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Record season for Utah ski resorts

FILE: Carter Budge skis on closing day at Snowbird on Monday, May 30, 2016.
FILE: Carter Budge skis on closing day at Snowbird on Monday, May 30, 2016.
Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah's ski industry set a new record this season with more people hitting the slopes than ever before.

Ski Utah reported Thursday that the ski and snowboard industry tallied an all-time high of 4,457,575 skier days for the 2015-16 season — up almost 5 percent from the previous high of 4,249,190 skier days set in the 2007-08 season.

The National Ski Areas Association defines “skier days” as one person visiting a ski area for all or any part of a day or night for the purpose of skiing or snowboarding. This season’s total was 10.4 percent above Utah’s 5-year average, said Ski Utah executive director Nathan Rafferty, and 13 percent over last season's figure.

“This was a big year for Utah’s winter sports industry, and we could not have asked for a better result,” he said.

Rafferty said that while overall snow totals this season were not record-setting, snowfall was well-timed throughout the season, with early season storms contributing to the success of the season. Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort was the last of the state’s 14 ski areas to close for the season when it stopped running lifts after Memorial Day, ending a 181-day season.

Resorts also invested more than $100 million contributing the draw to the mountains, he said.

“People want to come and see some of the new (improvements) the ski resorts have,” he said.

Rafferty said marketing by the Utah Office of Tourism was a key factor in bringing in so many visitors to experience "The Greatest Snow on Earth." The tourism office budgeted $2,664,317 in regional and national marketing for the 2015-16 ski season, the most ever, Jay Kinghorn of the tourism office said.

Next season, the amount is expected to increase as the overall budget from the Legislature jumped from $18 million this season to $21 million next season, he said.

Nationally, skier days were up slightly from 53.6 million to 53.9 million — a 0.5 percent bump over the previous season. According to a National Ski Areas Association survey, the Rocky Mountain Region registered a historic season with an 8 percent increase in skier visits this season over last season.

“We went up in travelers about 35 to 40 percent and about 9 percent in our season pass holders from last season,” said J.P. Goulet, marketing coordinator for Powder Mountain Resort in Eden. As more of a “locals’ ski destination,” the split for visitors compared to local skiers was approximately 45 percent for out-of-state visitors to 55 percent for in-state skiers, he said.


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