Skier Jenny Mustard rips through fresh snow at Steamboat Ski Area in April. The Colorado Ski Country USA trade association announced Thursday that skier visits to Colorado resorts fell 5.5 percent, to 11.85 million, last season.

Photo by John F. Russell

Skier Jenny Mustard rips through fresh snow at Steamboat Ski Area in April. The Colorado Ski Country USA trade association announced Thursday that skier visits to Colorado resorts fell 5.5 percent, to 11.85 million, last season.

Colorado skier visits down 5.5 percent last season

Guest numbers drop to 11.85 million in 2008-09 season, during struggling economy

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— Colorado Ski Country USA says skier visits to Colorado resorts last season fell 5.5 percent to 11.85 million amid a slump in the travel industry.

The trade group said Thursday that preliminary figures show skier visits to its 22 member resorts, which don't include Vail Resorts Inc.'s four Colorado ski areas, fell 6.9 percent last season to 6.79 million.

Vail Resorts has said it had about 5 million skier visits at Vail, Beaver Creek, Keystone and Breckenridge last season, down about 3.5 percent from 5.2 million the season before.

The results are in line with a 5.5 percent drop the National Ski Areas Association reported in May for the season. It said preliminary figures showed there were 57.1 million visits to ski resorts across the country, down from a record 60.5 million visits the season before.

Ski company officials had said they expected resorts within driving distance of big cities to fare better in 2008-09. The National Ski Areas Association said destination resorts suffered most last season.

Aspen Skiing Co. said Thursday that visits to its four mountains were down 7.6 percent from the 2007-2008 season to 1.36 million. It had expected a drop of 5 to 15 percent.

Skiers and snowboarders are already looking ahead to next season.

Vail Resorts said that as of May 31, the number of passes it had sold for next season was up 37 percent from the same period last year.

"The travel industry as a whole was put to the test this past year," Colorado Ski Country USA President and CEO Melanie Mills said in a written statement. "But visitation numbers show not only the enduring value of a Colorado ski vacation, but the strong commitment our resident skiing and riding community has to our state's signature sports."

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