Ski area exec: State market share grew

Steamboat Ski Area has slightly more than 1 million skier visits

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The Steamboat Ski Area hung onto the million-skier visit total, and resort officials expect the ski area to realize a modest increase in its overall share of the Colorado ski market in spite of a winter that seemed to evaporate in the heat of March.

Steamboat recorded 1,002,821 skier visits last winter compared with 1,001,020 in the winter of 2002-03. That's an increase of 1,801 skier visits, or 0.18 percent. Steamboat has ranged between 1.001 million and 1.05 million skier visits for 13 of the past 14 seasons. The exception was the winter of 1996-97 when Steamboat hosted 1.1 million skier visits.

"We anticipate a gain in market share, so we're quite proud in terms of where we landed, given the fact that we had an unseasonably warm March and April," ski area marketing executive Andy Wirth said Wednesday. "We've gained nearly half a point in market share in Colorado."

Wirth was speaking from Aspen where the state's leading skiing executives are gathering to talk about the state of the industry and formulating joint marketing plans for the winter of 2004-05. The total skier visits for the state is expected to be released by Colorado Ski Country USA today at its annual convention. Colorado typically generates about 11 million skier visits annually.

Wirth said the ski area observed "notable" declines in season pass use in March and April but declined to say how many skier visits were lost in March or what kinds of growth the ski area might have recorded with typical March conditions.

Wirth said Steamboat saw a "healthy return" of destination skier visits relative to skier visits generated by pass holders. The ski area, helped by a weak dollar against the euro, also saw the highest level of international visitation in seven years, he said. Again, Wirth said he was not free to discuss specific numbers.

Steamboat's skier days were released Wednesday in the quarterly earnings report of its parent, American Skiing Co.

Among ASC's seven resorts in aggregate, skier visits were off 2 percent to 3.88 million. In spite of 12 percent growth at The Canyons in Utah and 6 percent growth at Attitash Bear Peak, N.H., Killington, Vt., was off 9 percent from 1.04 million skier visits to 954,853. The company blamed, in part, frigid weather conditions in New England during January and February.

ASC's resort revenues for the quarter that ended April 25 were up 5 percent to $128,099 in spite of the warm spring in the West. However resort earnings for the 39-week period ended April 25 were off by a fraction of a percentage point at $237 million.

American Skiing Co. has a net debt of $289 million (excluding shares of preferred stock). The company reported a net loss of $38.4 million for the first 39 weeks of fiscal 2004 compared with a net loss of $15.1 million for the same period in 2003. A significant portion of the loss is attributable to accretion of preferred stock dividends. When they, along with charges to debt restructuring and the write off of deferred financing costs, are excluded, the net loss was $6.5 million.

-- To reach Tom Ross call 871-4205

or e-mail tross@steamboatpilot.com

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