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Mountain News

Stars aligning for record winter in Colorado



COLORADO — Despite all their hope, ambition and real-estate construction, Colorado’s ski areas have been plateaued for nearly a decade when it comes to people on the slopes. The record for skier days of 11.98 million skier days was set in 1997-98.

That was even before Monica Lewinsky was a household name. Michael Jordan was still in his prime.

But forecasters see all the stars lining up for that record to topple. The economy is roaring, destination skiers began returning two years ago, and the dollar remains weak vis a vis the euro.

Now, the state’s largest ski areas have enjoyed extraordinary early-season snows, driving reservations and also encouraging the sometimes picky high plains metro skiers to throng to the ski areas.

All of this had analyst Chuck Goelder, former professor of tourism at the University of Colorado-Boulder, confidently predicting 12.05 million skiers this winter – a figure he tells Denver’s Rocky Mountain News that he now believes could be conservative.

Early snow brings travelers

VAIL, Colo. — How important were the early season storms that dumped on the northern Colorado resorts and those in Wyoming, Idaho and Montana?

Huge, say hotel operators and others in the Vail area. One large reservations agency, the Vail Valley Chamber and Tourism Board, reported winter reservations made during November were up 45 per cent this year.

Beaver Creek now 25 years old

BEAVER CREEK, Colo. — Beaver Creek turns 25 this month, and by almost any measure of financial success, it has been among the top resorts in North America during recent years.

Skier days have routinely increased in the double-digits, hitting 815,000 last winter, even as most ski resorts have faltered or bobbed. The real estate market bulges with sales of $6 to $10 million for homes. And the sales taxes collected by merchants would be the envy of most towns.

The resort would now be 30 years old if officials from Vail Associates, the developer of the resort, had had their way. They wanted it to be a premier venue for the 1976 Winter Olympics. However, in 1972 Colorado voters yanked the subsidy for the Games, causing Denver to withdraw as host.

Slow-growth-minded state officials, meanwhile, insisted on a more methodical approach to the development of Beaver Creek. While some protagonists in the dispute remain adamant that they could have done it right, a story in the Rocky Mountain News suggests a better ski area resulted from the greater patience.

The newspaper also notes rumors during recent months of a new bid by Denver and Colorado for the 2018 Winter Olympics. However, U.S. Olympic Committee representatives note that post 9/11 travel restrictions enacted by the U.S. government make any U.S. bid more difficult.