Photo Credit: Aspen Snowmass
Colorado Ski Country USA (CSCUSA) announced today at its virtual 58th Annual Meeting that skier visits at its 22-member ski resorts* increased 7.6 percent from the pandemic-truncated 2019-20 season. Visit totals trailed the five-year average by 3.7 percent. Using the association’s expertise and publicly available information, CSCUSA is estimating a total statewide skier visit number of approximately 12 million for the 2020-21 season.
Responding to the pent-up demand for safe outdoor recreation, Colorado Ski Country USA members hosted record visitation from out-of-state visitors, modest increases in in-state visits and a sharp decline in international visits in 2020-21.
“Despite the challenges our ski areas, our mountain communities, our employees and our guests faced throughout this COVID-impacted season, the industry is pleased with how this season turned out,” Colorado Ski Country USA President and CEO Melanie Mills said. “Colorado was one of only two states in the Rocky Mountain Region where ski areas operated with a variety of capacity limitations this season. This created significant operational challenges and is reflected in the more modest increase in our visitation numbers compared with some of our neighboring states. Ski areas provided guests a much-needed outlet and some sense of normalcy during a very difficult time for all of us. We’re proud of our work this season and if the demand for skiing and snowboarding we saw this past year continues, we expect to see a robust and continuing rebound from the pandemic.”
The 2020-21 season will be remembered for the uncertainty heading into the season. CSCUSA members worked with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and local public health authorities to craft collaborative and thoughtful operating plans that incorporated flexibility to adjust as the season progressed and as pandemic developments dictated. Restrictions on indoor dining, lessons and events lasted the entire season and resulted in reduced ancillary revenues. The early and mid-seasons were marked by lower-than-average snowfall with the snow spigot turning to fully “on” in February and March. Snowfall at CSCUSA resorts for the season was 15 percent below the 30-year average. With vaccines rolling out and warmer weather this spring, ski areas saw a surge in visitation in later in the season. The season featured significant ski area investments in technology and other guest adaptations like pre-purchase lift tickets, order ahead and grab and go food and beverage options and improvements to the rental and lodging experience.
“The industry made important investments in technology and infrastructure this year to operate in the pandemic and those investments were instructive on how to continue to improve the guest experience,” continued Mills. “Many of these improvements are here to stay and guests can expect to see them in the future.”
Skier visits are the metric used to track participation in skiing and snowboarding. A skier visit represents a person participating in the sport of skiing or snowboarding for any part of one day at a mountain resort. These numbers are preliminary and subject to final adjustment.
CSCUSA also announced its statewide award winners during the Double Diamond Awards ceremony this afternoon. A release with photos will be distributed tomorrow.
*Wolf Creek Ski Area, while not a member of CSCUSA during the 2020-21 ski season, reports skier visits to CSCUSA. Its numbers are included in the totals and estimate reported today.