Snowboarder Matt Currey hangs out in the sun at Steamboat Ski Area on Thursday afternoon. Ski area officials expect business to remain solid for the next couple of weeks with a slight drop during the final week.

Photo by John F. Russell

Snowboarder Matt Currey hangs out in the sun at Steamboat Ski Area on Thursday afternoon. Ski area officials expect business to remain solid for the next couple of weeks with a slight drop during the final week.

Tourist numbers mixed for rest of season

Ski Corp. expects good traffic in next couple of weeks before decrease

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— Steamboat Ski Area expects a couple of solid weeks and then softer visitor numbers in its final month of the season, Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. President Chris Diamond said.

"Most of the vacation business kind of comes from right about now through the end of next week," Diamond said Thursday. "And then the last week, fortunately we have NASTAR to help, but it'll be quieter, and then it just sort of trails off."

The ski area gets a boost because Easter falls later than it did last year. The hill closes April 12. The 2007-08 season ended on April 6.

Ski Corp. doesn't release skier numbers. Colorado Ski Country USA announced in a news release Thursday that skier visits at its 22 member resorts were down 5.8 percent for January and February compared to 2008. Steamboat Ski Area is a member of that trade group.

Visitor numbers are up slightly for the period compared with the five-year average, however, Ski Country said. For the 2008-09 season to date, visitation at member resorts is down 5.9 percent compared with 2007-08, the release stated.

Lodging numbers in Steamboat tell part of the story. The weekly lodging barometer released by the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association predicted 82 percent of Steamboat's pillows would be occupied Saturday night. Last year, the city was expected to be 96 percent full at the comparable time.

Steamboat's lodging is expected to be 74 percent full Wednesday and 56 percent full March 21. Chamber officials, like ski area officials, have noted those percentages might be lower than reality because people are booking closer to the time of their visits. Lodging was 69 percent occupied March 7. That percentage represents 10,700 people.

Elsewhere in the ski industry, Vail Resorts said Wednesday that its second-quarter earnings had increased 18 percent compared with last year, The Associated Press reported. The company also announced that it would cut wages companywide to try to preserve jobs and save $10 million a year, the AP wrote.

Diamond declined to comment on the Vail Resorts information.

"Right now, we're just focusing on making sure we give great service for the next five weeks," he said.

The ski area has rolled out its spring promotions to drum up traffic, Ski Corp. spokeswoman Loryn Kasten said. It's pushing its Springalicious event, which includes closing weekend activities such as the Cardboard Classic race and pond skimming. The ski area also offers a ski free in April promotion. People who book three nights of lodging through Steamboat Central Reservations get free lift tickets.

Two spring passes are available in April, Kasten said: a $99 three-day pass for any three days in April and a $149 pass that's valid for all 12 days in April.

"The one thing that I'm hearing is that the Denver and Front Range schools have spring break the last week in March, so that's a big focus for us to get those spring breakers to come up," Kasten said. "So, we're not done seeing our bookings for the rest of March and April, and we're just continuing to drive more bookings."

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