Adam Smith, left, and Elijah Mueller do simultaneous flips off a kicker in the Lil’ Rodeo Terrain Park in December 2009 near the base of Steamboat Ski Area. Ski Corp. officials say they will be as aggressive as ever, if not more aggressive, in pursuing return visitors for 2010-11.

Photo by Joel Reichenberger

Adam Smith, left, and Elijah Mueller do simultaneous flips off a kicker in the Lil’ Rodeo Terrain Park in December 2009 near the base of Steamboat Ski Area. Ski Corp. officials say they will be as aggressive as ever, if not more aggressive, in pursuing return visitors for 2010-11.

Ski Corp. notes positive trends, again opts to not release skier figures

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Online resources

Learn more about Colorado Ski Country USA at www.coloradoski.com and the Net Promoter Score system at www.netpromoter.com. Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp.’s website is www.steamboat.com.

Consumer confidence

Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. carefully watches the Consumer Confidence Index to predict customer behavior. The index, measured by the Conference Board, was up to 63.3 in May, from 57.7 in April.

Visitor trends

Ski Corp. monitors where its skiers come from. In 2009-10, it found:

  • -decrease in skiers from Midwestern states such as Illinois and Minnesota
  • - decrease in skiers from California, which Andy Wirth attributed to a weak economy in that state and good snow conditions at California resorts
  • - increase in skiers from the New York City area
  • - decrease in Steamboat’s share of skiers from Texas
  • - increase in skiers from Toronto
  • - stronger international market, particularly out of Australia and the United Kingdom.

Source: Andy Wirth, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp.

— Steamboat Ski Area again opted not to release skier visit numbers this year, though a top official said the resort saw some positive signs and “tracked favorably” against comparable resorts.

Andy Wirth, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp., said the ski area again scored high in terms of customer satisfaction despite lower snowfall. After receiving more than 400 inches of snow the previous two seasons, the ski area recorded 261.75 inches in the winter of 2009-10.

“We navigated through a very, very challenging season in terms of lack of snowfall and a lagging economic environment nationally and actually feel quite good about the results of this past ski season. … We know we performed quite well in key markets, but we still have our work cut out for us next year,” Wirth said.

Colorado Ski Country USA announced in a news release Thursday that its 22 member resorts, which include Steamboat Ski Area, hosted an estimated 6.74 million skier visits during the 2009-10 ski season. That represents an increase of 0.4 percent, or about 29,000 skier visits, compared with last season’s final numbers. Statewide skier visits were up 0.8 percent. That number is higher because it includes Vail Resorts’ four Colorado ski areas. Vail Resorts dropped out of Colorado Ski Country USA in 2008.

Steamboat Ski Area hasn’t made public its annual skier visits for several years.

“There’s not a very compelling case for us to release these total skier visits, it’s more of an interesting factoid than anything else,” Wirth said Friday.

But Wirth was quick to point out that the ski area received high Net Promoter Scores, which measure customer satisfaction.

“We had very high intent to return,” he said.

Ski Corp. also received high marks for its lift operations staff, Wirth said, which he attributed to a better hiring environment, emphasis on training, high standards and employees’ responses to that training and those standards.

He noted that all improvements are relative to a “very challenging national economic market.” Economic conditions started to improve in February and March, Wirth said, after most of the season was on the books.

Colorado Ski Country USA also reported that ski school business improved at many of its resorts. The industry trade group reported an increase in lessons, including a 5 percent increase in children’s lessons.

Wirth said Steamboat’s season reflected that improvement. Customer service scores and revenues improved for the Steamboat Ski & Snowboard School, he said. Wirth also touted upgrades to the Kids Vacation Center, which was expanded before the 2009-10 season.

The ski area also noticed improvement in customer spending patterns, Wirth said.

“We didn’t need to levy as many severe discounts in the marketplace as it relates to retail to drive purchase behavior this year, so that was particularly encouraging,” he said.

Ski Corp. will be as aggressive as ever, if not more aggressive, in pursuing return visitors for 2010-11, Wirth said.

“It’s often been said that when you have a great snow year, the biggest benefit is served the following season, and alternatively when you have a challenging snow year, it can impact visits the following year.”

Wirth said Ski Corp. has had a positive response to its early season pass deals, particularly the Rocky Mountain Super Pass Plus, the season pass and the new PURE Pass, which includes six-day and 15-day options. Those passes are geared to local and regional skiers, as well as second-home owners, and Wirth said they were hitting the mark.

Challenges for the ski area’s 2010-11 season include the air program, he said. Airlines are experiencing higher demand, which means fewer aircraft could be available for smaller routes such as those to Yampa Valley Regional Airport.

The ski area also is promoting its RSVIP Program for returning skiers, adding a magazine called Ski Town USA that will be delivered in formats including those appropriate for the iPad, Wirth said.

“It’s going to take that much more effort to get people to come back to Steamboat,” he said. “We have our work cut out for us, that’s for darn sure.”

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