- Associated Press - Saturday, June 6, 2015

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) - New Mexico’s ski resorts have seen a significant jump in the number of visitors in recent seasons, a state industry group said Friday.

Ski New Mexico said it found a nearly 20 percent increase in skiers across the state’s 11 ski areas during the 2013-14 season. The nonprofit trade organization also said resorts gained 176,000 more visits during this past season with a $98 million boost in economic activity, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported (http://bit.ly/1cDU2Pn ).

The group’s report calculated any skier visiting any of the state ski areas for all or part of a given day. According to their data, five ski sites saw a decent bump in visits. Ski Apache in Ruidoso got almost double the number of skier visits documented in the 2013-14 winter season.

Snowfall this past season averaged about 136 inches, 12 inches more than the five-year average. But snow arrived earlier than usual, particularly in the central part of New Mexico. George Brooks, executive director of Ski New Mexico, said he thinks the early arrival got people believing there was a lot more snow than normal.

“The perception of snow is sometimes more important,” Brooks said. “Most people would be surprised there was only 12 more inches of snow, but if it snows often, there is that perception of more snow.”

Another factor that may have contributed to more attendance was resorts being able to make their own snow. That ability allows ski areas to have a consistent presence of snow in between storms, Brooks said.

Ski New Mexico has been working with state tourism officials to promote winter recreation. Their campaign pushed winter activity with the slogan, “Skiing is New Mexico True.”

State Tourism Secretary Rebecca Latham said it’s important that the state “combat misconceptions that we are a desert state with nothing to do.”

Now, most ski areas are turning their attention on how to draw more visitors during the summer. Resorts will offer a range of activities, from zip line tours to disc golf. Brooks said the goal is to get enough revenue to keep from spiking lift ticket prices next winter.

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Information from: The Santa Fe New Mexican, http://www.sfnewmexican.com

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