Colorado Springs News, Sports & Business

Gazette Premium Content Colorado sets ski visits record with help from California

Associated Press Updated: June 12, 2014 at 3:18 pm

DENVER — Colorado ski resorts set a visitation record last season, a mark attributed to weather and the California drought.

The state's 25 ski areas logged 12.6 million visits, a 10 percent jump over last year, The Denver Post reported Thursday (http://bit.ly/1irG1kX ).

The record was attributed to strong snowfall in the Rockies, along with a California drought that steered skiers to Colorado.

Industry group Colorado Ski County USA said the visitation record came despite "sensationalized media hype" about marijuana. While the drug is now legal for recreational use in Colorado, it's off-limits on the slopes, most of which are on federal land.

Melanie Mills, president of resort trade group Colorado Ski County USA, called legalized marijuana "the PR event of the year and the operational nonevent of the year," but added that the attention hasn't hurt.

"From a PR perspective, we did not view it as a negative that everyone as talking about Colorado as of January first," Mills said.

The record was attributed to strong snowfall in the Rockies, along with a California drought that steered skiers to Colorado.

Visitation was up across all categories, with the number of out-of-state skiers growing alongside international visitors and pass-wielding locals. While California skiers have long ranked as a top market for Colorado resorts, the drought there fueled a double-digit percentage increase in Californians on Colorado ski slopes this season.

Colorado's ski communities reported strong spending during the season as well. The resort towns of Vail, Aspen, Breckenridge and Telluride posted record sales-tax revenue for the ski season.

"It's been eight years and a Great Recession since the last new visitation record and that feels great," Mills said.

Colorado's skier visitation growth bested the 6.4 percent annual increase for the Rocky Mountain region, which includes resorts in Utah, Montana and New Mexico.

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