Biking beats skiing in the Utah County area and throughout the state, according to the numbers pulled together by a national research group.

"Bicycling is a bigger tourist sport in Utah than skiing," Richard Bradford, director of the Utah Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau, recently told the Utah County Commission. Bradford was seeking additional dollars for an advertisement to publicize Utah County in a bik-ing brochure."I would confirm that with visitors coming to Utah to do particular activities, a greater number do participate in hiking and biking than in snow skiing," said Karen Suttmeyer, research coordinator for the state Travel Council.

"That's true in Utah County and for all of Utah."

According to research commissioned by the travel council and collected by D.K. Shifflet & Associates, 11 percent of the non-resident visitors to Utah during a year came to hike or bike.

Seven percent came to snow ski.

"Bear in mind, that's for a whole year," Suttmeyer said. "We only have a five-month snow season compared with a year for hiking and biking."

And in the Salt Lake County/Wasatch County areas, the figures flip largely because most ski resorts are in the Salt Lake and Wasatch county areas and Utah County has only one, the Sundance Ski Resort.

Thirty-seven percent of the wintertime tourists come for skiing and just 10 percent for hiking and biking.

Skiers tend to spend more money than bikers and campers, too, Suttmeyer said.

An out-of-state skier spends $226 per person per day. Suttmeyer did not have the figures for what campers and hikers spend but said people might be surprised.

"Hikers do like their comfort at the end of the trail. They'll often stay at the higher priced places, she said.

Hikers and bikers coming into Utah, according to the National Forest Service usage charts, have steadily increased in number since 1991.

They come for the breathtaking scenery in the state's national and state parks and for the challenging trails, said Loretta King, director of communications for the Utah Valley bureau.

The commissioners were apparently convinced by the numbers and approved the one-sixth of a page ad in Bicycle Utah Vacation Guide. The cost is $3,795.

More than 3.1 million visitors came to Utah Valley in 1997, Bradford said. Overnight visitors spent $237 million in Utah County.

"Dollars spent by travelers cause a ripple effect which spreads throughout the valley and benefits businesses and taxpayers alike," he said.