Colorado’s ski season picks up speed as late-winter storms bring the good snow

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Loveland Ski Area, seen from I-70 eastbound. Dec. 27, 2023.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
Loveland Ski Area, seen from I-70 eastbound. Dec. 27, 2023.

Colorado’s ski resorts are making up lost ground with the help of recent storms like the one that walloped the Front Range and surrounding areas this week. 

The winter sports season got off to a lackluster start because the good snow didn’t show up. That’s turned around just in time for spring break, usually one of the busier periods for the state’s ski areas. 

“What typically tends to be true is guests follow the snow, and we are certainly seeing that right now going into spring with really great spring skiing conditions, with snow still falling,” said John Plack, a spokesperson for Vail Resorts.

Vail, which owns some of Colorado’s big name destinations, including Breckenridge, Beaver Creek and Keystone, told investors earlier this week that it’s cutting its profit forecast because business was down at all of its North American resorts. Executives blamed a dearth of snow for the drop off in visitation to its properties.

“We saw trends … including here in Colorado where we had a slower start to the season through January,” Plack said.

The story is similar at ski areas across the state.

“It was just kind of a weird year,” said Rosanne Haidorfer-Pitcher, vice president of sales and marketing at Wolf Creek, which sits just outside of Pagosa Springs. “A lot of the snowstorms have underperformed for us. They were forecasted with much more. So everybody is always excited and apprehensive of the big snowstorms and then they all seem to kind of peter out a little bit. So that was frustrating.”

But the late-season snow is helping to fill up hotel rooms. Lodging bookings in Colorado’s mountain towns for February and March surged as the snow piled up, according to data provider DestiMetrics.  

“We actually just had our busiest February ever, which was great,” said John Sellers, marketing director at Loveland Ski Area. “That's due to the snowfall and I think probably some pent-up demand from that slow snow start to the season.”

A lack of snow might not be the only thing that kept visits to Colorado’s ski resorts down this year. Consumers fed up with inflation are starting to show signs of pulling back on spending, according to new data from the U.S. Commerce Department.

“It's never just one thing,” said Wolf Creek’s Haidorfer-Pitcher. “I definitely think it's a combination of things like people definitely cutting back on how much they can spend and snowfall.”

Loveland’s Sellers said people might be spending a little bit less on food and other things around the resort lately, but he doesn’t think economic factors are keeping people from skiing.

“Since the snow turned on, we’ve been about where we expect to be,” Sellers said. “Sometimes we like to joke that we're snow farmers here and when the crops are good, we do well, and when they're down we certainly see it with visitation and that's kind of how this season went.”