Mladen Imensek, left, and Lynea Kelly of St. Petersburg, Fla. head toward Town Lift on Main Street for a day of skiing at Park City Mountain Resort with
Mladen Imensek, left, and Lynea Kelly of St. Petersburg, Fla. head toward Town Lift on Main Street for a day of skiing at Park City Mountain Resort with family members in Park City last year. Park Record File Photo.
Three of Park City's ski areas are now are open for the season, and Main Street has lit the lights down the street and on the Christmas tree. The holiday season has begun, and visitors from around the world are making their way to Park City to celebrate.

While holidays like Christmas and New Year's Eve keep lodging areas, restaurants and the ski lifts busy, Bill Malone, president and CEO of the Park City Chamber/Bureau, said January and February will be the busiest months in terms of occupancy this season.

Based on advanced reservations, he said, occupancy could be up as much as 12 percent this winter compared to last year, according to a "snapshot" that projected Park City visitor occupancy from November 2013 to April 2014. He said the numbers may change throughout the season.

"What I mean by 'snapshot' is a projection at a specific time, and this one happens to have been taken on Oct. 31," he said. "This is looking forward at the next six months, but we still have from now until April to see how it turns out."

Patrick Van Horn, a property manager for both Park City Vacation Place and Patrick's Properties, said the months of December and January have been big booking months for him this year.

"Christmas and New Year's Eve are the busiest times of the year for the whole town, so occupancy rates are normally highest around then," he said. "Sundance also brings so many people to Park City, so anything within walking distance is going to be booked. If it's not, you're doing something wrong."

Ski Utah director of sales and media Chailley Chakeen said January and February are the big months for reservations. "According to a lot of our lodging partners, January is one of their biggest booking months for ski trips that [visitors] come on in February and then later in March for spring break," she said.

In terms of out-of-state visitors, they are currently looking to have more come to Utah than last year. She said the early snowfall Utah has seen lately will help to increase the number of skier days, because it gets everyone excited for the holidays.

Malone said early snowfall has greater influence on customer behavior than snow later in the season. "When you get to the end of the season and say you had an overall average of 350 inches of snow, but 200 of them come in March and April, it's not as meaningful as if the 200 had come in December," he said.

At the Park City Chamber/Bureau Winter Rendezvous Expo and Mixer, vendors that provide activities for visitors during the winter season, for the most part, said the holidays are a busy time for them. The early snowfall has been great for business for them as well.

Justin Brown, manager of All Season Adventures, said Thanksgiving crowds came in this year, which was "surprising but awesome." They usually start to see a lot of business beginning Dec. 20 and keep going strong until spring break, he said.

All Resort Group is a "family of brands" that provides transportation. They offer services that bring visitors to Park City from the airport as well as transportation around town while they are here. According to vice president Chris O'Neill, they start getting busy a couple of weeks earlier around Dec. 8.

"Whenever Christmas falls, 45 minutes before the town fills up, we are really busy," he said. "That typically flows through the end of March."

Malone said they have been marketing for both domestic and international visitors and make sure those in the hospitality industry in town are prepared. "We communicate what visitors to expect and they make adjustments in terms of their product based on who the guest is," he said.

December occupancy rates, domestic and international, are about the same as last year, he said, and the second week of Christmas vacation is holding strong. Growth is shown across the board, but most of the growth shown will be in January and February.

"We are always optimistic at this time of year, and we hope it follows through," he said.