Nov 15, 2022 - Business

Utah's ski season gets off to an early start

Illustration of a blue mountain with dollar sign made of ice on top.

Illustration: Rae Cook/Axios

Ski season is off to a smooth start as some Utah resorts opened early due to abundant snowfall.

  • Brian Head in southern Utah surprised skiers when the resort launched its ski season Nov. 4 — the earliest opening day in its history.
  • Brighton and Solitude in Big Cottonwood Canyon opened last week.

What they're saying: "This is probably our best start, we're thinking, since 2004, and knock on wood, we're going to keep rolling into a great ski season," said Ski Utah President Nathan Rafferty during a Monday news conference.

  • Rafferty said the state has already reached the same level of snowpack that is normally seen in January.

Why it matters: Early snow translates to a longer ski season. And the spending power of people visiting Utah ski resorts reverberates off the slopes and into the local economy, according to Rafferty.

By the numbers: During the 2021-22 season, Utah resorts tallied about 5.8 million visits. That's a 10% increase compared to the previous ski season, Rafferty said.

  • That resulted in a record $2.35 billion in spending. Rafferty estimated 60% of that money was spent away from resorts like hotel stays, restaurants and equipment rentals.

Details: Ski Utah also relaunched its Discover Winter program this year. Applications for this year are closed, but you can apply for the 2023-24 season next fall.

  • The program, in partnership with ski resorts, businesses and local organizations, aims to introduce more people of color and marginalized groups to snowboarding and skiing by providing free lessons, equipment, passes and transportation.

Of note: Labor shortages at resorts are still an issue but not as significant as last year.

  • "I've often said this last season was as difficult as it was successful. 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," Rafferty said.

What's next: Park City Mountain opens Nov. 16. Snowbird, Alta and Snowbasin plan to open Nov. 18.


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