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Colorado Skier Visits Down Nearly 10 Percent

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(credit: wolfcreekski.com)

(credit: wolfcreekski.com)

DENVER (AP) – Weak snow may have dented skier visits to Colorado resorts last winter, but industry giant Vail Resorts Inc. said it still made money, and tiny Wolf Creek Ski Area in southwest Colorado said it set a record for attendance.

The trade group Colorado Ski Country USA said Wednesday that according to preliminary figures, skier visits at its 22 member resorts this past winter fell 11.4 percent from the previous winter to 6.16 million.

Including resorts owned by Vail Resorts Inc., there were an estimated 11 million skier visits in the state for the season. That’s down 9.8 percent from the previous season.

Colorado Ski Country USA President and CEO Melanie Mills called the numbers disappointing but not unexpected in a business where snow trumps all.

Nationally, skier visits dropped an estimated 15 percent, according to figures from the National Ski Areas Association.

Good snow last fall got Colorado’s ski season started early. Nevertheless, precipitation on the Western Slope this winter ended up 43 percent below average, and March 2012 was the driest March in Colorado in more than 100 years, Colorado Ski Country said.

Vail Resorts Inc., whose resorts include Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge and Keystone in Colorado, said snowfall at its Colorado resorts was down more than 70 percent in March, which affected visits during the key spring break and Easter periods. Snowfall at its resorts in the Lake Tahoe area also was lower than average.

Yet on Wednesday, Vail Resorts reported net income of $70.25 million for the nine-month period that ended April 30. That was down from $88.4 million in the same period a year ago, but the company said ski school revenue, as well as retail and rental revenue, showed small gains.

Spring sales of season passes for next season also have been strong, Vail Resorts said. It said spring pass sales through May 29 are up about 17 percent in units and about 22 percent in terms of dollars from the comparable period a year ago. The figures were adjusted as if Vail Resorts had owned newly acquired Kirkwood in California last year as well.

Meanwhile Wolf Creek reported record attendance of 227,306 skiers, almost 2 percent more than the previous record of 222,979 visitors in the 2006-2007 season.

Wolf Creek benefited from an earlier-than-normal start to its season. After an October storm left behind three feet of snow, the ski area opened for business Oct. 8.

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(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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