Nationwide skier numbers take a leap

Randy Wyrick
Daily file photo/Bret HartmanAlmost 60 million people skied last season across the U.S., according to thhe National Ski Areas Association, a 5.8 percent increase from the 2004-05 season. Record snow in Vail drew record crowds. Heather Jochl, left, Brandon Jozwiak, middle, and David Wieder ride the first chair up the Vista Bahn during opening day at Vail. Jochl, Jozwiak and Wieder camped out the night before in the lift line to get first chair.

Snow is your friend and the more that falls the friendlier we feel.

Last season was real friendly for everyone.

Fueled by record snows and record numbers in Colorado’s central Rockies resort region, almost 60 million skiers and snowboarders hit the slopes across the nation last ski season, a new record, according to an annual end-of-the-season survey by the National Ski Areas Association. The 58.8 million skiers and snowboarders nationwide is a 3.3 percent increase over last season.

Skiers not only bought lift tickets, but also winter sports gear and clothing. Retailers across the country saw a 4.4 percent increase, and much more in the Vail Valley.

“We were up at least three times that number. We had a stellar season, one of the best ever both in catalog and our stores,” said John Gorsuch of Gorsuch Limited who saw a 22 percent increase in their business. “It was a good year. The stars aligned. We had great weather, great snow, good merchandise and great customers.”

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The Rocky Mountain region covers six states including Colorado. The region saw a 5.8 percent increase in skier visits, or 1.1 million more skiers than last season. This year’s ski season total was 20.8 million people for the Rocky Mountain region.

For Colorado, the numbers are strong but not yet final, according to Colorado Ski Country. Through February, Colorado saw 8.35 million skiers, up 5.4 percent from last year ” with their eyes trained on a possible record of 12 million skiers for the 2005-06 ski season. In 2004-05, 11.81 million skiers hit Colorado slopes. Colorado Ski Country releases their 2005-06 numbers next month.

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

We’re still snow farmers and the ski industry’s success is tied to snowfall patterns. While Vail saw record snows and record skier numbers, skier visits in the northeastern U.S fell 9 percent, stemming below-average snowfall, National Ski Areas Association president Michael Berry said.

The same was true for southwestern Colorado, which saw thin snowfall last winter.

Barry said equipment improvements enable the aging baby boomer skiers to hang on longer, while improved gear make the skiing and snowboarding more appealing to a younger crowd.

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

Colorado is home to 25 ski resorts. The National Ski Areas Association represents 325 alpine resorts nationwide, covering about 90 percent of the country’s skiing and snowboarding.

Vail, Colorado

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