Ski area delays extended lift hours

Resort wrangles with cost management

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— Officials of the Steamboat Ski Area confirmed this week they have delayed the beginning of extended spring hours by a week in an effort to save operating costs.

"Business levels are not what we expected, so to manage our costs a little better, we moved it to Feb. 17," ski area spokeswoman Cathy Wiedemer said.

Extended spring hours mean that the closing time of some of the ski area's 20 lifts are moved back anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes.

The ski area's published calendar calls for extended spring lift hours to begin on Feb. 10. But Wiedemer pointed out that there is a disclaimer at the bottom of the calendar that says "events and dates subject to change without notice."

Wiedemer said the ski area's decision to delay its extended hours of operations is no different than adjustments any business might make to bring its costs in line with the current volume of business.

The decision to delay the extended hours by a week was made after a meeting of resort officials, Wiedemer said. She noted that the ski area hasn't had any objectionable lift lines recently, and ski area managers concluded delaying the extended hours wouldn't deprive customers of the opportunity to make ample runs within a day. The savings will stem from payroll costs and the expense of operating a chairlift, which includes electricity.

"We're not trying to cut back on anyone's ski time," Wiedemer said.

Spring hours take effect each ski season as the days grow longer, allowing ski area personnel more daylight hours to take care of business after the lifts close. Among the most important of those jobs is a sweep of the slopes to make sure there aren't any injured or lost skiers lingering on the trails.

Wiedemer said as a former mountain hostess, she once participated in those trail sweeps at the end of the day. In December, even with an earlier closing time, the sweeps can be conducted in the gathering dusk, she said. By mid-February, there is daylight beyond 5:30 p.m., allowing the closing times of chairlifts to be moved back.

Wiedemer declined to discuss daily skier totals for February, but said the ski area is anticipating business to rebound this week for the long Presidents Day weekend. Increased business levels should continue as people take their spring vacations, Wiedemer said.

The lodging barometer posted by the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association Feb. 7, was predicting that 12,574 "resort pillows" would be occupied on Feb. 10. That compares to 12,393 for the corresponding Saturday in 2000. Resort wide, lodging occupancies were predicted to average 86 percent last Saturday. The chamber's lodging forecast is not an actual measure of the number of tourists in town, only a prediction.

The chamber predicted 9,230 people were in town Valentine's Day, compared to 9,576 on Feb. 16, 2000.

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