hurlbert. “It was important to get the word out that Winter Park is getting snow. It was a challenge, but we ended up having a really busy March, so it worked out.”
Winter Park Resort doesn’t give specific data on visitation numbers, though Hurlbert said that visitation was down slightly — less than three percent — from last year. That gap is expected to close, at least somewhat, over the next two weeks the Mary Jane Territory is open. He also noted that international markets seem to be growing, with more guests this year from Canada and the United Kingdom.
But snow wasn’t the only big story this season, and visitation isn’t the only measure of success. The Winter Park Express Ski Train returned for a triumphant second season, the ambitious new Ikon Pass was debuted and Alterra Mountain Company announced more than $28 million in resort upgrades.
This summer the resort will begin construction on a brand new 10-person gondola to replace the Zephyr Lift. They will also get a new, more energy efficient snowmaking system.
“The gondola is obviously the big ticket item, but really almost as important are the huge improvements that are going on in snowmaking, which is really going to enable us to get more terrain open in the fall more quickly,” said Hurlbert. “So people are going to see a huge difference next fall in terms of what we have open on opening day, and what we’ll have open much quickly in those final weeks of November.”
Hurlbert said that, while the base area may look like a massive construction zone this summer, the resort doesn’t expect construction to interfere with other summer activities. Trestle Bike Park will be open as usual, as will base activities like the putt-putt course and alpine slide. The summer season is anticipated to begin on June 16.
“The biggest sentiment that we always have at the end of every ski season is appreciation,” said Hurlbert. “Whether they’re here in the county, the Front Range or elsewhere, we want to thank everyone who came to visit this season.
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