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Snowy winter boosts Colorado ski towns to record-breaking sales tax revenues

Ski resort communities are hopeful that the big bucks spent at local businesses will translate to investments in affordable housing and a year-round recreation market

The Ajax Express chairlift on Aspen Mountain.(Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun)
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This story first appeared in The Outsider, the premium outdoor newsletter by Jason Blevins. Become a Newsletters+ Member to get The Outsider at coloradosun.com/join. (Current members, click here to learn how to upgrade)

It was yet another banner year for Colorado’s resort communities, with at least five ski towns boasting record sales tax revenue for the 2018-19 ski season

A tally of taxable sales from December through March for Aspen, Breckenridge, Vail, Winter Park and Telluride reveals record spending in the towns. While skier visits to Colorado’s resorts will rank 2018-19 among the busiest in history, thanks in large part to the state’s growing population and plentiful snow, spending across resorts indicates the season was not only busy, but lucrative. Resort town businesses harvested more money than ever before this season.

“Everybody had a good winter,” said Catherine Ross, the executive director of the Winter Park and Fraser Chamber of Commerce. “So many people in town left for vacation this month. So I’m happy that our business owners did so well this winter they were able to take a vacation and come back ready for a big summer.”

Last fall the business community in the Fraser Valley joined with the new operator of Winter Park ski area — Alterra Mountain Co. — to develop a unified marketing plan and logo. That partnership fueled the best winter ever for the valley, Ross said. Winter Park saw taxable sales hit records every month of the winter, totalling $78.8 million for the season, more than double the sales from 2008-09.



“Alterra and Winter Park resort’s marketing efforts and reach beyond our usual channels has been amazing,” Ross said. “We really owe a lot to the Ikon Pass for our successes this winter.”

Ross and her business leaders in the Fraser Valley are embracing the newcomers with big investment in a new downtown plan and upgraded trail connectors throughout the valley.

“We are working on improving our ability for everyone to experience our natural amenities,” she said. “When we spend money, it’s on behalf of everyone; our residents and our visitors.”

Margaret Bowes, the executive director of the 32-member Colorado Association of Ski Towns, said the investment by Winter Park and Fraser is reflected across all of Colorado’s resort-anchored valleys.

“They are all putting their money back into their communities, with things like infrastructure, affordable housing, trail systems and recreational amenities. Things that benefit both the resident and the visitor,” Bowes said.

Resort communities and ski areas together are working to rely less on skiing. Summers are booming. Events reach deep into the shoulder seasons, drawing crowds in the spring and fall when mountain towns typically went dormant.

“It’s about expanding into a year-round economy,” said Kevin Bommer, the executive director of the Colorado Municipal League who grew up near Jackson Hole ski area in Wyoming. “These communities are really promoting not just all the things there are to do, but a lot of events. Look at the craft-beer festivals and the GoPro Mountain Games this weekend in Vail. Those are all designed to get people up there and when they are there, they are going to spend money.”


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