For 49 years, Colorado Ski Country USA has promoted and lobbied on behalf of the local ski industry. This fall, we chatted with Melanie Mills, president and CEO, about the recession, tourism, and lift-line bonuses.
You are the group’s 10th president. How has your tenure been different than those past?
The economic recession. I took on these duties in June 2008, and by October of that year the stock market had dropped dramatically. The ’08–’09 season was challenging. We began—and continue—to focus on doing more with less.
How was last season?
Our message last year was a bit mixed. Some resorts were challenged with snow; at others, it just piled up. Statewide, we had a really good season.
What’s the focus for this year?
New investments in tourism efforts in Brazil, which has been a growing market for us. We’ve had a presence there for a long time, and we’ve decided to amp it up.
What about local skiers?
We are thankful that we have half a million active skiers in Colorado. They are the backbone of the industry. Colorado skiers like to be on the cutting edge, whether it’s a new type of terrain or equipment.
Ski-related fatalities make headlines every winter. Is this a sad but unavoidable byproduct of the industry?
Our sport is defined by state law as inherently risky. Most active outdoor sports are risky. We have more than 12 million skier visits a year in Colorado, and the fatality rate is low relative to other sports. People have to take responsibility for themselves and maintain control. Ski within the limits of your ability.
Is it an office requirement to ski?
It’s not a requirement, but everyone skis or snowboards. This is not hardship duty. There are an awful lot of times that it doesn’t feel like work.
Why did you move to Colorado?
I moved to Colorado in 1990 after I met a man in a lift line who is now my husband. I’ve been here for 21 years. We just celebrated our 19th anniversary.