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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
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Wednesday, April 21, 2004


Skier counts
up 5 percent

Sun Valley concludes ‘fair season’

"While we don’t expect this year to be record breaking (for nationwide tallies) like last year, we do expect it to be in the top two or three."

—MICHAEL BERRY, National Ski Areas Association president

Express Staff Writer

Amid signs that the national and local economies are improving, Sun Valley Resort this week reported that skier counts for the 2003-2004 season exceeded those of last year by just over 5 percent.

After the close of operations on Bald Mountain Sunday, April 18, resort officials reported that a total of 384,897 skier and snowboarder visits were tallied at Sun Valley during the season.

The figure was up moderately from the 365,267 skier visits recorded during the 2002-2003 season, which saw fewer mountain visitors than any of the previous four seasons.

"It was a fair ski season," said Jack Sibbach, Sun Valley Co. director of sales and marketing. "We’re going in the right direction. We’ve still got to keep on increasing."

Sibbach said Sun Valley was on pace for a stronger season but recorded weaker-than-expected numbers in March, when high temperatures in Idaho and throughout the West brought a perceived early end to winter.

"March sort of fell apart with the warm weather," he said.

Despite temperatures ranging above 70 degrees in March, Sun Valley recorded a total of 90,951 skier visits, up from 82,679 in March 2003.

For the entire 2003-2004 season, Sun Valley Co. recorded 171 inches of natural snowfall on Bald Mountain, Sibbach said. Approximately 210 inches of natural snow fell on Bald Mountain in the 2002-2003 season, as well as significant amounts of rain.

The 2003-2004 ski season endured for 145 days, one day less than the previous season.

The resort recorded its highest on-mountain visitor count during the last six years in 1998-1999, when approximately 410,000 skier and snowboarder visits were tallied in a 151-day season.

Michael Berry, president of the Colorado-based National Ski Areas Association, said visitor counts for ski areas nationwide are expected to be down slightly from last season, when the industry tallied a record 57.6 million skier visits.

"While we don’t expect this year to be record breaking like last year, we do expect it to be in the top two or three," Berry said.

The NSAA is estimating that the nationwide skier count for the season will be between 55 million and 56 million.

Improved economic conditions since downturns after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq do seem to be helping resorts in the West, Berry said.

"Destination visits seem to be a little bit stronger," he said. "We think that’s a good trend."

The improved skier counts at Sun Valley are in line with increased revenues in the last six months in local option taxes, which are often used as a gauge of tourist activity.

In Ketchum, LOT revenues for the 2003-2004 fiscal year—which started in October—are up approximately 5 percent.

In Sun Valley, LOT revenues have fluctuated but are up 6 percent for the current fiscal year.

Carol Waller, executive director of the Sun Valley-Ketchum Chamber & Visitors Bureau, said the positive trends bode well for the future.

"They seem to indicate that we’ve turned the corner," she said. "We’re very optimistic for the summer ahead."


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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.