The numbers are in: Utah broke 5 million skier days for first time ever
Ski Utah now has the numbers to confirm what many Parkites already knew: This past ski season was one for the ages.
In its annual season-end report Wednesday, the organization said that skier days for the 2018-19 season topped 5.1 million overall across the state, shattering the previous record and marking a 24 percent increase over the 2017-18 season.
Nate Rafferty, Ski Utah CEO, said at a press conference Wednesday at the organization’s Salt Lake City headquarters that the strong year could be chalked up primarily to the bountiful snow that the Wasatch received over the season, with multi-resort passes like the Epic Pass and the new Ikon Pass also providing a boost.
“We have a saying in the ski industry: ‘It’s the snow, stupid,’ when we all sit around and think we’re the most brilliant marketers and have got it all figured out,” Rafferty said. “When we see snowfall like we did this year, the visits are going to (increase).”
Snowbird Resort in Little Cottonwood Canyon led the state in snowfall with 683 inches as of May 20, which Ski Utah illustrated as, on a scale of Andre the Giant to King Kong, coming close to the height of the king of the apes (Assuming a height of 720 inches for King Kong).
A consistent barrage of snowstorms provided a stark contrast to the paltry powder totals of 2017-18, which were Utah’s lowest since the 1970s. Deer Valley Resort spokesperson Emily Summers wrote in an email that the resort reported a 14.5 percent increase in skier visits over the previous season as a result.
While the Ikon Pass contributed to Deer Valley’s strong totals this winter, Summers echoed Rafferty’s statement that snowfall was the primary driver of the successful ski season, saying that the resort reported fresh snow on more than half of the days it was open.
“That kind of snow drives increased usage of all products — this includes Season Passes, Local’s Only Passes, day tickets and Ikon Pass usage,” Summers said. “All products were up and with this being the first season of the Ikon Pass, it brought additional opportunities for skier visits.”
Park City Mountain Resort was unable to provide comment.
Ski Utah reported that the state saw 111 total days with measurable snowfall, and of those, the longest drought lasted only one week.
The monster snowstorm that crashed into the Wasatch on Jan. 18, which caused even the ski resorts and the Park City School District to close, brought 23 inches of snow to Deer Valley and 21 to Park City Mountain Resort. The resorts ended the season with 353 and 359 inches of snow at their bases, respectively.
111: Total days with measurable snowfall
7: The longest period of days Utah went without snowfall
23 and 21: Inches of snow received on Utah’s top snow day by Deer Valley and Park City Mountain Resort, respectively
359: Season-ending snow total in inches reported by Park City Mountain
353: Season-ending snow total in inches reported by Deer Valley
Data via Ski Utah and OnTheSnow.com
While Park City will likely never say “no” to more skiers, customers, and dollars, the historic ski season also raised questions in the community regarding the city and the resorts’ ability to handle larger crowds and maintain a positive experience for guests.
Summers said Deer Valley is working on it.
“We continue to work on additional parking plans and procedures for the next winter season,” she said.
Rafferty said that, going forward, further development of transportation options will be critical to the state’s ski industry if the Wasatch Back and the Cottonwood canyons are to withstand their increased popularity as destinations. That includes both Utah’s roadways and airways as the Salt Lake International Airport undergoes renovation and Park City weighs how to best get visitors 37 miles from the tarmac to the slopes.
Also on Rafferty’s list of priorities was finding solutions in housing seasonal workers, a perennial issue in ski towns across the country, as well as finding ways to accommodate an increasingly large crowd of international visitors.
Even as Ski Utah has delivered its final report card for the semester, ski season in the Wasatch isn’t really even over. Snowbird, which remains open on weekends, hopes to ring in America’s 243rd birthday with skiing.
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Arlene Loble served as the Park City manager in the 1980s, a pivotal period that prepared the community for the boom years that would follow in the 1990s. Loble, who recently died, is credited with introducing a level of professionalism to the municipal government that was needed amid the growth challenges.