Editorial: Park City must adapt to a changing ski industry | ParkRecord.com

Editorial: Park City must adapt to a changing ski industry

The Park Record editorial, Oct. 11-13, 2017

A trend those in Park City's hospitality industry should have their eyes on is becoming increasingly clear.

According to the Park City Chamber/Bureau, millennials, burdened by other financial responsibilities, are not heading to the ski slopes at the same rate their parents and grandparents did. On average, in fact, it takes two millennials to replace every baby boomer who retires from the sport.

In Park City, then, the ramifications are obvious: How does the town retain its vitality as it comes to rely more and more on a younger generation that is less smitten with the idea of spending a chunk of its limited discretionary income on skiing and snowboarding?

Tourism officials so far are taking a proactive approach. The hospitality industry, for one, is working hard to transform the town into the type of place that attracts millennials, who are typically looking for a more varied vacation experience than boomers or Generation Xers.

The Chamber/Bureau is altering its marketing strategy to highlight those changes and make clear that, in addition to skiing, Park City offers vibrant nightlife and culture, and a host of other recreation opportunities.

It seems to be working so far. Bill Malone, the organization's president and CEO, is quick to note that visitors, for instance, are more familiar than ever with the town's restaurant scene.

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The mountain resorts are also changing the way they do business. The rising costs associated with the sport — prices for daily lift ticket passes in the Rocky Mountain region increased nearly $30 in three years, according to the National Ski Areas Association — are certainly a major reason millennials are less likely to spend their winters on the mountain. But Park City's resorts seem to understand their success is tied to that of the town, and vice versa.

Deer Valley Resort has seen encouraging results in recent years from marketing to a younger audience. And Park City Mountain Resort owner Vail Resorts has lured young people to its ski and snowboard areas with its versatile Epic Pass.

The efforts helped lead Utah to shattering the record for statewide skier days each of the last two seasons, but the true story of how well Park City is dealing with the industry's changing demographics will be told in the coming years, as baby boomers make up a smaller and smaller portion of visitors.

Getting millennials to come to town for their first trip is much of the battle, as the Chamber/Bureau often touts Park City's ability to turn tourists into lifetime visitors. The goal is that, once young people establish their careers and develop greater financial security, they'll come back with their families for years and plant a love for Park City in a new generation.

It's up to everyone in the hospitality industry to ensure that vision becomes a reality. The ski industry is evolving, but if confront the changes, Park City's reputation as a world-class tourist destination doesn't have to.

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