Denver, CO, June 12 (AP by Robert Weller)--This year's annual Colorado Ski Country meeting could be a prime hunting ground for insurance salesmen.
Final Colorado ski season figures, to be released Monday, will show the second straight major decline in the numbers of skiers and snowboarders who hit the slopes in the nation's No. 1 ski state, officials said.
Resorts in many other states also fared poorly.
Now Aspen and other resorts are thinking of joining Vail, Crested Butte and Telluride in buying an insurance policy to soften the blow of no-show skiiers in no-snow years.
``It takes the crystal ball out of running a resort,'' said Joe McNasby, whose MDM Group Associates Inc. pioneered the policies. This year the group, based in Steamboat Springs, will pay out more than $20 million to resorts from California to New England.
Eighteen resorts around the nation have bought the coverage from MDM Group, McNasby said, and French and Australian ski areas now are considering similar policies.
A $6.2 million payout in the quarter ended April 30 helped Vail Resorts post a 42-percent increase in income during, from $30.2 million last year to $42.8 million this year, the company reported last week. MDM Group paid a total of $10.6 million to Vail for the season.
Vail Resorts spokesman Paul Witt said the company ``definitely is thinking about'' renewing its coverage for the 2000-2001 season. The Aspen Skiing Co., after deciding against the insurance last fall, is reconsidering, said spokeswoman Rose Abello.
Vail signed up after a disastrous 1998-99 season, when skier days on Vail Mountain dropped 16 percent. The snow came late that year, and a popular mountain restaurant was closed by a fire allegedly set by eco-terrorists opposing an expansion of the area into terrain they wanted protected as habitat for the rare Canada lynx.
McNasby said the policy is much more than ``weather insurance,'' though weather is probably the culprit up to 85 percent of the time. ``It's an all-risk type coverage, anything that causes a reduction'' in the number of skiers and snowboarders, he said.
This past season, for example, fears of Y2K chaos likely contributed to lower numbers at some major destination resorts.
``It's not up to the resorts to show why the numbers dropped, just that they did,'' McNasby said.
American Skiing Co.'s Steamboat Springs resort, which like Aspen decided against the insurance last year, will ``look at it again for next season,'' said Dennis Baker, Steamboat's vice president for finance.
``We plan to discuss it and see if other resorts have had good experience with it,'' he said. ``It's an intriguing idea.''
Copyright (c) 2000 The Associated Press