Western ski resorts lead North American winter-spending surge

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A skier in Aspen, Colo.North American ski-resort occupancy levels and room rates are both up this year, as Western ski resorts in states such as Colorado, Utah and Idaho lead the resurgence in winter-vacation spending.

Revenue at Western U.S. resorts will rise 13% this month from a year earlier, primarily on a 6.9% increase in occupancy, DestiMetrics (formerly MTRiP) said this month. Advance reservations from November through April indicate a 12% seasonal increase in revenue and a 6.4% rise in occupancy. DestiMetrics culls its numbers from about 290 properties throughout Colorado, Utah, California, Nevada, Oregon and Wyoming.

"This represents the best early season performance in several years among most of our destination mountain communities," DestiMetrics Director Ralf Garrison said in a statement. "Trends for the remainder of the season are pointing to a happy New Year as well."

That said, winter spending appears to reflect a tale of two regions. Ski trips to Western resorts on average cost 33% more than those to the Northeast, travel-review site TripAdvisor said in a separate study released this month. TripAdvisor said its "TripIndex Ski" measures the combined average of of common ski trip expenses, including a one-night stay, single-day lift ticket, basic rental package and a local meal.

Maine's Kingfield and Quebec's Mont-Tremblant were the North American ski resorts with the two largest price declines, while Idaho's Sun Valley and Colorado's Steamboat Springs were the two North American resorts where vacation costs jumped the most this season, TripAdvisor said.

Still, the overall winter-lodging industry will likely benefit this year from a spending resurgence, weather conditions notwithstanding. Overall, the average cost of a North American ski trip is up 3% this year, to $422, TripAdvisor says.

And earlier this month, Vail Resorts reported that season pass sales were up 13% by units and 16% by revenue, marking the largest year-over-year percentage increase since Vail introduced its cross-resort Epic Pass in 2008. Vail's properties include its namesake Colorado resort as well as Lake Tahoe's Heavenly Valley and Kirkwood, Minnesota's Afton Alps and Michigan's Mt. Brighton.

Follow Danny King on Twitter @dktravelweekly.

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