SALT LAKE CITY — As more ski resorts continue to open, Ski Utah and their resort partners from across the state held their annual season kick-off press conference at Evo Salt Lake. Among the topics discussed was the great start to the snow year, opening days at resorts, new equipment, and changes being made at resorts. The business side was also a key topic, as the previous year’s skier visit totals and revenues generated were highlighted.
According to the press conference, ski season is shaping up to be one of the best starts to a ski year in nearly 20 years, thanks to cold temperatures and heavy snowfall.
“Most importantly, I want to thank Mother Nature. This is a fantastic start to the ski season. We couldn’t have scripted it any better. A ton of snow early and cold temperatures. If you roll up past any of the ski resorts right now, it looks like it’s snowing even though the sun’s out. So they’ve got snow guns cranking. And as many people know, it’s not just how much snow we get. It’s when we get it … This is probably the best start to a snow year since 2004, and knock on wood. We’re going to keep rolling into a great ski season,” said President and CEO of Ski Utah, Nathan Rafferty.
Rafferty highlighted storm totals across the state recorded between two and three feet, with the snowpack 433% above average, as of last week. The state has reached the same snow water equivalent commonly seen by January 1 in years past.
Park City Mountian Resort is opening its doors at its earliest point since the 1990s. The 2022-2023 winter season is bringing a welcome start for resorts, area businesses, skiers, and snowboarders.
“Brianhead got off to a really early start. Brighton and Solitude, the sibling rivalry, is duking it out there in Big Cottonwood Canyon. One was going to open later, and one opened a little bit earlier. We’re excited to see that Park City Mountain is opening on the 16th, the earliest opening in 26 years; if I did my math right, 1996 is the last time they opened this early. Alta, Snowbird, and Snowbasin will open on the 18th. We’re excited to get things off early,” said Rafferty.
Winter sports play a crucial role in the economy in Utah that goes beyond the actual resort a person visits. Everything from restaurants and hotels to retail businesses such as Backcountry, Jans, Level Nine Sports, and many other local businesses rely on visitors and the industry to produce profits and support their employees. Records continue to be broken in terms of both public spending related to the ski industry and resort visits.
Last year, the US ski season had 61 million skier visits, an “all-time high nationwide, increasing by three and a half percent over the previous record,” according to Rafferty. Among other “all-time highs,” Utah alone had 5.8 million visits, with spending on that list as well, and hope to surpass $2 billion in spending for the winter 22-23 season.
“Last year’s spending was at $2.35 billion. The previous high was $1.7 million. It’s important to note that almost 60% of that spending happens off the mountain, so…all the affiliated businesses in town benefit from those big numbers,” said Rafferty.
Overall, the season is looking up on all counts compared to last year’s frustrations.
“We had challenges with snow, we had really significant challenges with labor, and all those things seem to be looking a lot better this year,” said Rafferty.