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The number of skiers who hit the slopes in Hokkaido last winter fell 10.7 percent from a year earlier, according to a local resort group.

This marked the first double-digit decline since the 1980 season, the group said.

The steep decrease registered in the 2000 season, which ran from November through March, was caused by the sluggish economy, declining interest in the sport among young people and unfavorable weather, the Hokkaido Ropeway and Lift Association said Monday.

The association consists of 124 companies operating 128 ski resorts in Hokkaido. It said 61.36 million skiers used gondolas and lifts at the resorts in the 2000 season, the fewest since a peak of 88.47 million in the 1991 season.

Last season’s gondola and lift revenues fell 9.2 percent from a year earlier to 10.71 billion yen, the association said.

According to the Institute for Free Time Design, the number of people going skiing in Japan dropped to 12.1 million in 1999 from a high of 17.7 million in 1993.

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