Ski Utah kicks season off with press conference |

Ski Utah kicks season off with press conference

Some flurries and colder temperatures on Thursday morning helped with snowmaking near the PayDay lift at Park City Mountain Resort. Opening Day is scheduled for Nov. 26.

Before Park City was graced with the presence of snow on Wednesday night heading into Thursday morning, Ski Utah held its annual press conference, opening up the winter season in its offices down in Salt Lake City on Tuesday morning.

With skiers and snowboarders anxiously waiting to take to the mountains and get some runs in, Nathan Rafferty, President and CEO of Ski Utah, spoke to calm some nerves that exist in the ski community. He admitted it's hard to be patient, especially for the consumers, but there's no need to fear.

"It is coming, I promise," Rafferty said in regards to snow. "Utah always delivers when it comes to snow. … Less than 10 percent of our annual snowfall falls before Nov. 15."

Many of the resorts in Utah, including Park City Mountain Resort, pushed back their opening days due to lack of snow, but Rafferty and Evan Thayer, who is Ski Utah's official forecaster and the owner/operator for Wasatch Snow Forecast, believe the slow start will have no effect on the season.

"I would say in the long run, it's not much of a concern for locals," Thayer said. "Yes, it's eventually going to snow and in the past, historically, we've had late starts and Utah can make up for it."

Thayer also said he understands the economic concerns caused by the late start to the season.

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No one expected Thursday's snow flurry to be much of a storm, but even Thayer was a little surprised by the amount of snowfall in Park City. In his forecast, Thayer predicted that the higher elevations would receive 4-8 inches of snow. Park City is typically on the lower end of those predictions, but the resort received just 2-3 inches this last week.

But the biggest thing isn't so much the snow that was accumulated, but rather the temperatures that came with the recent storm.

"It wasn't expected to be big, but the big benefit of it is that it brought in cold temperatures," Thayer said. "Right now, the biggest asset to them right now is these cold temperatures, so they can just make snow around the clock."

Park City Mountain Resort is doing just that. If you look up at the resort from the valley, you can see clouds of snow blowing from snow guns up and down the mountain.

That said, temperatures in the forecast, though they may not be as warm as recent weeks, are expected to rise over the weekend, potentially even eclipsing 50 degrees on Sunday. Some might have concerns about the freshly-made snow melting before PCMR opens.

Thayer, though, is optimistic that it will not be an issue and expects PCMR to open on Nov. 26.

"Even if the temperatures are kind of warm right now down in the valley, the good thing that [PCMR] has going for them now is that they have a very low sun angle," Thayer said. "They'll be able to open, but it'll probably be one or two runs on mostly man-made snow."

Thayer continued by saying with most of the slopes on the mountain facing north, he doesn't anticipate too much melting of the snow, even with the warmer temperatures.

Here are some other highlights from Ski Utah's press conference on Tuesday:

• In 2015, there were 4.5 million skier days in Utah with over half of Ski Utah's areas having all-time records.
• Ski Utah was 13 percent over the previous season (2014) in skier visits and 5 percent over the previous record, which was the 2007-08 season.
• Powder Mountain underwent the largest single-season resort expansion in U.S. ski industry history. It added two new Skytrac lifts and over 1,000 acres of new lift-serviced terrain. The resort will limit season passes to 1,000 and day tickets to 2,000 per day. This is the lowest skier density of any major ski area in North America.
• Cherry Peak Resort now has night skiing available on 100 percent of its mountain.
• Brighton Ski Resort is in its 80th year of operation.
• Ski Utah developed a new app in collaboration with Snocru. This year, it added a "total amount of fresh snow skied all year long" function, along with a Utah-only leaderboard to keep track of who skied the most powder.
• Ski Utah created a Snow Indicator, a snowflake sign on their offices that will change colors with snowfall in the forecast. When it snows over 12 inches at any of the Utah's 14 resorts, the flake will turn green. Also, any time Thayer predicts a forecast of eight inches of snow at any Utah resort, the snowflake will turn red.