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Cottonwood Heights Journal

Ski & Snowboard News / What's what in Utah's ski industry

Nov 10, 2015 05:44PM ● By Harriet Wallis

Ski Utah Pesident Nathan Rafferty / photo Harriet Wallis

It's an annual event. Ski Utah President Nathan Rafferty recaped last season and projects the coming season. Today's address showed highs and lows.

Locals complained that last ski season lacked luster and skier visits were down 4.9 percent, but overall the resorts still had nearly 4 million visits. "The good news is that people who come here on vacation don't mind blue skies and 45 degree temps." he said.

Statistically, this year should be a better year for weather and skier visits. But nobody can be certain. However, "If you're not an optimist you shouldn't be in the ski business" Rafferty said.

By comparison, the Pacific Northwest was especially hard hit by skimpy snow, It posted a 36 percent drop in skier visits.

Utah ski resorts get kudos from SKI magazine readers. Resorts got praise in all categories. And Conde Naste Traveler magazine awarded top honors to a handful of Park City hotels.

Then Rafferty spoke of upgrades at the resorts. Park City (formerly Park City Mountain Resort and Canyons) invested $50 million in lift, restaurant and other skier improvements. Snowbird put $35 million into upgrades including the 23,000 square foot Hidden Peak restaurant at the 11,000 foot summit. In addition, Deer Valley which bought Solitude, installed a high speed quad to the summit and made other improvements. Whimsically, Rafferty lamented that it would make better PR if the hefty investments would have been spread out over several  years. 

Utah's ski industry is big business. It pumps $1.3 billion into the economy and provides 20,000 jobs.

Looking ahead, the kids' Passport program continues strong and brings skiers into the sport. For $35 kids in 5th grade get 3 days at each of Utah's 14 resorts. And 6th graders get 1 day at each resort.

Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month is January and some resorts will offer life, lesson and rentals for the rock bottom price of $45. "The goal is to teach 10,000 beginner lessons," he said.