Skier numbers down slightly from last
February decline accounts
for most of difference
By GREGORY FOLEY
Express Staff Writer
Skier numbers at Sun Valley Resort through
the end of February are down slightly compared to those from the 2001-2002 ski
However, a solid turnout of skiers over
the weekend—encouraged by significant accumulations of fresh powder on Bald
Mountain—has provided some hope that a rebound could occur in late March and
Skiers turned out in large numbers at
Sun Valley Resort over the weekend, taking advantage of mild temperatures
and several inches of fresh snow. Bald Mountain’s Warm Springs base area, above,
was packed during the day Saturday when 4,041 skiers took to the slopes. On
Sunday, 3,073 skiers visited Sun Valley’s ski areas. Express photo by Willy
Jack Sibbach, director of marketing and
public relations for Sun Valley Co., said the resort has recorded 262,619 skier
days through the end of February. The figure is down from 277,903 at the same
time the previous year.
Sibbach said skier numbers this season
were generally on par with last year through January, but dropped by
approximately 14,000 in February.
Sibbach said company officials believe
that the drop can be attributed to several factors. "The economy of the Pacific
Northwest has been hurt as much as any part of the country," he said. "And there
is a perception that there is no snow (here)."
Despite the perception that drought has
stricken the West‘s ski industry, skiers on Bald Mountain Saturday enjoyed
exceptional conditions on a packed snow base of more than 60 inches.
Meanwhile, other economic indicators in
Ketchum and Sun Valley have been mixed. January receipts from "local-option"
sales taxes were down approximately 16 percent for the month in Ketchum compared
to last year, but were up 8 percent in the city of Sun Valley.
The decline in skier days in February does
not necessarily indicate an overall decline in visitors to Sun Valley, Sibbach
noted. February "house counts" indicate that occupancy rates were up 2 percent
over last year, he said.
Unusually cloudy, wet weather during
mid-winter may have also been a factor in the drop in skier numbers during
mid-winter, Sibbach added.
Overall, the various circumstances have
resulted in a decline in advance reservations at Sun Valley Resort for March,
Sibbach said. "We don’t anticipate a great March," he said.
Michael Berry, president of the
Colorado-based National Ski Areas Association, said the ski industry overall
experienced a lull in the middle of winter.
"We’re seeing a little softness as we head
into the middle of March," he said, noting that some skiers may be hesitating to
travel because of the possibility of war in the Middle East.
He said many major destination ski areas
in the Rocky Mountains are having good years, but those in the Pacific Northwest
are not faring as well. "This winter in the Pacific Northwest it’s been a tough
year from a weather standpoint, so their numbers are down," he said.
Berry said the NSSA is expecting that
skier numbers nationwide this season will reach—and perhaps surpass—the level
they were at last year, when 54.4 million skier days were recorded.
Sun Valley recorded 405,700 skier days in
the 2001-2002 season. (Skier days are calculated by adding up all skier visits
to Sun Valley’s two ski mountains, including those that are made by season pass
holders and skiers who use complimentary lift tickets.)
Sibbach said Sun Valley Co. is currently
anticipating the skier-day total to reach 380,000 for the 2002-2003 season.
Resort officials are currently planning to
offer skiing on Bald Mountain through Sunday, April 20, Sibbach said.