Aspen skier visits down slightly for 2016-17 season after slow start
Ski Country visits down 2.5 percent from record 2015-16 season
Scott Condon - The Aspen Times
Colorado's ski industry — including the Aspen Skiing Co. — took a slight hit from the slow start to the season but still managed strong business numbers.
Aspen Skiing Co.'s skier and snowboarder visits were down "less than 1 percent" compared to the 2015-16 season, spokesman Jeff Hanle said Thursday.
Warm and dry conditions delayed the opening of a significant amount of terrain until December. Sixty-five degree temperatures in March spurred some would-be skiers to grab their mountain bikes and golf clubs.
"All things considered, this came out to be a very strong year for us," Hanle said.
Colorado Ski Country USA, a trade association for 22 ski resorts in the state, reported its preliminary numbers showed skier visits were down 2.5 percent for the season. Nevertheless, its members tallied 7.3 million skier and rider visits. The 2015-16 season saw a record 7.4 million visits.
"It is estimated that after final numbers all tallied, the 2016-17 season will be the state's second-best on record," Colorado Ski Country USA said in a statement. "This year's season total was up 6 percent over the five-year average, marking the fourth consecutive year that skier visits at CSCUSA resorts have outperformed the five-year average."
Colorado Ski Country's numbers don't include Vail Resorts, which doesn't belong to the trade association. Therefore, the visits racked up by Vail Mountain, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge and Keystone aren't part of the 7.3 million visits. Vail Resorts reported that its North American ski areas' visits were down 2.8 percent this season, but a figure wasn't released for the four Colorado resorts.
Statewide, all of Colorado's ski resorts combined to top 13 million visits for the first time in the 2015-16 season. The resorts fell short of that mark this season, according to Chris Linsmayer, public affairs director for Colorado Ski Country USA.
Colorado Classic unveils routes in Colorado Springs, Breckenridge and Denver with emphasis on loops and laps
Jason Blevins - The Denver Post
It was a common post-peloton refrain among roadside spectators during the five-year run of the USA Pro Challenge bike race across Colorado:
“Was that it?”
Spectators would arrive early on the route and soak in the views. As the peloton approached, the vibe turned from simmer to sizzle. Then the colorful racers whizzed past, delivering less than a minute of action to festooned and festive fans.
The latest iteration of professional cycling in Colorado — the four-day Colorado Classic arriving in Colorado Springs, Breckenridge and Denver Aug. 10-13 — looks to eliminate that race-watching brevity with lots of laps and sprints in downtown streets.
The race, with more than 100 of the world’s top cyclists, will cover 313 circuitous miles and include more than 20,000 feet of climbing. The seven-day USA Pro Challenge, which last raced across Colorado in 2015, was much broader with a largely point-to-point course traversing 617 miles with 44,000 feet of climbing. But that town-to-town model proved pricey and unwieldy.
The Colorado Classic tightens the race to a smaller footprint and stirs a music, art and food festival into the racing mix.
The route for the Colorado Classic, announced Wednesday, is heavy on the loops.
Stage one on Aug. 10 in Colorado Springs covers 93.5 miles as racers push through six laps between downtown and the city’s Garden of the Gods. The men’s race starts at 1:10 p.m. in downtown Colorado Springs and ends around 4:40 p.m. The women’s race, with a two-lap and three-lap course, begins at 10 a.m. and ends around 11:35 a.m.
Stage two on Aug. 11 in Breckenridge spans 64 miles, traveling 10 laps on a 6.4-mile course that will include a lung-searing 7,000 feet of climbing. The route climbs the notorious Moonstone Road up Boreas Pass above town and descends Illinois Gulch before looping through Breckenridge’s Main Street. The race starts at 2 p.m. in Breckenridge’s Blue River Plaza and ends around 4:40 p.m. The five-lap women’s race begins at 11 a.m. and ends around 12:25 p.m.
Stage three on Aug. 12 starts in Denver and runs 81 miles in the Colorado Classic’s only out-and-back route. The race begins in Denver’s RiNo Art District amidst the music, crafts, food and drink of the Velorama Festival and heads west to Colorado 72, aka the Peak to Peak Highway. Off of Colorado 72, racers will turn onto Twin Spruce Road and face the rolling hill and dirt roads along Gap Road before returning to Denver through Golden Gate Canyon State Park. Organizers expect a sprinting finish down RiNo’s Walnut and Larimer streets. The race begins at 1:30 p.m. in RiNo and ends around 4:40 p.m.
Stage four on Aug. 13 will return to circuit racing with 74.6 miles spread across 10 laps on a 7.4 mile loop between Denver’s RiNo and City Park. The race begins in RiNo at 12:20 p.m. and ends around 3 p.m. Both the Denver stages begin and finish in the ticketed Velorama Festival grounds, with three days of music including Wilco, Death Cab for Cutie, Old 97’s and the New Pornographers.
The race will be televised on NBCSN and live streamed on NBC Sports Gold — the network’s subscription app. Paul Sherwen will call the action alongside 2012 Pro Challenge winner Christian Vande Velde and commentator Bob Roll. With the smaller circuits, the network will use fixed cameras, eliminating the need for motorcycle-mounted radio-frequency cameras, which sometimes went dark on Colorado’s remote passes, plaguing coverage of the rambling Pro Challenge.
Jim Birrell with Medalist Sports has organized major bike races across the globe for almost 30 years. He’s seen most come and go. In the U.S., only the billionaire-owned Tour of California and the smaller Tour of Utah have remained viable, reflecting the decades-long challenge for stateside professional bike racing. He says the new circuit format “answers the question” as organizers compete for spectator attention in a world where there’s something fun to do nearly every weekend.
A race watcher in Colorado Springs can see the start, jump on their bike and head up to Garden of the Gods for a couple laps, head down to Colorado Avenue for a lap or two and then catch the finish. That beats 30 seconds of racing on a mountain top.
“This gives you an opportunity to see so much of the race, from the beginning, to how it unfolds to how it concludes,” Birrell said. “The new format has all the right ingredients for success.”