Ski-group head says snow can trump economy this winter


ASPEN, Colo. -- Most U.S. ski resorts enjoyed a banner season last winter despite the economic slowdown, with visits up 9.9% (to 60.5 million) compared to the previous season, and the top executive of the National Ski Areas Association said here Thursday that he believes business this coming season could resist fallout from the country's economic weakness once again.

"If the snow is good, the industry will suffer little or no consequence" from the economy, Michael Berry, president of the association, told Aspen-area hoteliers and resort executives at a session co-hosted by the Aspen Chamber Resort Association and the Aspen Skiing Co.

Berry, noting that the seven top seasons in the industry's history all have occurred during the past eight years, contended that several fundamentals should position the industry for more good years to come.

"For the first time in the sport's history," he said, "we have three generations of participants," with the younger generation embracing the cutting-edge aspects of skiing and snowboarding and supplementing the continuing presence of their parents and grandparents on the slopes.

Last season, he said, saw a "huge increase in entry lessons," which bodes well for continued participation.

Giving a further boost to such trends currently, he said, is the combination of a weak dollar and the improved product and service offered by U.S. ski resorts, both of which continue to drive increases in international visits. In contrast to 20 years ago, he said, "We are setting the standard for service in the industry worldwide."

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