U.S. skier numbers up; may set record | AspenTimes.com

U.S. skier numbers up; may set record

DENVER ” The number of skiers and snowboarders in the United States reached a record 58.8 million last season, up 3.3 percent from a year ago, according to preliminary data from the National Ski Areas Association.

Industry growth is being spurred by the popularity of skiing and snowboarding with a younger crowd and equipment improvements that allow aging baby boomers to stay on the snow longer, NSAA president Michael Berry said Tuesday.

“It’s a multigenerational phenomenon,” he told The Denver Post. “Baby boomers, their children and their grandchildren are all out there skiing. The resorts have become true multigenerational gathering places.”

The association represents 325 alpine resorts nationwide.

The six-state Rocky Mountain region, which includes Colorado, saw a 5.8 percent gain in skier visits, or more than 1.1 million people, to finish at 20.8 million skier visits for the 2005-06 ski season. The state’s 25 ski resorts may top 12 million skier visits for the first time this season, though those numbers are still pending.

“If I were a betting man, I’d bet yes,” said Jeff Hanle, spokesman for Aspen Skiing Co., which saw about a 6 percent increase at its four resorts.

There were 8.35 million Colorado skier visits from October through February, up 5.4 percent from last season, according to Colorado Ski Country USA. March is traditionally a high-traffic month, and Ski Country will release final skier-visit numbers next month.

“We’re certainly optimistic that we’ll top (12 million); all indications are good,” Colorado Ski Country spokeswoman Molly Cuffe said.

Success still depends greatly on snowfall patterns. In the Northeast, skier visits declined by 9 percent amid below-average snowfall, Berry said.

The final NSAA report is scheduled to be released in July.

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