Ski Utah holds season-opening press conference |

Ski Utah holds season-opening press conference

SKYLER BELL, Of the Record staff

Last year, at their season-opening press conference, Ski Utah had a backdrop of Christmas decorations at their offices in the Sheraton Hotel in Salt Lake City.

Thanks to an earlier Thanksgiving and a few timely snowfalls, this year’s event happened early enough that the motif at the Sheraton was still orange and brown and not yet red and green.

It’s nice to get this going early this year and to not have Santa Claus behind me, said Ski Utah President Nathan Rafferty.

Rafferty delivered the annual "State of the Utah Ski Industry Address" Tuesday morning to a crowd of press agents and resort officials. Rafferty discussed current booking numbers for lodging throughout Utah.

Rafferty also spoke about results from a study Ski Utah conducted to investigate ski tourism trends in Utah. And trends, he said, are looking good.

Utah has had three straight record-breaking years, with a total just less than 4.1 million, skier days were up 4.3 percent in Utah, compared to a 3.3 percent increase nationwide.

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"The ski business in Utah is good," Rafferty said, "but it’s also good across the country."

He said Utah accounts for 7 percent of nationwide skier days, compared to 20 percent for neighboring Colorado. However, two consecutive seasons with more than 600 inches of snow might push Utah’s share a lot higher, Rafferty hopes.

Another important number on the rise, Rafferty said, is the flip-flop of the numbers of resident and non-resident skiers. Just three years ago 55 percent of Utah skiers were non-residents and 45 percent were residents, but that has changed. Now 55 percent claim Utah as their home.

Continuing with the positives, Rafferty said those non-resident guests are spending more per day than they were three years ago. Dollars spent per day for out-of-town guests rose from $251 to $269 since 2003.

Also on the rise is the number of snowboarders, which is up from 26 percent of total skier days to 28 percent.

Of those visiting Utah three years ago, 51 percent said they would return that season to ski again. Now that number has risen to 57 percent.

Rafferty said three primary things have contributed to the upward trend: great snow and more of it, the incredible access the Utah resorts enjoy and more aggressive marketing campaigns made possible by grants and donations.

Although it’s hard to predict the future, Rafferty said, 2006-07 looks like it’s going to follow the same trends and be another great year.

For more on the press conference and Rafferty’s season-opening thoughts, check The Park Record’s business section on Saturday.