Jan 3, 2022 - Business

Colorado resorts struggle with epic problems, even after new snow

A man in a mask skis at Breckenridge Ski Resort. Photo: Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images

Colorado's ski areas received 3 to 10 feet of snow over the holidays — a welcome gift after a dry start to the season.

Driving the news: Crested Butte reported 99 inches in the nine-day storm cycle, OpenSnow founding meteorologist Joel Gratz reports.

  • The state's average snowpack is now at 114% after starting December at near-record lows.

Yes, but: The new snow is not erasing underlying problems that could make this a difficult winter season on the slopes.

State of play: A crush of mountain-town visitors and a spike in Epic pass sales are colliding with what Vail Resorts chief operating officer Beth Howard called "the most challenging holiday season I've ever experienced."

A labor shortage is limiting the ability of resorts to open new terrain, the Colorado Sun's Jason Blevins reports.

  • The staffing woes are being blamed on a lack of affordable housing and low pay.

By the numbers: Many major resorts have opened half or less of their terrain to start January.

  • Keystone, one of the first ski hills to spin lifts in October, is only 30% open while Loveland is 41% and Eldora is 37%.

Between the lines: Much like a year ago, mountain towns are becoming COVID-19 hotspots and officials are rushing to reimplement indoor mask mandates to control the virus' spread. The surge is also contributing to the staffing shortages.

The bottom line: Fred Rumford, a resort industry veteran who was fired by Vail Resorts, told the Sun that the company is partly to blame for the long lines and delayed openings.

  • "They tried to drive the bottom line so hard, they put employees last," he said. "They didn't invest in their workers. … They don't like to reinvest unless it's showy and glitzy, like chairlifts or terrain."

What they're saying: James O’Donnell, president of Vail Resorts' mountain division, acknowledged that "this has been an incredibly hard few weeks – especially for those who just came off of dealing with challenging early season weather conditions."

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