Winter Park Resort skier numbers up despite statewide downward trend |

Winter Park Resort skier numbers up despite statewide downward trend

Elizabeth Aguilera
The Denver Post

Skier visits in Colorado were down 5.5 percent last season to 11.85 million, but Front Range resorts saw in-state visits edge up 2.5 percent.

It’s the first year in four seasons skier visits dropped below 12 million.

“Yes we are affected by the recession but we are recession-resistant,” said Gary DeFrange, Winter Park Resort president and chief operating officer. “People are so passionate about this sport. It has become a part of people’s lives.”

Ski industry experts and executives say the single-digit percentage decrease shows consumers are committed even if they are spending less.

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Colorado Ski Country USA released the skier visit numbers at it’s annual meeting held in Boulder Thursday. The annual meeting also hosted a panel of six past presidents of CSCUSA – including Rob Perlman, John Frew, Doug Cogswell, John Lay, Bob Knouse and Gary Mitchell – talking about the challenges in the industry.

“The travel industry as a whole was put to the test this past year,” said Melanie Mills, president and CEO of CSCUSA.

CSCUSA’s 22 member resorts posted 6.9 million skier visits, a 6.9 percent drop from the previous season. When totaled with non-member resorts the numbers for Colorado show 11.85 million skier visits.

This is the first year CSCUSA released numbers since Vail Resorts pulled out of the ski industry association last year. Member say Vail’s absence has not hurt the organization which helped support members throughout the season with marketing and other issues.

At Eldora Mountain Resort the management team wasn’t sure what to expect going into the season, said Rob Linde, director of marketing.

“Certainly the economy did have an effect but not heavily until later in the season,” Linde said. “Still, it was our third best season ever.”

DeFrange said he saw a similar decrease in skier visits at Winter Park but went into the season conservatively because he expected a drop.

“We still have to be conservative and we have to make sure we get people to come and make sure we give them a great experience,” he said.

Already, he is seeing high interest from consumers in next season’s passes and vacations.

Linde credits proximity to the metro area and better deals than larger resorts for keeping skiers visiting.

“People continue to ski, especially Front Range skiers, it’s part of their life-style,” Linde said. “They were figuring out how to continue doing it and looking for deals.”

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