There are 11 ski areas located within the White River National Forest; Arapahoe Basin, Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk, Breckenridge, Beaver Creek, Copper Mountain, Keystone, Snowmass, Sunlight and Vail Mountain. These ski areas use federal lands for their operations and pay a fee based on revenues generated on national forest lands.
The 11 resorts in the White River National Forest paid $19.94 million in fees in fiscal 2016 compared with $17.92 million in 2015, according to the U.S. Forest Service – an 11% increase.
Fees went up at all 11 resorts. Aspen Highlands had the highest increase at 28.5% and Keystone Resort followed closely in second at 27.4%.
Arapahoe Basin Ski Area’s fees went up 18.7%, while Breckenridge Ski Resort and Copper Mountain Resort posted more modest gains at 8.6 and 5 percent, respectively.
All increases reflect a very strong year for the 2015/16 Colorado ski industry. For the first time in history, it topped 13 million skier visits.
HOW IT ADDS UP
The U.S. Forest Service uses an in-depth formula to determine the ski area fees and what they pay for revenue generated on national forest lands. Skier visits and related business such as skier lessons figure into the fee.
The agency uses a sliding scale, so smaller ski areas and those that don’t use a lot of federal land in their operations pay a smaller fee.
Overall, Vail Mountain paid the highest fee last year at $6,532,063. In Summit County, Breckenridge posted the biggest fee at $4,724,929 and Keystone came in second at $2,886,771 – a 9.3% increase from last year. Copper Mountain paid $1,309,656 compared to $1,246,664 in 2015 and A-Basin pitched in $505,535, up from $425,796 last year.
WHERE THE FUNDS GO
The ski-area fees helped the White River National Forest generate about $10 million more in 2016. In addition to the ski-area fees, the Forest collects revenue from oil and gas leases, timber sales and grazing.
The ski area fees go directly to the U.S. Treasury where Congress decides where the funds go and allocate the Forest Service budget. Then the agency’s Rocky Mountain Regional Office divides the funds among the national forests in its jurisdiction.
However, guide and outfitter fees remain in the White River National Forest unlike ski area fees.
It is expected that fees paid by ski areas will continue to rise. The increased revenue seems to reflect the recent emphasis resorts have placed on summer business.
From sightseeing gondola rides, to zipline tours, guided hikes and mountain bike trails; summer on-mountain attractions have increased visitor traffic thus increasing revenue for the national treasury.
Fees paid by each ski area and the increase compared to the prior year:
- Aspen Mountain: $98,365 +2.9%
- Aspen Highlands: $397,096 +28.5%
- Buttermilk: $263,450 +13.5%
- Snowmass: $1,615,034 +2.7%
- Vail Mountain: $6,532,063 +9.3%
- Beaver Creek: $1,588,595 +6.1%
- Keystone: $2,886,771 +27.4%
- Breckenridge: $4,724,929 +8.6%
- Arapahoe Basin: $505,535 +18.7%
- Copper Mountain: $1,309,656 +5%
- Sunlight Mtn Resort: $19,711 +19%
- Total All Ski Areas: $19,941,216 +11%
Source: White River National Forest supervisor’s office