With new leader at the helm, Woodward Park City adjusts to life under COVID
New terrain, snowmaking helping to keep crowds stoked
As Woodward Park City entered the 2020-21 winter season, it did so like other ski areas, under the shadow of COVID-19. With time to prepare and with lessons learned from the summer season, though, the resort’s leadership says the season is off to a smooth start.
A major new addition to Woodward Park City comes in the form of new General Manager Chris “Gunny” Gunnarson.
Gunnarson took the reins at the action-sports and ski resort in September after joining parent company Powdr’s leadership team in 2018. Gunnarson has an ideal resume for the job. A former professional snowboarder and the founder and former president of Snow Park Technologies, Gunnarson spent time in Big Bear, California, as well as Lake Tahoe before moving to Park City, and he served previously as terrain park sub-committee chairman for the National Ski Areas Association.
Gunnarson was working as Powdr’s senior vice president of youth development before taking the Woodward Park City position.
“The opportunity to engage the next generation with new experiences that stoke passion for progression and fun, and to build out those experiences at Woodward Park City and across Powdr is incredibly exciting,” Gunnarson said.
The feedback from guests has been positive, he said, thanks in part to the lessons learned over the past nine months.
“Woodward Park City opened with a reservation system for our Indoor Action Sports Hub on day one,” Gunnarson said. “Over the summer we implemented sessions on our lift product, which has been great for our visitors and allows them to choose between a 3- or 4-hour lift session or an all-day lift ticket, expanding our capacity.”
One thing ski areas can’t control, though, is Mother Nature, who has not blessed the Wasatch Range with very much snow. Fortunately for Woodward Park City, its snowmaking operation covers 100% of the terrain.
“Our snowmaking team continues to work toward opening new terrain and terrain zones weekly, with Main Line, our most advanced terrain park line, opening this weekend,” he said. “Our snowmaking capabilities have allowed us to offer an excellent product regardless of natural snowfall. We’re currently operating with one of the best terrain parks in the country and have seen many of the top pros at Woodward Park City over the last several weeks.”
As for COVID-related precautions, Gunnarson said Woodward Park City is doing what it can to ensure the safety and well-being of guests and staff, including:
• Requiring masks indoors and outdoors and encouraging physical distancing
• Contactless food and beverage ordering and pick-up
• Reducing interactions through business operations including outdoor tubing ticket pick-up and online reservations for lessons, rentals and session access
• Reduced session times to allow for cleanings between sessions
• Health screenings prior to entering the Action Sports Hub
Gunnarson said guests have largely responded well to the changes.
“Guests visiting Woodward Park City are here to have fun and enjoy the experience,” he said. “For the most part, they understand that these precautions are in accordance with Summit County guidelines and that we all have to do our part to stay safe to stay open so that we can keep having fun.”
Woodward Park City has several new expansions to draw visitors this winter, as well. Gunnarson said it has new beginner-friendly terrain in Easy Rider (the easiest way down the hill) and a new family-friendly adventure zone called Boomerang. The resort has also added additional Peace Park freestyle terrain that focuses on non-linear flow, he said, to “create the ultimate environment for creative expression.”
Gunnarson said they have big plans for the future, as well, with weekend and winter break camps kicking off next month for kids age 7 and older, as well as implementing a more flexible membership program.
“We’ve had a great turnout so far this season,” Gunnarson said. “We are seeing a lot of guest enthusiasm to get outside and play and tremendous guest feedback around the experience.”
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Summit County has asked a 4th District judge to throw out Hideout’s attempt to annex Richardson Flat before the June 22 referendum when Hideout residents are set to vote on the proposal.