Last winter, La Niña brought so much snow to northern Colorado that Arapahoe Basin ski area stayed open until July 4. A snow gauge near...
DENVER — Last winter, La Niña brought so much snow to northern Colorado that Arapahoe Basin ski area stayed open until July 4. A snow gauge near Steamboat Springs had to be extended because it kept getting buried, with total accumulation over the season topping 200 inches.
It was a skier’s bonanza. Colorado resorts recorded more than 12 million skier visits last winter for the first time since the 2007-2008 season, according to figures from Vail Resorts Inc. and the trade group Colorado Ski Country USA.
In short, Colorado hosted roughly one in every five skier visits in the nation last winter.
But forecasters say skiers shouldn’t expect another record winter.
“The odds are decent for at least a normal season, but people shouldn’t have expectations we’ll have a repeat,” said climatologist Klaus Wolter of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the University of Colorado.
As the economy slowly recovers, there also appear to be fewer flash sales that resorts have used to hook last-minute vacationers during the recession. But there are still plenty of discounts, and resorts say they have more to offer after spending millions of dollars on faster lifts, new terrain park features and better trail grooming.
“We’re coming off a big season last year,” said Jennifer Rudolph, spokeswoman for the trade group Colorado Ski Country USA. “We’re going into this year with some momentum.”
The group’s 22 member resorts have invested more than $50 million for this season, including a remodel of the Merry-Go-Round restaurant at Aspen Highlands and heated pavers in Steamboat’s base area so skiers don’t have to walk through as much snow and ice.
That doesn’t include spending by Vail Resort Inc.’s Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone and Vail resorts, which together invested almost double what other Colorado resorts have, CEO Rob Katz said. New this year are a fine-dining restaurant at Vail and a high-speed lift to replace a slow two-seater at Beaver Creek.