Snow could help economy

Study: A winter like last year's might keep tourism steady during ski season

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— A boatload of snow could bring planeloads of tourists this winter, despite the weakened economy and higher travel costs, a study has suggested.

Last season's snowfall kept ski resorts going strong, the Rocky Mountain News reported Wednesday, citing a study prepared for the National Ski Areas Association. Snowfall increased 45 percent over the previous year in the Rocky Mountains, according to the Lakewood-based ski trade association.

Despite a late start to the season, the Steamboat Ski Area saw a record 489 inches of snow in 2007-08.

"It bodes well," said Rob Perlman, the new vice president of sales and marketing for Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. "I think that will remain in the memories of locals and visitors alike when they think about vacations for the upcoming season."

Perlman said he was "bullish" on predicting the snowfall for the upcoming season. Australia has had a good snow year, he said, which can be an indicator for how much snow will blanket the American West.

Perlman also is looking for signs locally.

"I'm encouraged by the recent weather patterns we've been seeing," he said. "Those afternoon thunderstorms - it's been pretty wet the last couple of weeks. That's encouraging, and we hope that pattern will continue into the fall and early winter."

Colorado wasn't the only winner last year. The U.S. ski industry saw a record 60.5 million visits in the 2007-08 season, a National Ski Areas Association news release stated. That was up 2.7 percent from the previous record, 58.9 million visits, set in 2005-06, according to the release.

"I was pretty encouraged again by the results of the industry, particularly in the face of the challenges" of the economy, Perlman said. "Also, : folks have long talked about the ski industry as flat. Well, we've shown some great results over the past years, particularly last year with the record season, and that gives us optimism for the future."

The national ski group reported an increase in international visitors contributed to the numbers. The international visits amounted to 6.3 percent of total visits, up from 5.4 percent of visits in the 2006-07 season, the association's release noted.

Perlman said he expected Steamboat to continue to attract visitors.

"In tough, challenging times, to take a vacation with your family or those close to you, there's still a very strong appeal to that," he said. "People want to take vacations with those close to them in special places, and I can't think of a better spot than Steamboat. We're positioned very well."

- To reach Blythe Terrell, call 871-4234

or e-mail bterrell@steamboatpilot.com

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