After setting new records the last two years skier visit totals for Whistler and Blackcomb are down this winter.
Whistler Mountain’s final skier visit totals are 703,000, down from last winter’s record 803,000 but ahead of what the company had budgeted for.
"It’s largely early and late season declines, primarily due to weather," Whistler Mountain’s Alicia Vennos said.
The fatal Quicksilver accident on Dec. 23, which left the Creekside area without lift access for the rest of the winter, was also a factor for Whistler Mountain.
Final numbers for Blackcomb aren’t in yet, as its winter season ends Monday. As a publicly traded company Blackcomb does not release its skier numbers until shareholders have seen them. However, a Blackcomb representative said the company was happy with its skier visits this year, exceeding what it had budgeted and close to last winter’s record numbers.
The two mountains combined for a record 1,775,275 skier visits in 1994-95 and 1,416,981 in 1993-94. The next highest season total was set in 1990-91 when 1,323,391 skier visits were recorded.
Whistler was not the only ski area to suffer this winter. The lead in the cover story of the April 20 Aspen Times said "Aspen has the dubious distinction this spring of apparently being the only major ski resort in Colorado to see its skier numbers fall for three seasons running."
But Aspen was an exception in Colorado. Despite a poor start to the season Colorado resorts combined for a record number of skier visits, surpassing the 11,164,000 mark set two seasons ago. Once the snow finally came several resorts, including Steamboat, posted record snowfalls. Heavy snowfalls in the new year helped Breckenridge and Copper Mountain log record skier numbers, while Vail and Keystone posted gains over last winter. Only resorts in the southwest corner of the state, such as Telluride and Crested Butte, missed out on the snowfalls and consequently saw skier visits decline.
The four Aspen ski areas — Aspen Mountain, Snowmass, Buttermilk and Aspen Highlands — recorded a record 1,527,117 skier visits in 1992-93 but the numbers have declined each year since then. They were down 4.5 per cent in 1993-94 and a further 2 per cent in 1994-95.
This winter’s skier visits were down again, but only marginally. Aspen Skiing Company President Patrick O’Donnell told The Times: "We’re relatively close, which is good. I’m satisfied, given the lack of snow in the beginning."
O’Donnell said all of Aspen’s decline in skier visits occurred at Snowmass. That area is installing a $5 million snowmaking system this summer.
Aspen’s totals for 1995-96 could be below 1.4 million for the first time since the 1990-91 season.
Elsewhere in the United States, Vennos said California had a warm winter, with numbers down at Mammoth Mountain and at Lake Tahoe. All the Pacific Northwest states also were down in total skier visits, while the Eastern resorts had a very poor year.