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COVID-19 vaccines plow the road for ski resort visitors

This season's numbers were marked by COVID-19 restrictions and low early snow, but overall visitors increased over 2019-2020.

DENVER — Colorado Ski Country USA (CSCUSA) announced Tuesday that skier visits to state resorts increased 7.6% from last season.

Though total visits at its 22 member ski resorts trailed the five-year average by 3.7%, the organization said that as COVID-19 vaccines began rolling out, people started coming back.

“Despite the challenges our ski areas, our mountain communities, our employees and our guests faced throughout this COVID-impacted season, the industry is pleased with how this season turned out,” said Melanie Mills, Colorado Ski Country USA president and CEO.

CSCUSA estimated a total statewide skier visit number of about 12 million for the 2020-21 season.

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CSCUSA members worked with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) and local public health authorities to craft “collaborative and thoughtful” operating plans that incorporated flexibility to adjust as the season progressed and as pandemic developments dictated, the organization says in a news release.

“Colorado was one of only two states in the Rocky Mountain Region where ski areas operated with a variety of capacity limitations this season," Mills said. "This created significant operational challenges and is reflected in the more modest increase in our visitation numbers compared with some of our neighboring states. Ski areas provided guests a much-needed outlet and some sense of normalcy during a very difficult time for all of us.”

The release says that restrictions on indoor dining, lessons and events lasted the entire season and resulted in fewer visitors and less revenue.

Additionally, snowfall at CSCUSA resorts for the season was 15% below the 30-year average.

RELATED: Snow totals: Here's how much snow fell across Colorado

As vaccines rolled out and with warmer spring weather, ski areas saw a surge in visitation later in the season, CSCUSA said. The season featured “significant ski area investments in technology and other guest adaptations like pre-purchase lift tickets, order ahead and grab and go food and beverage options and improvements to the rental and lodging experience,” the release says.

“The industry made important investments in technology and infrastructure this year to operate in the pandemic and those investments were instructive on how to continue to improve the guest experience," Mills said. "Many of these improvements are here to stay and guests can expect to see them in the future.”

RELATED: Arapahoe Basin closes Sunday, marks end of Colorado ski season

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