Ski Corp. president: Steamboat dodged a bullet

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Read more about Steamboat Ski Area executive Chris Diamond’s account of the toughest ski season he’s experienced here since 1999 in Sunday’s Steamboat Pilot & Today.

— Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. President and Chief Operating Officer Chris Diamond told a gathering of business people Wednesday that he expects the resort’s destination skier visits to be off about 3 to 4 percent when ski season wraps up April 15.

He’s hopeful that spring snowstorms will bring a late burst of regional skiers who tend to ski Steamboat late in the year anyway.

Diamond said Colorado and Steamboat are fortunate compared to other areas of the country.

“All in all, I think we dodged a bullet,” Diamond said. “Nationally, the ski industry did 61 million skier visits last year,” when some ski areas still were operating July 4. “This year, I think we’ll be under 50 million. It’s a kick in the teeth to U.S. skiing with this crazy weather.”

He predicted skier visits to some ski areas in California and the eastern U.S. will be off in the range of 30 to 50 percent.

Diamond told his audience that going into the ski season, early reservations for Steamboat produced an optimistic outlook for the 2011-12 season but that the prolonged periods without significant natural snowfall in December and January undermined reservations for January and early February.

“We saw that the real impact of the economic slowdown had pretty much passed for our guests. We saw all the demand right where it should be going in,” Diamond said. “The only disappointing metric was (airline reservations). I think that was a function of the cost, a minimum of 20 percent (increases) year over year. The guest was holding off on that piece of the purchase until the last minute.”

Routt County officials reported that February arrivals at Yampa Valley Regional Airport were off slightly to 21,474 passengers compared with 21,669 in February 2011.

December 2011 began the destination ski season with an increase to 17,321 arriving passengers compared with 15,786 in December 2010.

January was the toughest month of the season for airline arrivals, dipping to 17,877 passengers compared with 20,574 in January 2011.

Diamond said strong group business in January helped get Steamboat through that dry month, and business began rebounding Feb. 7 when Steamboat enjoyed a snowy weather pattern culminating with the one-day record total of 27 inches that fell on Mount Werner on Feb. 20.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com

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