Visitation and sales are up in Park City this winter
With snow on the slopes and tourists on the streets, Park City business owners are pleased with the winter so far.
Despite a slow start, sales for Park City restaurants, hotels and retail shops have picked up as snow fell throughout January, said Bill Malone, president and CEO of the Park City Chamber/Bureau. Looking forward, businesses are hopeful that numbers will continue to rise to round out the most important season for many companies in Park City.
Malone said poor snow totals last year likely contributed to low visitation in Park City during the early part of this season. Based off occupancy numbers in November, he predicted that occupancy would be down by 4 percent in December compared to years past. But, occupancy ended up only being down 1 percent.
“We were selling December business in December,” Malone said. “And we are doing the same thing in January.”
Adam Cole, owner and operator of Cole Sport, noticed the low excitement about the season early on. He said sales were slow for the first few weeks of winter, but after the Christmas rush, numbers have remained high. When asked how the ski season is going, most business owners, including Cole, will give a similar answer of, “good,” followed by, “better than last year.”
Matt Harris, owner of the Main Street restaurant Tupelo, was among those giving an overall thumbs up to the season. He said one of the main positive differences this year is that visitation did not slow down immediately after the holidays.
“Normally, about the 2nd or 3rd of January, people aren’t here. We didn’t get that slowdown. We really kept up the pace in between Sundance and the holidays,” he said.
He attributes the good snow and a healthy economy to the consistent numbers.
Jen Schumacher, owner of Trove Gallery, said, like most years, she was worried going into the season how business would pan out, and she was especially concerned that changes to liquor laws would discourage people to visit Park City. On Dec. 30, a new law went into effect that lowered the blood-alcohol threshold for drunk driving from 0.08 to 0.05. From what she has seen, the new law has not had a big impact.
“It doesn’t seem to be slowing them down, coming or drinking,” she said.
She said sales are up so far compared to last year and the town seems as busy as ever.
Malone said lodging numbers for February and March are also strong. This year, those months are fueled by the Sundance Film Festival overlapping into February and the FIS World Championships during the first part of the month.
During the ski championships, occupancy percentages are expected to be in the high 80s. The daily occupancy report from the Chamber/Bureau shows that occupancy rates are on pace to fluctuate between the low 60s and the high 80s until about mid-March.
“It could definitely be one of our best winters this year if everything keeps going positively,” Malone said. “It seems like we are in good shape.”
But, the season is also shorter this year than it has been in the past. Park City resorts are expected to close during the first week of April. Easter weekend, which is traditionally one of the biggest weekends for ski resorts, is in late April.
Cole said resorts have closed in mid-April in the past, but there has been a trend toward shorter seasons over the last few years. Cutting off a couple of weeks during the start or end of the season affects his sales, but Cole said it is a reality he is getting used to.
Emily Burney has been selling her baked goods at the Park City Farmers Market since 2014. Earlier this month, she found a permanent location for her business, Auntie Em’s Baked Goods.