Whistler/Blackcomb wasn’t the only area to set a record for skier visits this past winter, the 25 member resorts of Colorado Ski Country USA combined for more than 12 million skier visits in 1997-98. The final tally for CSCUSA — 12,006,649 — was an increase of 1.36 per cent over 1996-97 and the first time the Colorado resorts have topped 12 million. Most Colorado resorts had good early season conditions and built on that base throughout the season, although it wasn’t an exceptional snow year. A combination of marketing strategies, increased air connections to some Colorado resorts, a solid economy and pre-season talk of El Niño’s impact on Western resorts is credited with helping boost the numbers. Telluride, one of the resorts with increased air service, saw a 22 per cent increase in skier days over its previous record. However, Vail’s total of 1,587,932 was down slightly from the previous winter. A spokesman said one of the factors was the resort didn’t receive as many big snowstorms as usual last winter, which prompted skiers from the Denver market to go elsewhere or stay home. Two other Vail-owned resorts, Breckenridge (1,300,883 skier visits) and Keystone (1,149,270), also saw slight declines from the previous year. Skier visits to Beaver Creek, the fourth Vail-owned resort, were up about 5 per cent, to 668,520. Whistler/Blackcomb had a record 1,830,000 skier visits this past winter, an 8.5 per cent increase over the previous record number, set in 1996-97. Also this past winter, Blackcomb became the first mountain in Canada to top 1 million skier visits. In addition to Whistler/Blackcomb, Sun Peaks and Mount Washington recorded record numbers of skier visits this past winter, but many B.C. ski areas were hampered by poor early season conditions. Final numbers for all B.C. resorts have yet to be received by the Canada West Ski Areas Association, but President Jimmy Spencer said this week it appears the total for all B.C. resorts will be slightly over 4 million. That’s down from more than 4.5 million skier visits in B.C. last year. The winter of 1994-95 was B.C.’s best, when nearly 4.7 million skier visits were recorded.