|By Hugo Martin, Los Angeles
TimesMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
May 15, 2010 --Thanks to abundant snowfall this winter and spring, California's ski resorts have drawn about 7.5 million visitors this season, up from 6.7 million last season, according to the California Ski Industry Assn.
There was so much snow that Mammoth Mountain in the eastern Sierra has extended the ski season until July 4. The resort typically closes by the Memorial Day weekend.
Resort operators credited the higher visitor count to snowfall that on May 1 was at its highest level for that date since 2006.
A snow survey performed earlier this month by the California Department of Water Resources found that the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada was 143% of normal to date.
"Winter storms and deep snow are critical for a great snow season," said Caroline Beteta, president of the California Travel & Tourism Commission.
Visitors to the state's ski resorts this season have spent about $700 million, according to the state's ski industry association. That resulted in about $3 billion in total economic activity, the association said.
Mountain High ski area in Wrightwood extended the season to May 2, making it the longest season for that resort since 2004-2005.
Big Bear Mountain Resorts in the San Bernardino Mountains enjoyed what resort officials declared was one of its best seasons in 40 years, with more than 150 inches of snow.
"We've just had fantastic snow conditions this year," said Mammoth Mountain resort spokesman Dan Hansen.
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