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SAM Magazine-South Lake Tahoe, Calif., June 24, 2005-Prodigious and early snowfall helped lift California ski areas to record visits of 8.1 million, far surpassing the previous mark of 7.6 million recorded in the 1997-98 El Nino season, according to the California Ski Industry Association.

Among individual areas, Heavenly, Kirkwood and Sierra-at-Tahoe contributed to the record year. For example, Vail Resorts reported Heavenly attracted 586,000 skiers and riders in the quarter ending April 30, up 17.7 percent from the prior year. Kirkwood pulled in 375,000 skiers and boarders, 15,000 more than its previous best season. Southern California, led by Mountain High, also posted strong numbers.