Park City Mountain, Deer Valley executives slated to discuss ski industry during Monday forum
Ski Utah leader, tourism expert also scheduled to appear at the event in Park City
Deirdra Walsh is toward the end of her first winter leading Park City Mountain. And Todd Bennett is finishing his first winter as the top staffer at Deer Valley Resort.
Walsh, the vice president and chief operating officer at Park City Mountain, and Bennett, the Deer Valley president and chief operating officer, arrived in Park City prior to the start of the ski season and at a time of widespread community concern about the impact of the tourism industry. Many saw Park City as having been overrun with crowds and traffic during the 2021-2022 ski season. And while the current ski season has unfolded without the same level of discontent as the previous one, there are still concerns.
Walsh and Bennett are expected to highlight a discussion on Monday in Park City centered on the ski industry and the wider resort industry. Leadership Park City, a long-running program designed to prepare participants to take on greater roles in the community, has organized the annual Leadership Community Forum, in its 29th year.
Ski Utah President and CEO Nathan Rafferty, and Ralf Garrison, who is a veteran of the travel industry with experience in Colorado ski country, are scheduled to appear alongside the leaders of the two local mountain resorts. Rafferty is especially influential in the Utah tourism industry with Ski Utah holding a key role in marketing the mountain resorts in Park City and elsewhere in the state.
The event will be a unique opportunity for a crowd to hear from the leaders of the two local mountain resorts at the same time, with Rafferty being someone who can provide a broader look at the state’s ski industry.
The area is enjoying a winter with plentiful snow, allowing a rare extension of the ski seasons at Park City Mountain and Deer Valley. There have been crowds during the winter, but they have not seemed to overwhelm Park City like they did in the previous ski season. Ski Utah typically releases statewide skier numbers in the period after the end of the season; it is not clear whether this winter will approach a record.
Myles Rademan, the founder of Leadership Park City, said the forum is also expected to explore how the ski industry is operating during what has been an era of consolidation. He wants the event to put the Park City experience into the context of the state and national ski industries. Rademan wants the discussion to address opportunities to better manage a ski season, the panelists’ experience as leaders in the industry and their styles of leadership.
Park City provides an intriguing backdrop to the topic with Park City Mountain under the ownership of Vail Resorts and Deer Valley under Alterra Mountain Company ownership. The Colorado-based firms are two of the key players in the consolidation of the ski industry in the past decade. Each of them offers a roster of resorts and, importantly, multi-resort season pass products. Vail Resorts sells the Epic Pass while Alterra Mountain Company’s competing product is the Ikon Pass. They both provide access to U.S. mountain resorts and international destinations. The concept holds that people with Epic Passes and Ikon Passes will tend to visit the resorts that are included on the individual maps of the two firms, spending money in other divisions of the overall corporations.
The multi-resort passes give holders numerous options for ski vacations and have altered the dynamics of the industry. In an earlier era, passes were generally good at a single resort or, in certain cases, several that were under common ownership. The Epic Pass and Ikon Pass instead have national and international reach. Rademan said there is “dynamic tension” in the industry with two passes.
It is not clear what sort of reception the panel will receive on Monday. The mountain resorts essentially drive the tourism industry that the Park City-area economy relies upon. The fortunes of other sectors like lodging, restaurant and transportation are closely linked to the ski industry. Developers and construction firms also are connected at some level to the industry.
Even with the ski industry being so important to the local economy, there are segments of the population that are increasingly concerned about the impacts of the ski and wider tourism industries on Park City. There is worry about the crowds, the traffic and the effects on housing affordability.
The forum is scheduled on Monday from 7 p.m. until 9 p.m. in the Santy Auditorium at the Park City Library. It is open to the public. The panelists will each be given up to 20 minutes for a presentation followed by questions from Rademan. The audience will have the opportunity to submit questions on cards to be read to the panelists.
Ski industry questions: What about the Park City Mountain ‘mosh pit’ and what of alcohol at Deer Valley concerts?
Crowd at recent panel discussion inquired about a broad range of issues, but time ran out for answers.
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