Sunday November 25, 2012

Associated Press

DENVER -- A disappointing snow year in much of Colorado ski country last season has the state’s resorts and hotels hoping that snowboarders and skiers will burn off some pent-up demand for deep snow this winter.

"Skiers and riders, it isn’t just something they do. It’s who they are," said David Perry, senior vice president of the mountain division of Aspen Skiing Co., which benefited from more snow than some other Colorado resorts last year. "They will come back if the weather is halfway normal."

Hotels and resorts are offering discounts for those willing to commit early to a Colorado ski trip.

The Westin Riverfront Re sort & Spa at Beaver Creek Mountain lets people cancel reservations for stays before mid-December without penalty if Beaver Creek re ports a base of less than 19 inches on the day before arrival.

The Gant hotel in Aspen reports a 17 percent increase from last year in revenue from its Countdown to Winter promotion, which offers the biggest discounts to those who book lodging early.

Among values at resorts, Arapahoe Basin is offering a season pass that’s good for two seasons instead of one. And Aspen/Snowmass is teaming with Alta in Utah, Jackson Hole in Wyoming and Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows in California to offer a $349 pass that includes two free days at each of the four destinations, plus steep discounts on lodging and additional lift tickets. By contrast, a single-day ticket at the Aspen ticket window reached $108 during the busiest times last season.

Passes that offer access to more than one resort are becoming more commonplace. The number of resorts where Monarch Mountain’s season pass holders can ride for free or for a discounted rate is up to 31 this season, and a few international destinations are included. This winter Vail Resorts Inc.’s top-of-the-line Epic Pass offers three free days at Verbier and the other resorts that make up Les 4 Vallees in Switzerland.

Vail Resorts, whose Colo rado resorts include Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Key stone and Vail, reported strong spring sales of its season passes. An update is expected later this month when it reports quarterly revenue.

There were an estimated 11 million skier visits to Colorado resorts last year, down almost 10 percent from the previous season. Industry officials blamed one of the driest winters on record.