Park City businesses suffer from lack of snow
It’s no fun to have no snow in Park City. But, it’s even less fun for local businesses to have fewer visitors as a consequence.
Park City Chamber/Bureau Executive Director Bill Malone said the lodging tally this year is significantly lower than last year’s.
"The projected lodging tally for Nov. 25 through next Saturday, Dec. 1, we are down about just a hair less than 15 percent versus last year at this time," Malone said. "We’re at such a low lodging occupancy at this time of the year. Our total occupancy for the week is [about] 17 percent occupancy, so it certainly has an impact. However, as most people who have been in business here for a number of years know, this is the time of year you can’t count on."
Park City Mountain Resort Marketing Director Krista Parry said Park City Mountain Reservations is keeping its chin up.
"We look pretty strong. We are a little below where were last year at this time, but nothing too exceptional," she said.
Park City Mountain Reservations books for 95 percent of the lodging and businesses in town. Parry said visitors typically book their vacations the week during Christmas or the week following Christmas. While some come out for Thanksgiving, Parry said it’s not usual.
"Thanksgiving really isn’t a big holiday for us," she said. "But we did have people who were here on vacation for Thanksgiving who said it was a great day out there [skiing at the resort]."
The reservation service has a snow guarantee through Park City’s lodging properties. Parry said the company will reimburse clients within 48 hours if PCMR does not have its scheduled lifts open on time. The four main lifts PCMR typically schedules for opening day are First Time, Payday, Bonanza and the Silverlode lifts, she said.
But, Parry said, this year, Bonanza and Silverlode were not scheduled to open. So if lifts are not scheduled and the resort stalls its opening day, a refund is not guaranteed.
Parry said some eager skiers and visitors cancelled during the Thanksgiving holiday because of the lack of snow, but some actually decided to come out and stay anyway. She said those who did enjoyed the man-made snow at the base of the mountain.
"A lot of guests are saying it’s the best man-made snow," she said. "The snowmakers are the heroes of this town, that’s the only reason we’ve been able to open."
Parry said the new energy-saving snow guns PCMR invested in last year can produce 60 percent more snow than the old machines, which has been a huge help. She also said the snowmaking and maintenance crews "have been working around the clock to make as much snow as we can."
"We can make more snow in any given day," she said. "We just have a great snowmaking and maintenance crew."
While PCMR does not own its lodging like The Canyons does, Parry said the few businesses it does own have had steady business.
"Our retail shops that we own Legacy and Legends Bar and Grill and the shops in Legacy Lodge have had strong sales," Parry said.
She also mentioned PCMR typically hires its employees according to the busiest times in the season, so they have not been overstaffed.
Malone said that is typically how it works for most seasonal businesses in Park City.
"We really never start to do significant business until December," Malone said. "Our numbers for November and early December have always been a challenge because you don’t know if it’s going to snow."
When asked if he thinks businesses might have an issue with over-staffing, Malone said ‘no.’ He said resorts intentionally open early, even with the possibility of no snow, so they can prepare for the busier parts of the season.
"The resorts [open early] to get the bugs worked out, get employees trained, and, obviously, they want to give value to the season-ticket holder," he said.
Deer Valley Resort Spokesperson Erin Grady said Deer Valley purposely opens after Thanksgiving weekend because of the chance there will be no snow. She said it’s business as usual in Deer Valley since many restaurants, shops and hotels will not open until the resort opens on Dec. 8.
"It hasn’t affected us at all," Grady said of the snow problem. "[The] Mariposa [restaurant] is not even scheduled to open until Dec. 7."
Parry said PCMR’s returning employees are happy to be back for the new season, regardless of the snow issues.
"Everybody’s excited to be open," she said.
She also said many skiers and riders on the mountain don’t seem to mind the "unnatural" snow conditions.
"We get a lot of visitors and they don’t care that there’s not 10 feet of snow," she said. "[This] is all the snow we’re able to produce right now. Obviously, we’re crossing our fingers that the storm this week produces something big."
For the latest snow conditions at Park City’s resorts, visit The Park Record Recreation Report at http://www.parkrecord.com.
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