Colorado ski resorts loved a report season with mountain cities harvesting highest-ever tax income

This story first appeared in The Outsider, the premium out of doors e-newsletter by Jason Blevins.

In it, he covers the business from the within out, plus the enjoyable aspect of being outdoor in our lovely state.

The 2022-23 winter marked yet one more banner season for Colorado’s ski resorts and mountain cities. 

Colorado Ski Nation final week introduced a report 14.8 million visits to the state’s 27 lift-served ski areas in 2022-23, marking an 18% improve over the five-year common for skier visits within the state. 

And internet taxable gross sales in 18 of Colorado’s resort-anchored mountain cities reached report highs as winter worth tags at resorts, eating places and outlets surged. Taxable spending within the 18 communities reached $4.4 billion from November 2022 via March 2023, up from $4.3 billion in the identical span of the 2021-22 ski season. 

In an emailed assertion, Colorado Ski Nation boss Melanie Mills known as the 2022-23 season “a big new business benchmark.” The nation’s ski areas final winter logged a report 64.7 million skier visits, with historic snowfall fueling hopes that the North American resort business may very well be shaking off extended stagnation and getting into an period of progress. 

Skier visits are a hazy metric for ski resort progress. Mills, within the assertion, mentioned the visitation excessive mark displays “the constructive financial impression that this success has for our staff, our communities, our companions and our state.”

Spending in mountain cities has been steadily rising lately, with extra guests leaving extra {dollars} of their wake. Almost each mountain city in Colorado noticed large will increase in tax income in 2022-23, mirroring a pattern that has been underway since 2019. For the reason that winter of 2019-20, taxable gross sales within the 18 mountain cities tracked by The Colorado Solar are up 47%. 

The winter noticed very sturdy snowfall, and well-timed storms boosted visitors. Extra skiers are shopping for season passes, too, with an rising proportion of Colorado skiers utilizing both the Epic or Ikon move. Resorts which can be accessible underneath the Ikon — like Alterra Mountain Co.’s personal Winter Park and Steamboat ski areas, in addition to companions like Eldora and Copper Mountain — all reported terribly busy seasons.

Alterra Mountain Co. is privately held and doesn’t talk about particular visitation tendencies or move gross sales numbers. Taxable gross sales in Winter Park climbed to an all-time excessive of $124.1 million from November 2022 via March 2023, marking an 11% improve over the earlier season. Taxable gross sales in Steamboat Springs climbed 8% to greater than $507 million within the first 5 months of the 2022-23 ski season. 

The visitation and spending growth is buoying resort operators. Alterra Mountain Co., like its rival Vail Resorts, has masses of cash and it’s poised for enlargement. Earlier this month Alterra introduced it’s shopping for the two,900-acre Schweitzer ski space in Sandpoint, Idaho. The most recent report by Moody’s Traders Providers famous that Alterra Mountain was borrowing $1 billion, with $500 million due in 2028 and $500 million due in 2030. The Could 2023 report famous that Alterra “delivered sturdy working efficiency” over the previous yr and that the corporate had “superb liquidity” with $1.1 billion in money readily available. 

Vail Resorts earlier this month reported earnings of $623.3 million for the third quarter of its fiscal yr via April 2023. The corporate reported a 6% improve in move gross sales via Could for the 2023-24 ski season. The corporate bought 2.3 million Epic season passes and advanced-purchased day tickets for the 2022-23 ski season. Visits to Vail Resorts’ 37 ski areas throughout North America reached 9.2 million in February, March and April of this yr, which compares with 8.7 million in the identical span of the 2021-22 ski season. For all the season, Vail Resorts reported 18.5 million visits in any respect its international resorts, up from 16.3 million within the 2021-22 ski season. 

Vail Resorts doesn’t escape visits to particular person ski areas and even particular person states. In Colorado, the corporate’s Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Crested Butte, Keystone and Vail ski areas are among the many busiest within the nation, accounting for at the least 5 million visits, in accordance with historic numbers from when every resort launched annual visitors counts.

The commerce group Colorado Ski Nation doesn’t embrace any of the Vail Resorts ski areas, however the group mentioned the 14.8 million depend got here from “publicly obtainable data,” within the Nationwide Ski Areas Affiliation’s end-of-season studies, which can be found to the affiliation’s members. 

Aspen Snowboarding Co. reported visitation was up 7% in 2022-23 over the earlier season, which ranks slightly below the four-resort firm’s report of greater than 1.5 million visits set in 2018-19. Taxable gross sales in Aspen reached a excessive of $651.3 million for the primary 5 months of the 2022-23 ski season. In Snowmass Village, the house of Aspen Snowboarding Co.’s most trafficked ski hill, taxable gross sales hit $196.8 million for the 2022-23 ski season via March, up 19% over the 2021-22 season. 

Aspen Snowboarding Co. spokesman Jeff Hanle mentioned the corporate’s Roaring Fork Valley ski areas noticed “sturdy spending” from worldwide guests, with Australians displaying up after two pandemic-impacted years and lots of spring guests from Mexico and Brazil. 

“Not having a report is incredible for us,” Hanle mentioned. “It appears like sustainable progress. We grew somewhat bit with skier visits however not sufficient to impression the general expertise and we nonetheless have cash to put money into housing and staff. That’s the perfect state of affairs, actually.”