Skier visits up in Colorado, with hope high for spring powder

March 20, 2017 Updated: March 20, 2017 at 4:15 am
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A skier drops into double black Patrol Bowl on the top of Chair 9 Sunday, March 27, 2016, on a bluebird day at Loveland Ski Area. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

Following a slow start to the season, Colorado's ski industry has seen a bump in business. But heading into the final stretch, areas will need Mother Nature's cooperation if they want to match the record success of 2015-2016, when the state passed 13 million skier visits for the first time.

For the second period of operations, spanning January and February, Colorado Ski Country reported that visits at its 22 member areas were up 1 percent from last year. While numbers are better than the association's five-year average, season-to-date visits are down 2 percent from 2015-16.

And Vail Resorts also is playing catchup from a season ago, with visits to date down 4 percent at its U.S. resorts, which include four in Colorado.

But in a release to investors, the corporation's CEO, Rob Katz, said that visits to state mountains in the second period "were in line with their record prior year performance."

And while Colorado Springs has been unseasonably warm, there's hope that powder will continue to grace the high country heading into spring.

"We have a lot of ski season left with Colorado's snowpack at 125 percent of average," Colorado Ski Country CEO Melanie Mills said in a release.

Joel Gratz, meteorologist with the snow-forecasting website OpenSnow, said in a text that big storm cycles from January and early February have "positioned snowpack to be well above average."

"And that has helped us hold the snow through the last few weeks of warm weather," he continued.

The forecast calls for dry conditions through next week, but Gratz expects slopes will improve with two to four storms finishing the month.

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