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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2002 Express Publishing Inc.
All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited. 

For the week of April 23 - 29, 2003


Winter tourism decrease ‘not unexpected’

Ski season a bummer for business

Express Staff Writer

More than just a war, fears of terrorism and a sickly national economy combined to deliver the poorest performing ski season for the Ketchum-Sun Valley resort community in the past six years.

Warm weather, the bane of ski resorts, also played a hand.

John Reagle, right, of East Fork and Bob Walker, of Pocatello, both vintage veteran mogul skiers, turn their way down Ridge Sunday on the last day of the ski season. Express photo by Willy Cook

The final count of skier days for the 146-day 2002-2003 season that ended Sunday totals 367,631--about 9.5 percent fewer skiers than last year’s 405,700 skiers on a 143-day season, according to statistics released Tuesday by the Sun Valley Co.

This year’s total also is less than the 1999-2000 season of 376,000 during a 151-day ski season.

Sun Valley Co. marketing director Jack Sibbach said that business "fell off after the war (in Iraq) started. People with second homes or from Seattle, who often come three or four times a year, only came once or twice this year."

But Sibbach also attributed a lot of the shortfall in skiers to warm weather in nearby ski areas. Twin Falls and Boise, for example, had poor snowfall during the season, and, as a consequence, Sibbach said, skiers turned to golf and other outdoor sports instead of coming to Sun Valley.

Final room occupancy totals aren’t in yet, but Sibbach said he believes room nights will be down by several percentage points from last year.

"I called around and they (other ski resorts) are all down for the year," Sibbach said.

Sun Valley Ski Patrol members remove tower pads from snow guns Sunday on Bald Mountain. Express photo by Willy Cook

The drop in overall business is also reflected in the city of Ketchum’s sales tax receipts for the period of September 2002 through February 2003.

Overall sales tax collections of $926,368.09 were down less than 1 percent from the $927,600.48 collected in the same 2001-2003 six-month period for a total drop of .12 percent.

The only categories showing increases over the same period in 2001-2002 were on liquor sales (up 2.49 percent, from $66,071 to $68,218) and building materials (up 3.99 percent from $171,425 to $176,261).

By categories, the changes between the two years were a .65 percent drop in retail (from $565,866 to $562,206), a 5.24 drop in room receipts (from $58,486 to $55,404), and a stunning 18.05 percent drop in condo rentals sales tax (from $45,670 to $42,277).

The Sun Valley-Ketchum area now has some 300 fewer rental rooms.

Sun Valley’s sales tax receipts showed more or less parallel results.

October through February retail tax receipts were up over the same period 2001-2002 by 29 percent ($181,339 vs. $140,976); lodging receipts were down seven percent ($186,976 vs. $200,748); liquor taxes were down two percent ($31,362 vs. $31,929). -

Sibbach said he believes the resort’s summer business "will be fair, about the same as last summer. July and August look good."

The community will receive a real boost with Allen & Company’s annual July gathering of media and high-tech tycoons and their families. The several hundred attendees, plus support personnel hired locally, will add a substantial boost for retail businesses.

At the Sun Valley/Ketchum Chamber of Commerce, executive director Carol Waller surveyed 50 area companies about their business activities.

She said that overall they reported business being down 8 percent this past winter, down for the first part of this year by eight percent compared to the same period in 2001-2002.

The worst slide was among restaurants--down 17 percent this winter.

December through March passenger boardings at Friedman Memorial Airport were up 18 percent, partly as a result of a 22 percent increase in the number of daily seats available because of Horizon Air’s new daily Los Angeles service. Over one-third of the passengers using the service were first-time visitors to the Wood River Valley.

"The decrease in tourism this past winter season was not unexpected," Waller said, pointing to the war, SARS and the sliding worldwide economy.

She also echoed Sibbach’s findings that ski resorts throughout the West have suffered setbacks this year in business volume.


Ski Reports


City of Ketchum

Formula Sports

Idaho Conservation League



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Premier Resorts Sun Valley

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The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.