30 days to go, Ski visits down 7% in Aspen, ski real estate impact

by | Sep 13, 2018 | Colorado Living, Colorado Private Lending, Colorado Real Estate values, Colorado Ski real estate, Colorado Ski towns, Ski lending/ investing

As ski season is about to start again in under a month (Arapahoe 10/13). I took the pic above of Loveland pass a few weeks ago.  It is important to note what happened in Colorado last year; Llast winter ski visits in Aspen skiing co were down 7% through last December (Aspen times). The Rocky Mountain region as a whole was down 5%.   What does this mean for real estate?  Do the winter numbers matter as summer visitation increases?

Why was last year down?

In many Colorado ski towns, the lack of snow decreased visitation substantially early in the season.  Through December, Aspen was down almost 20%.  Once the snow started after the new year they were able to “claw back” and end up down only 7%.

Is last years drop in ski visits a trend or a blip?

Nationally skier visits were down 3 percent, this is below the 20-year average even though many regions outside of Colorado last year had abundant snowfall.  Unfortunately, this is not a blip.  According to the National Ski Area Association

The number of active skiers in the U.S. has declined over the last two decades from a peak of 10.6 million in 2009, to 9.2 million, to a low of 8.7 million during the 2015-16 season. Numbers rebounded slightly to 9.2 million during the epic, 2016-17 season..

‒ Skier and snowboarder visits to ski areas in the Northeast and other regions have also been declining fairly steadily. During the 2015-16 season, only 9.3 million visits were recorded in the Northeast — the fewest since 1979-80, and down from a peak of 14.7 million in 1986-87.

What about summer?

Summer is the new bright spot in the ski industry.  In summer 2015, lodging occupancy in mountain resorts across the West reached 92 percent of the occupancy rates of winter.  Every major ski area is targeting summer tourism with ziplines, mountain coasters, mountain biking, Gondola rides, etc… In Vail, the largest single day each year is July 4th where 40,000 plus people attend events.  This contrasts with their biggest winter event, the Burton US snowboarding open, that brought in 25,000 people.  DestiMetrics, a company that surveys 19 mountain destinations in six western states, reports that summer lodging business in ski towns has grown 70 percent since 2007. In town after town, non-winter occupancy rates and sales tax collections are soaring. (Curbed Magazine)

Ski resorts are now becoming year-round destinations with growth in summer visitation continuing to accelerate.


How do the industry changes impact ski real estate?

The ski industry and ski resort towns are undergoing a radical shift.  In the past, people would come to town to ski.  The summers and falls would be quiet shoulder seasons.   This has all changed as resorts have become year-round tourist destinations.  Along with this change, real estate is also changing.  In the past people would buy their ski condo or house in Steamboat to go skiing.  Now many of the real estate purchases are “lifestyle” purchases.  The buyers may, or may not ski, but they are attracted to the outdoor opportunities and “vibe” that the community offers.  For example, many buyers of second homes in Colorado ski resort towns might stay for 4 months during the summer/fall and then come back for a short visit around the holidays to possibly ski.  This is a drastic departure from past buyers which in turn has huge implications on real estate.


With the change in buyers’ attitudes, ski real estate is also impacted.  Skier visits are no longer an indicator of real estate values.  Both Commercial and Residential values in ski towns have continued to surge as winter skier days declined due to the desirability of owning property in a ski town for both winter and summer seasons.  This trend will continue as more people “discover” the year-round offerings in the various ski towns.

Even with the ski industry woes of attracting younger participants to the sport and declining numbers, ski towns are having no problems attracting visitors.  This will translate into continued real estate appreciation on both commercial and residential properties in the various ski towns throughout Colorado.

Resources/Additional Reading


  1. https://www.steamboattoday.com/news/skier-visits-at-u-s-resorts-dip-about-3-percent-to-53-3m-this-season/
  2. The Rocky Mountain region was down about 5 percent, according to an NSAA spokeswoman. That equates to a loss of about 1 million skier visits from the 21.73 million that hit the slopes in 2017-18.
  3. https://www.steamboattoday.com/news/skier-visits-down-2-percent-across-majority-of-colorado/
  4. https://www.aspentimes.com/news/local/aspen-snowmass-skier-visits-down-7-while-colorado-ski-country-members-are-off-2/
  5. https://www.aspentimes.com/news/local/aspen-skiing-co-s-skier-visits-down-19-5-but-aspen-mountain-posts-a-gain/
  6. https://www.curbed.com/2017/7/27/15965408/ski-resort-summer-vail-aspen-colorado
  7. http://www.telegram.com/news/20180110/shaun-sutner-skiing-and-boarding-association-sounds-alarm-on-sports-declining-participation
  8. https://www.nsaa.org/
  9. https://www.economist.com/international/2018/01/27/winter-sports-face-a-double-threat-from-climate-and-demographic-change
  10. https://www.curbed.com/2017/7/27/15965408/ski-resort-summer-vail-aspen-colorado
  11. https://www.denverpost.com/2016/09/17/colorados-mountain-towns-too-busy/


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Written by Glen Weinberg, COO/ VP Fairview Commercial Lending.  Glen has been published as an expert in hard money lending, real estate valuation, financing, and various other real estate topics in the Colorado Real Estate Journal, the CO Biz Magazine, The Denver Post, The Scotsman mortgage broker guide, Mortgage Professional America and various other national publications.

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