A wet winter and spring brought skiers and snowboarders flocking to Purgatory Resort, but the snow did not translate into an increase in sales and lodgers taxes in March for the city of Durango, a month known for spring break crowds.
Business Improvement District Executive Director Tim Walsworth said he had expected a “banner” month for sales tax collections in March because Purgatory had quality snow at a key tourist time. But recently released tax data told a different story.
General city sales tax collections dropped 1.5% from about $1.3 million in March 2018 to $1.28 million for the same period this year.
But city sales tax collections are up 0.2% for the first quarter of the year, according to data.
Lodgers tax collections dropped 9.6% from $61,323 in March 2018 to $55,452 for the same month this year, city data showed.
At the same time, Purgatory Resort reported a 47% increase in visits from the 2017-18 season compared with the 2018-19 season. The jump is largely attributable to a rebound from an extraordinarily dry season in 2017-18
The same storms responsible for Purgatory’s quality powder, may be at fault for the drop in sales and lodgers tax, said Barbara Bowman, interim executive director at the Durango Area Tourism Office.
“I do think people were really concerned about the weather,” she said.
In some cases, visitors were leaving town early because of storms, she said.
The National Weather Service issued six winter storm warnings or advisories for the San Juan Mountains in March, said Matthew Aleksa, a meteorologist. It issued 32 for the region from October through May. The warnings and advisories are issued for significant snowfall, blowing snow and hazardous conditions.
Other visitors may not have come at all in March because Red Mountain Pass on U.S. Highway 550 was closed for more than two weeks after avalanches, Bowman said.
Silverton also received 84 inches of snow in March, according to the National Weather Service.
In addition to keeping some would-be visitors away from the region, the snow lured more locals more often to Purgatory, Walsworth said. As a result, locals may have spent less money in town at restaurants and on other discretionary items, he said. But he said after speaking with some businesses about the trend, he didn’t reach a conclusion about what drove the drop in sales taxes.