A few record days during the December holidays weren't enough to keep Steamboat skier visits from slipping by 6,000 skiers.
Season-to-date skier visits at Steamboat were down 1 percent as of Jan. 25, from 418,878 last year to 412,814. Steamboat recorded just more than 1 million skier visits for the entire 2002-03 season.
Steamboat marketing executive Andy Wirth said the gap of 6,000 skier visits can be accounted for by a couple of days in November that the ski area was open for in 2003 and not in 2004. He added that the ski area has, since the end of January, more than made up the 1 percent downturn.
The mid-season figures for Steamboat were released in parent company American Skiing Co.'s second-quarter earnings report. Among ASC's seven ski areas, only the Canyons near Park City, Utah, reported growth in skier days for the portion of the season ending Jan. 25. And Steamboat's modest loss looked like a bright spot compared to Vermont resorts.
Overall, ASC's resorts were off 10 percent in skier visits, down from 1.7 million on Jan. 26, 2003, to 1.55 million on Jan. 25, 2004. The decline, which company officials attributed to unfavorable weather in New England, contributed to a second-quarter net loss of $62.9 million compared with $55.8 million for the same period in 2003.
The Canyons was up 13 percent, to 169,206 visits, as of Jan. 25. However, Killington, Mount Snow and Sugarloaf/USA all posted double-digit dropoffs. Mount Snow was down 27 percent, from 257,332 skier visits last year to 118,081 this year. Killington, which recorded more skier visits than Steamboat last winter, was off 18 percent, from 482,384 to 394,120.
ASC Chief Financial Officer Betsy Wallace hinted Steamboat has made up the loss since the end of January, but did not elaborate.
"Steamboat and The Canyons have exceeded our expectations this winter," Wallace said. "The Canyons is on track for another record skier visits, while Steamboat has shown significant improvement on similar year-over-year visitation."
Wirth said an on-mountain survey completed March 6 confirmed the ski area has seen a "strong" resurgence in out-of-state visitors, and a more modest increase in international visitors, partly attributable to the weak dollar.
"I can tell you we remain very pleased with how we're doing," Wirth said.
The Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association's lodging barometer projects Steamboat will see 12,500 visitors in town Saturday (about 1,000 fewer than last year), but that number will rebound to 13,500 by Wednesday. The Wednesday figure represents almost 2,000 more tourists here than on the corresponding Wednesday in 2003.
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