There were a lot of smiling faces at this week's Colorado Ski Country USA annual conference held at the Steamboat Springs Grand Resort Hotel.
News broke that Colorado hit a record high number of skier visits this past season.
The old record was set during the 1997-98 season when just fewer than 12 million visits were recorded. Colorado ski resorts soared past that record this year with 12.53 million ski visits.
"Everybody has that comfortable, modest smile on their face," said Crested Butte Mountain Resort President Timothy Mueller. "It was a really good year this year guys, but it was also good last year."
Mueller was one of five executives who spoke about topics during a roundtable discussion at the three-day ski conference. Also participating were Chris Diamond, Steamboat Ski and Resort Company president; Bill Jensen, co-president of Vail Resorts; David Barry, chief operating officer of Intrawest Mountain Resorts; and Bob Nicolls, owner of Monarch Investment and Management Group.
Colorado Ski County USA president Rob Perlman moderated the discussion. The conference was attended by about 150 ski executives and people involved in the ski industry.
Panelists were asked what they thought contributed to the record-breaking year. Near-record snowfall contributed to the numbers, but the ski area executives said it was too simple to say that was the deciding factor.
"I'm not going to lead off with snow because I think it was more the snow message than the snow," Diamond said.
The snow definitely did not hurt skier visits, Diamond said, especially toward the end of the season, when word spread about the amount of snow that was falling at Colorado ski resorts.
Diamond said the sales and marketing efforts were key.
The executives all seemed to think the industry was on the rebound after several flat years.
"It's big news that we are growing again, and there is no question the balance sheets are stronger than they were a few years ago," Diamond said.
He said there are challenges facing the industry. He said not enough attention has been given to recruiting and nurturing future ski industry leaders.
The industry also needs to do more to address skier safety, he added.
"Our guests will not tolerate an environment where their safety is at risk," he said.
The panelists also agreed the ski industry needs to promote an image of being friendly to the environment.
"I suspect, over the next couple years, that the ski industry will move in a meaningful and visible manner, and we'll start to be recognized around the world as a leader in environmental stability and practices," Jensen said.
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