DENVER (AP) The nation's No. 1 ski state reported a big comeback this year from two straight dismal seasons.
Colorado Ski Country USA reported skier-snowboarder numbers were up by 635,047, or 5.7 percent, to 11.5 million over the 1999-2000 season for its 25 member resorts.
Late snow and last year's Y2K fears scuttled the 1998-99 and 1999-2000 seasons.
Colorado Ski Country USA President David Perry said while the numbers of skiers from Colorado's Front Range were high, there were fewer skiers traveling to Colorado from elsewhere than he would have liked.
''Due to consistent snowfall throughout the country and concerns over the economy, some people chose to stay in their own backyards where the snow was good,'' Perry said.
For the first time in seven years, the trade organization did not report individual figures but it was clear Vail Resorts was among the big winners. And that included its flagship, Vail Mountain.
The company would not disclose its figures prior to its quarterly stock report, but Vail Mountain reportedly had passed its 1999-2000 totals before the spring-skiing crush began.
That means Vail retakes the title of the nation's busiest ski resort from sister area, Breckenridge.
The rise was consistent with the national trend. The National Ski Areas Association reported earlier this month that skier visits set a national record. The preliminary total of 57.3 million was up 10 percent from the previous season.
The rebound was reported in all markets, from small ski areas in regional markets to big resort destinations.
Record snowfall and optimal conditions for snowmaking early in the season contributed to a record season for ski areas in New Hampshire, and near records in Maine and Vermont.
Squaw Valley in northern California was up 3 percent despite fears that ongoing construction would drive skiers away. Mammoth in southern California was up 20 percent from last year, and 11 percent above their budget projections. Joani Saari credited discounted ski passes for much of the increase.
Battles for Colorado skiers have spilled over into other markets in the past three years, resulting in lift ticket prices dropping to mid-1970's levels at some resorts.
Utah's 14 mountain resorts had a record 3.3 million skier days, breaking the the previous mark by 6 percent.
On the Net:
Colorado Ski Country USA: http://www.coloradoski.com