It’s been a good holiday season at Crested Butte Mountain Resort (CBMR), where skier visits and room nights are up over last year. It’s not a silver bullet—January isn’t vying to outpace other winter months—but it’s up over last year, and that brings some extra enthusiasm to the beginning of the New Year.
According to Erica Reiter, CBMR public relations and communications manager, room nights from December 24 through 31 were up 4 percent in skier visits and .5 percent in room nights compared to the same time last year. Comparing the whole holiday season to last year, CBMR was up 7 percent in skier visits and skier visits in January are expected to be up 15 percent over last year. “From what I’ve heard around town, January is up for many of the reservation businesses, which is definitely true for us up here at the resort. January is always a really tough month in the ski industry; after the holiday break and before President’s Weekend, but we are bucking the trend and are definitely excited about it. That’s not to say that numbers are huge, but it is a big improvement for us as a community,” Reiter said. She added that the additional bookings at the resort include leisure group business like ski clubs and church groups, as well as the holiday break pushing into January. And of course, the snow doesn’t hurt. That’s a boon during a season where the resort has added a few new offerings to its lineup, including a new Scarpa Skitrab Demo Center for uphill skiing and a giant air bag at the base of the tubing hill. The demo center opened last week, giving locals and visitors alike the chance to try out lightweight touring gear. Skinning up the mountain in the early hours of the morning or after work has been growing in popularity as a way to get in some exercise and take a few turns in a more controlled environment than the backcountry. The new demo center is part of efforts by CBMR to formalize their uphill program. An uphill pass has been required since the winter of 2009-2010, but under some proposed changes skiers without a downhill pass would pay a nominal seasonal fee, dog-friendly and dog-free routes would be established, and a possible all-day uphill trail could be created. That’s all pending approval from the Forest Service but once enacted, CBMR would become the first resort to formalize its uphill skiing program. Community support for uphill skiing was a big motivating factor. “The enthusiasm in the community is one of the main reasons, and a lot of us are doing it up here,” said Reiter. “We are a very active community, and I’m not saying that other communities aren’t active, but Crested Butte does kind of take that to the next level.” Reiter added that the resort wants to make it a safer and more enjoyable experience for uphill skiers by letting skiers know where to expect dogs and keeping skiers away from groomers and avalanche control work. Adding the demo center makes it possible for resort guests to give a try, too. It’s with that in mind that lightweight gear has been selected for the center. “It’s definitely more of a touring setup, pretty lightweight so not a backcountry setup. But any guests wanting to try uphill skiing are not from 9,000 feet,” Reiter said. Lightweight gear will set them up for a better experience. The demo rental comes with skis, poles, skins, boots and bindings, and according to Reiter it’s some of Scarpa’s best technology. The partnership with Scarpa was made possible by the Boulder company’s enthusiasm for the project, with both CEO Kim Miller and local Scarpa representative Kirk Haskell were on hand for the kick-off. Now that it’s up and running, the demo center will be open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day and have early morning hours on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 6 to 9 a.m. After hosting a series of three meetings to solicit input and ideas from the public, CBMR submitted a management plan to the Forest Service this week on Monday, January 7. Reiter expects the Forest Service to take a week or two to get back to the resort. The air bag has also brought a new enthusiasm to the mountain, where it’s been used primarily for tubing (although Aaron Blunck did put it to use during a fundraiser to raise money for his training—collecting almost $5,000). “It’s been really good. People have been having a ton of fun,” Reiter said, adding that the resort is hoping to make the air bag available for skiing and snowboarding now that the holiday rush is coming to a close.