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SAM Magazine--Denver, Colorado, Jan. 12, 2004--Visits at Colorado resorts declined nine percent from year-ago totals, according to figures released today by Colorado Ski Country USA (CSCUSA).

From the start of the season, Oct. 28, through Dec. 31, 2003, total skier visits were 2,671,532, compared to 2002-03's record 2,942,555. This season's total is up two percent over the state's five-year average for the early-season period.

Destination areas fared best, off two percent compared to 2002-03. Front Range destination areas were down 11 percent, while the most locally-oriented Gems/Front Range areas were off by 15 percent.

Two trends in the data make CSCUSA optimistic about the rest of the season. First, visits by destination skier-riders were up after several years of declines. Second, business during the latter part of the holiday period was strong, setting up the rest of the season. This burst was fed by local skiers, who only came out in force after a series of late-December and January storms built the snowpack.