Colorado Ski Country announced Thursday that its 22 member resorts have tallied a combined 7.3 million skier visits for the 2016-17 season, a figure the trade association expects will account for the state's second busiest season ever once finalized.
A record 13 million were estimated to visit Colorado's slopes last season. That was based on projected visitor increases by Vail Resorts, which operates four resorts in Vail, Breckenridge, Beaver Creek and Keystone but is not a member of Colorado Ski Country. Vail Resorts reportedly totaled more than 5.6 million visits in addition to the 7.4 million at Colorado Ski Country's resorts. Vail Resorts does not break down skier visits by resort, but reported an overall decrease in visitors across its North American mountains for the 2016-17 season.
Colorado Ski Country says its visits from the season are up 6 percent over a five-year average. It was the fourth straight year the association's resorts topped that average.
Industry leaders have blamed a dry fall for the season's slow start. But Mother Nature packed on the powder just in time for the holiday season, with some areas seeing record business in December and January.
Skiers and snowboarders pump nearly $5 billion into the state's economy, according to a 2015 study commissioned by Colorado Ski Country and Vail Resorts. The report says the industry provides more than 46,000 jobs, generating almost $2 billion in income for Coloradans.
It was another booming season for the U.S. industry as a whole, with the National Ski Areas Association reporting a combined 54.7 million visits, a 3.7 percent rise from 2015-16. According to a survey by the association, the Rocky Mountain region recorded its second-best season with 21.7 million visits while the Northwest and Pacific Northwest posted sizable boosts in visits.