A ski industry group says skier visits to Colorado resorts dipped 12.5 percent to start the season, compared to the record numbers set in the early part of last season. But recent reports indicate that the number of skier fatalities is not slowing.
Colorado Ski Country USA says its 26 member resorts had an estimated 2.87 million skier and snowboarder visits from October 10th through the end of last year. Resort operators say this year’s numbers are more in line with a typical ski season than last year, when there was a record number of snowstorms.
The trade group says visits this season were affected by low snowfall totals in November that kept several resorts from opening on time, before heavy snows in December. Ironically, some of that heavy snow kept travelers from getting to resorts.
A greater irony is that even with the decrease in skier visits, skier deaths continue to rise.
In January a skier who died after hitting a tree at Keystone ski area, a 22-year-old man died after snowboarding on an intermediate trail at the Steamboat ski area, and a 45-year-old man died at Steamboat after falling into a tree well, a hole or depression of unstable snow that forms beneath low-hanging branches around tree trunks.
Retired ABC News correspondent John McWethy died February 6th after crashing into a tree while skiing at Keystone. At the time, McWethy was at least the seventh skier or snowboarder to die in Colorado this season. Two other snowboarders have been missing from the Wolf Creek Ski area since Jan. 5 and are feared dead.
And this week two more fatalities have been reported. A 33-year-old Southwest Airlines pilot hit the trees and died at Telluride Ski Resort yesterday and a 68-year-old skier was found face down in the snow this afternoon at Winter Park Resort. He died a short time later, according to the resort and Winter Park police.