Park City, resorts see an influx over the holidays
Experts predicted Park City’s holiday occupancy to be elevated from years past, but some also thought the lack of fresh powder might keep people from visiting the ski town.
Once again, Park City proved the doubters wrong.
Bus ridership was up significantly from previous weeks and from last year. Eric Nesset, fleet and transit manager for Park City Municipal, said the week of Dec. 25-31 set records with 94,189 passengers, up from 65,200 the week before. During the same time period last year, there were about 92,000 passengers. Nesset said typical ridership in the winter is about 10,000 per day.
For the year, more than 1.9 million riders used the bus system, compared to 1.7 million in 2005, an increase of about 10 percent. Both years were records.
"I think we’ll probably reach 2 million next year," Nesset said. "The biggest increases are in the county routes. The city route are pretty mature, they been around for years, but we still see some increase there."
A good portion of visitors to Park City come for the three world-class ski resorts, which all reported having very successful weeks during the holidays.
"We had a fantastic Christmas week and it looks like we’ll be setting records by the end of this week," Communications director Erin Grady said.
Deer Valley, one of two Utah resorts that limit the number of guests each day, sold out several days between Christmas and New Years’. Grady said the resort limits its numbers so that there are always enough seats in the on-mountain lodges during the lunch rush.
"We do it for the guest experience and so people can always find seating at all of our lodges," she said. "We have the capability of putting more than 44,000 up the mountain per hour, so it’s not about lift capacity, it’s more of a matter of guest experience."
Park City Mountain Resort also reported strong numbers for the week, and resort spokesperson Krista Parry said because of the growing popularity of the resort and the town, the weeks prior to and following Christmas were also busy.
"We had a very strong week," Parry said. "It’s what we’ve come to expect during Christmas week. The interesting thing is that this week, the week following Christmas, has been very strong as well."
"Last week was pretty much on par with where we’ve been in the past, but this week, through Park City Mountain Reservations, bookings are up 22 percent from where we were last year," she continued.
Despite the lack of Utah’s famous dry powder, Parry said guests packed the slopes for the groomed runs and soft snow that the resort is known for.
"Our holiday guests like to have good snow conditions, but they like to have the blue-bird skies," Parry said. "They ended up getting both."
Parry said the new Alpine Coaster was a huge hit over the holiday with young and old alike. With people riding once and going back for another ticket, she said many had just as good of a time on the coaster as they did on the slopes.
"Another one of our successful programs was our Signature 5, which reached capacity several times during the week," she said. "Nobody had a class that was larger than five students per instructor and the parents were ecstatic about that. Our ski school instructors and supervisors did a great job making the program a success during our busiest times."
Much like its two counterparts, The Canyons also had great numbers to end the year. Libby Dowd, The Canyons spokesperson, said the great weather and happy guests made it a good experience for skiers and snowboarders of all skill levels and ages.
"It was a great week at The Canyons," Dowd said. "We saw record numbers and we put the new six-pack lift at Tombstone to the test. The upgrades that we made over the summer to both Tombstone and Red Pine Lodge proved to be well worth it. With the sheer vastness of the resort we are lucky to be able to comfortably fit all of our guests. Even with record numbers of skiers and boarders, guests can smoothly navigate The Canyons and find plenty of terrain to cruise without feeling cramped at all."
Hilary Reiter, director of communications with Ski Utah, said the success was not only seen in Park City, but throughout the state’s many resorts.
"What we’re hearing from resorts is that they had super holiday periods that spanned three weeks," she said. "Park City, for example, is at 67 percent occupancy this week, which is well above where they were last year."
Powder Mountain had an excellent week, she said, and attributed that to great response to advertisements and articles done in national publications.
Wolf Mountain, despite low elevation, made snow and had a highly successful holiday week.
Alta’s general manager reported they were "super busy last week, but not out of control busy," Reiter reported. She also said Snowbird was also at about 100 percent lodging for several days during the holiday.
Reiter said that with the lack of snow on the east coast that many skiers in that region were forced to come west.
"Another good thing to note is that the northeast doesn’t have any snow this year," she said. "Anyone planning to ski Vermont, New York or anywhere else back there had to come west, which helped the numbers here."
"Even though locals might not have been impressed with the ski conditions, they were actually the perfect conditions for the average tourist coming to Park City to ski with their families," she continued. "Locals might not have gotten out on the hill because they didn’t think there was any powder out there, it kept the tourists happy."
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As Deer Valley starts talks with the Park City Planning Commission about a large development proposal at Snow Park, called Snow Park Village, the resort has identified the possibility a gondola as a traffic-fighting measure.