Skiing in Utah up, but dwarfed by Colorado | ParkRecord.com

Skiing in Utah up, but dwarfed by Colorado

by Andrew Kirk, THE PARK RECORD

Last winter, a survey of 3,500 people in 14 states rated Utah’s 14 ski resorts favorably. That puts Utah in the top half of all resorts in the U.S., but far from the top.

That leaves a lot of room for improvement, said Mike Simone, a senior associate with research firm RRC Associates. Simone presented the study’s findings Wednesday at the Park City Chamber/Bureau’s annual Fall Forum at The Chateau at Silver Lake.

The vast majority of visitors to Utah’s resorts said they would recommend the experience to a friend. The lowest ratings were in cost, the lunch experience and the rental experience.

"Many resorts are getting higher marks," he said.

More than one-third of the survey participants were found at a Park City resort. According to skier day reports, Summit County is a major player in the state’s ski industry.

Nationally, 1.3 percent more people went skiing in the 2010-2011 winter than the year before. The Rocky Mountain region, which includes Utah, saw 2.6 percent more. Utah’s resorts saw 4.3 percent more people. Park City’s resorts saw 7.8 percent more.

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In spite of that growth, Utah’s skier days were still dwarfed by Colorado and California. Utah is in the top five busiest ski states, but is grouped with New York and Vermont.

Within Utah, Park City experienced 44 percent of the state’s total skier days and was responsible for 55 percent of the total economic impact on the state from the industry.

According to historical data, Utah’s skier days has exceeded 4 million for several years and is on track to break 5 million within the next five years. Simone’s presentation was intended to show people in the industry areas for improvement to reach that goal.

It is more profitable to market to loyal clients than look for new ones, Simone acknowledged, but it’s something that needs to be done. About 26 percent of ski visits were from first-timers.

The study confirmed that past trends continue. About 57 percent of respondents were from outside of Utah, were affluent, skied with children and spent more per day than local visitors.

In Utah, about 81 percent of visitors paid for lodging. In Park City, it was 86 percent. The average visitor in Park City spent more on lodging and other purchases than the average visitor to another Utah resort.

Most lodging packages simply threw in lift tickets. Simone suggested there might be opportunities to expand lodging packages with other services like equipment rentals to draw more guests.

Even though most guests fly to Utah to ski, about 17 percent drove last season. A large number of people from Arizona and California drove, and the majority of visitors from Nevada drove. Perhaps there are untapped opportunities for marketing or package deals there, he suggested.

More than half of the survey participants recalled seeing an ad somewhere promoting Utah or a resort for a winter vacation. About 5 percent said the ad influenced their decision. Across the state, it’s safe to assume last year’s advertising influenced about 40,000 to choose Utah for a ski vacation, he said.

Despite the growth, Utah only saw a one percent increase in overnight visitation while Colorado saw an increase of more than 10 percent. That’s another area for improvement, he added.