Ski Resorts Find Ways To Stay Busy When There's No Snow In an effort to make money year-round, ski resort companies in the West offer attractions like mountain biking and hiking during the summer months. These attractions help resorts bounce back to pre-recession numbers and offer year-round jobs for resort workers.
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Ski Resorts Find Ways To Stay Busy When There's No Snow

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Ski Resorts Find Ways To Stay Busy When There's No Snow

Ski Resorts Find Ways To Stay Busy When There's No Snow

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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With sizzling temperatures in much of the country, tourists are looking to get some relief at mountain resorts better known for winter skiing. From Colorado to California and Oregon those resorts are on track to set a record this year for summer business.

From Aspen Public Radio, Marci Krivonen reports.

MARCI KRIVONEN, BYLINE: Brandon Wilke glides toward several mountain bike trails at Snowmass ski resort in Colorado. He and his brother-in-law are riding a gondola to reach the trails.

BRANDON WILKE: We're here visiting, we're here for a wedding, and we thought it would be a good idea to bring some mountain bikes and come up on the mountain.

KRIVONEN: They're spending a long weekend at the resort just down the road from Aspen. Wilke says he didn't know mountain biking was an option, at first.

WILKE: I went to the Snowmass website and just looked at what kind of activities and events they held up here and saw the mountain biking and the gondolas, and decided it's for me, got to bring my bike.

KRIVONEN: In the summer, the Aspen Skiing Company allows mountain biking on terrain normally used for skiing.

JEFF HANLE: These trails were all in place last summer and some of the lower stuff was in place the year before.

KRIVONEN: From a gondola car, the Aspen Skiing Company's Jeff Hanle points to dirt trails that crisscross the mountain. Bridges, jumps and big wooden banked turns are tucked between pine trees.

HANLE: We're still winter-driven, and that's where most of our income comes from, but we've got these facilities up here and we can use them to sort of expand and stretch out our business season.

KRIVONEN: The ski resort operator isn't the only the one benefiting from expanded summer offerings; hotels, restaurants and shops in Snowmass and Aspen are enjoying a banner summer.

Bill Tomcich tracks visitations through his resort booking company.

BILL TOMCICH: You just take a look at the number of visitors in town and it's almost unprecedented numbers compared to what we're used to in years gone by.

KRIVONEN: He says the resort is bouncing back to pre-recession levels, partly because of activities like mountain biking. It's also cheaper. A summer hotel stay in Aspen is about 60 percent of the cost of a winter vacation.

West of Aspen, Heavenly Resort in California is also expanding its summer activities. A 2011 law allowed resorts that operate on Forest Service land to offer activities other than skiing. For Heavenly, that meant offering things like summer tubing.

Resort spokesperson Sally Gunter says tourists tube down a long green, plastic mat.

SALLY GUNTER: They have the same tube that we use in the winter, and they sit down and are pushed down the tubing hill. It's 500 feet long, a 60 foot vertical drop and is very exhilarating.

KURT FEHRENBACH: I'm putting the middle of my foot on the pedal, not the ball of my foot. Your foot is more secure when we hit bumps.

KRIVONEN: Back at Snowmass resort, bike pro Kurt Fehrenbach instructs a group of new mountain bikers, decked head to toe in protective gear. Fehrenbach teaches skiing in the winter and welcomes the year-round job security something that's hard to find in a resort economy.

FEHRENBACH: One of the tricks with working seasonal jobs, teaching skiing in the wintertime, is finding the right job that compliments it in the summer.

KRIVONEN: As more summer activities are added in the Aspen area, there are some minor concerns from local residents and tourists alike over traffic and limited parking. But, it's a small price to pay, they say, to avoid an economic slump each summer.

For NPR News, I'm Marci Krivonen in Aspen.

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