Ski industry hit new high this season

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An employee at Park City Mountain Resort directs a busy ski-lift line on the resort s opening day in November 2013. Christopher Reeves/Park Record.


Over the past several years, the Utah ski industry has been recovering from the effects of a weak snow year during the 2011 winter. This week, Ski Utah reported a 3.6 percent increase in skier-days in the state through August 2014, the best season in three years.


The Utah ski and snowboard industry closed the season with 4.16 million skier-day visits, up from the previous season’s 4.01 million. It is the seventh time in the last nine years skier-days have exceeded 4 million.


President of Ski Utah Nathan Rafferty said the increase is due in large part to the three ski resorts in Park City: Deer Valley Resort, Canyons Resort and Park City Mountain Resort.


“I think the resorts in Park City offer incredible product every year and work hard to make it so even when Mother Nature doesn’t deliver,” he said. “The snowmaking capabilities at the resorts help provide really incredible ski experiences with or without Mother Nature’s help, although it is always helpful to have her come  through.”


Rafferty said the reason Utah’s ski industry dropped during the 2011-2012 season was that it was “a really rough snow year that year.” Had it not been for the snowmaking capabilities at the ski resorts, Rafferty said the ski industry would have had to recover from much more catastrophic circumstances.


The fact that all three resorts in Park City were ranked in the top 10 in North America by Ski Magazine helped attract skiers to town as well, he said. Canyons Resort was ranked No. 10 while Park City Mountain Resort came in at No. 5 and Deer Valley held the No. 2 spot.


“Word is getting out that we have got great skiing and we are easy to get to from the airport,” Rafferty said. “The product here in Park City and in Utah just continues to improve.”


If there is one thing that could be done to improve numbers, Rafferty added, it would be loosening liquor laws. While the ski industry receives a tremendous amount of help and support from the Utah state government, liquor laws do not help bring visitors, he said.


When competing against places like Colorado, California and British Columbia, Utah liquor laws seem very restrictive, he said, adding that they may hinder visitors from coming by making it seem like they won’t be able to enjoy a drink while they are on vacation.


However, as the quality of the ski resorts, lodging, transportation and restaurants throughout Park City continue to progress, Rafferty said skier-day numbers will as well.


“The numbers speak for themselves, but it’s really the cumulative actions of the resorts and the great things they are doing that make the industry thrive,” he said. “So hats off to all three resorts in Park City that work really hard to bring people to Utah and make for not only a thriving winter destination but also a summer destination.”


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