Closing day April 6
Staffing, flight, revenue challenges outweigh heavy snow
By Melinda Dudley - Steambaot Pilot & TODAY
Sunday, March 2, 2008
Colorado ski area closing dates
Arapahoe Basin: Early June
Aspen Highlands: April 6
Aspen Mountain: April 13
Beaver Creek: April 13
Breckenridge: April 20
Buttermilk: April 6
Copper Mountain: April 13
Crested Butte: April 13
Echo Mountain: April 13
Durango (Purgatory): April 6
Howelsen: March 30
Keystone: April 13
Monarch Mountain: April 13
Powderhorn: March 30
Silverton: June 15
Ski Cooper: March 30
Snowmass: April 13
Sol Vista Basin: March 30
Steamboat: April 6
Sunlight: April 6
Telluride: April 6
Vail: April 13
Winter Park: April 13
Wolf Creek: April 27
Steamboat Springs — Despite record snowfall levels that are prompting other Colorado ski resorts to add additional weeks to their calendars, the Steamboat Ski Area is planning to close as scheduled this season, on April 6.
Snow levels aside, additional weeks in April simply aren’t profitable enough to warrant pushing back closing day, Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. spokeswoman Heidi Thomsen said.
Wolf Creek Ski Area, counting 489 inches of snow as of Thursday, opted to extend its season last week. Wolf Creek’s runs will now remain open until April 13, and the resort will host skiers and riders two additional weekends: April 19 and 20 and April 26 and 27.
Monarch Mountain and Durango Mountain Resort, or Purgatory, also have announced extensions to their 2007-08 seasons, Colorado Ski Country USA spokeswoman Jennifer Rudolph said. Durango and Monarch both added an additional week of skiing and are now scheduled to close April 6 and 13, respectively.
At the end of February, Steamboat’s 399 inches of snow already had made 2007-08 at least the sixth-snowiest winter on record at the ski area. And this season marked the first time Steamboat received at least 100 inches of snow in three straight months — December, January and February.
But expanding ski season is not a common practice at the Steamboat Ski Area and has not been done since April 1993, Thomsen said.
Some local business workers said they would welcome an extended-season boost.
“You’d think they’d throw us a little local bone, but no,” restaurateur Eric Delaney said. Delaney was holding down the fort Thursday at Saketumi while his brother, who owns the base area business, was out of town.
Delaney expressed frustration that Ski Corp. was “cutting the season on both sides.” In addition to losing nine days in November — due to an unseasonably warm, dry fall — the season lasted an additional nine days last year, when closing day was April 15.
“We lost business when people canceled their reservations at the beginning of the season,” Delaney said. “Even just another week would be huge.”
Big snow early in the season does not necessarily draw crowds as spring approaches, and people pack up their skis and snowboards and take mountain bikes and tents out of storage.
“Usually, we see the demand drop off as it gets warmer and sunnier,” Thomsen said. “If it’s 70 degrees in Denver, people are going to get excited about other spring sports and activities.”
Rental shops dependent on the ski area agreed that the expected tourist drop-off in April would not make additional weeks of skiing especially profitable.
By April, restaurants and lodging properties already are closing their doors, and marketing for additional weeks would have had to start months ago for paying tourists to be hitting the slopes instead of just locals, said Todd Fellows, a manager at Ski Haus.
“Certainly, they’re not going to pay to keep their staff on the mountain for locals who don’t buy lift tickets, don’t eat hamburgers and don’t pay for parking,” Fellows said.
Although Fellows said lengthening the 2007-08 season would not bring significant profits for Ski Haus, his inner powderhound was disappointed.
“It’s a bummer if you’re a skier,” he said.
Another major factor in Ski Corp.’s decision-making is that the ski season flights at Yampa Valley Regional Airport also are scheduled to make their final departures April 6, Thomsen said.
“When the flights stop, the revenue stops,” Fellows said.
The ski area also could run into problems with its 1800 seasonal workers, who make up 90 percent of its employees. Both domestic and international seasonal workers often have existing plans to return to their hometown, including pre-purchased flights, and could be unable to work longer than expected, Thomsen said.