After occupancy increase, ski season in Park City hailed as a success
Officials pleased with growth of about 1 percent after slow start
Park City kept the momentum.
A year after one of the most successful ski seasons on record during the 2015-2016 winter, even more people flocked to town during the 2016-2017 ski season, which wrapped up last month. According to data from the Park City Chamber/Bureau, the city saw an increase in occupancy of about 1 percent from November through April compared with the same time period from the previous season.
A deeper look at the data shows that a slow start in November tempered that figure. Following an 18 percent dip in November, occupancy met or exceeded the previous season’s mark in every month through April. Bill Malone, president and CEO of the Chamber/Bureau, said that explains why there was only a small total bump despite the town seeming even busier than the past through the heart of the winter.
“In some respects, when I think of winter (the small increase is) surprising, because it felt like we had a stronger season than that,” he said.
Nonetheless, Malone said the Chamber/Bureau is pleased with the town’s performance over the winter. Officials had hoped to keep the success going from the previous winter, which was buoyed by the news of Vail Resorts spending $50 million to combine Park City Mountain Resort and the former Canyons Resort into one of the largest ski areas in the world.
Malone said that investment didn’t draw as many headlines this winter but its lingering effects — including the media attention it received throughout the ski industry — certainly continued to bring people to town.
“Sometimes it takes a while for people to be able to consume things like that,” he said. “Just because it happened that summer (of 2015) doesn’t mean people didn’t already have their plans for that upcoming winter. Those investments certainly do pay off over a multi-year period.”
The increase in occupancy stands out even more given that other ski destinations didn’t fare quite as well. According to DestiMetrics, a firm that tracks the performance of 20 western resort towns in the U.S., including Park City, occupancy throughout the market dipped 0.2 percent, the first annual decline since the 2011-2012 ski season.
“It has been an unpredictable and erratic season as both Mother Nature and geo-political forces created some interesting dynamics that shaped destination visitors’ mountain travel behavior,” said Ralf Garrison, director of DestiMetrics, in a press release.
Despite that decline, revenues at the resort towns were up 7.2 percent, according to DestiMetrics. Malone said Park City experienced a similar boost, with the average daily rate for lodging increasing 10.6. So while the amount of people in town wasn’t significantly greater than in the 2015-2016 ski season, the amount of money they spent was.
“That is creating a lot of benefit from a tax-revenue standpoint to the community, as well as in the lodging area,” he said. “It doesn’t change much for you if you’re in the restaurant business or retail because there’s still the same amount of people. It’s just that they’re spending a little more on their accommodations than what they’ve spent in the past.”
The Chamber/Bureau’s attention has turned to promoting the town’s summer season — which is growing but does not bring in close to the revenue seen in the winter — but Malone is already looking ahead to next winter. He said there’s plenty of reason to be optimistic the 2017-2018 ski season will be even better because of a boost from the 2018 Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea.
“Olympic years seem to do well for us,” he said. “People still connect us to the Games. We’ve had a great benefit because each time someone hosts the Winter Olympics, they still talk about Park City. I think we’ll be able to ride on those coattails.”