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Colorado sees best season ever for skiing

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It's been a good year for Colorado skiing. In fact, the 2013-2014 season, which isn't over yet if Arapahoe Basin has anything to do with it, has been named the best the Rocky Mountain state has had. And not the best in a while...the best ever.

At its 51st annual meeting, Colorado Ski Country USA (CSCUSA) announced that the state had an estimated 12.6 million skier visits during the 2013-2014 ski season. These numbers make the past season the best season on record in the state. Compared to last season, Colorado's estimated skier visits are up more than 10 percent. Compared to the five-year average, the state's skier visits are up more than 8 percent.

“Seeing our visitation punch through the 12.5 million level and best our prior mark demonstrates the vibrancy of Colorado’s ski industry and the passion of our resident and visiting skiers and snowboarders,” said Melanie Mills, president and CEO of Colorado Ski Country USA. “With two consecutive years of growth, momentum is certainly in our favor as our resorts continue to set the industry standard in terms of snow quality, skier safety and guest service.”

Thanks in part to the state's snowfall and the legalization of marijuana, Colorado resorts outperformed the ski industry nationally. “From the start of the season Colorado was in the national spotlight as media focused on the snow and the legalization of marijuana. All eyes were on the ski industry as the two stories unfolded during the ski season,” explained Mills.

In the Pacific regions, resorts were impacted by drought. In the Rocky Mountain region, where snow conditions were more comparable to those in Colorado, Colorado resorts bested the region's 6.4 percent growth rate. “Owning 22 percent of the national skier market speaks volumes to the reputation of our state as the top ski destination,” Mills said.

Twenty-one resorts are members of CSCUSA, and they hosted an estimated 7.1 million skier visits during the past season. It helped that cold weather came early, making early season snowfall possible as well as ideal snowmaking conditions. Colorado's ski season started on October 13, 2013, and an abundant early season snowfall prompted some resorts to open earlier than planned and open more terrain earlier than usual.

“By Thanksgiving the ski season was off on a brisk pace backed by excellent early season conditions,” Mills said. “We got the word out that Colorado had snow and prime winter conditions, and that helped set up a robust holiday visitation period.”

While 2013 ended on a high note, 2014 brought even more snow. Widespread storms brought ideal snow conditions in January and February. The Winter Olympics, enjoyable winter temperatures and powder days falling just in time for major ski weekends kept visitors engaged in skiing and snowboarding throughout the winter. Spring brought even more snow, helping visitation rates over the Easter holiday, which fell late on the calendar this year, and allowing many resorts to extend their seasons or add additional weekends to their operating schedules.

“Overall it was a very positive season, we’re encouraged by the numbers and are hopeful this momentum continues,” said Mills.

Note: According to a CSCUSA press release, "Skier visits are the metric used to track participation in skiing and snowboarding. A skier visit represents a person participating in the sport of skiing or snowboarding for any part of one day at a mountain resort. These numbers are preliminary results and subject to final adjustments by CSCUSA members. The decision to release individual numbers is up to each individual resort."

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