STEVENS PASS Skier visits at Stevens Pass are up 26 percent ahead of last season at this time, and last season was one of the best on record.

Last winter saw just over 2.1 million skier visits to the state s 13 ski areas. It was just under that the year before.

It s a sign of the growing ski industry. Consider that in the winter of 1998-99, Mount Baker recorded the most snowfall ever on Earth. That season attracted skiers from all around the world, but it was still only 1.7 million people.

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Just like farmers, there s always worry about the future. Ski operators consider themselves snow farmers in that several great years can be followed by a disastrously dry winter, like the one in 2005. That season was so bad, the Summit at Snoqualmie scraped off what snow they could find in the parking lot and put it on some of the lower slopes.

Despite booming business, the ski areas face another challenge -- selling themselves to new skiers. Chris Danforth from Stevens Pass says many of the baby boom generation are starting to drift away from the sport, particularly those now well into their 60s who face health issues and competing demands on their time.

Much of the ski industry s focus is on bringing young kids into the sport and doing more to bring in young adults who have drifted away from it or never had a chance to try it as kids.

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