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Utah ski season is underway; don’t let lack of snowfall get you down

SHARE Utah ski season is underway; don’t let lack of snowfall get you down
A snowboarder rides in one of Brighton Ski Resort's five terrain parks during opening day on Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2017.

A snowboarder rides in one of Brighton Ski Resort’s five terrain parks during opening day on Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2017.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah’s 2017-18 ski/snowboard season has begun, albeit off to a rather slow start.

Nine of Utah’s 14 resorts are open, thanks in part to modern-day snowmaking capabilities. For the past few weeks, now, with the cold temperatures, resorts have had snow guns spraying tons of the cold, white snow nightly.

First to open, which has almost become a tradition, was Brighton, followed by Park City Mountain Resort.

Also open are Deer Valley, Alta, Snowbasin, Solitude, Brian Head, Nordic Valley and Sundance.

And, says Nathan Rafferty, president of Ski Utah, the marketing arm for Utah resorts, “What skiing is available is good ... not everything we could hope for, but it’s good.

“I’m blown away with what resorts have been able to do. The product they are putting out there on man-made snow is good.”

Deer Valley, for example, has been able to open 13 of its 21 lifts and 16 runs. Brighton has 15 runs open and Park City 13 runs.

As for what’s new in Utah’s skiing/snowboarding industry for the 2017-18 ski season, there is a new owner, anniversaries to celebrate and new lifts to ride.

Here are some of the highlights:

— Deer Valley was sold last summer.

— Alta replaced two of its older lifts with a new high-speed quad on this its 80th season.

— Snowbasin replaced its old Wildcat lift with a new high-speed six-pack or six passengers per chairlift.

— And, Nordic Valley will celebrate its 50th season.

Utah is coming off a record-breaking 2016-17 ski/snowboard season and early reservations are promising, that is, with a little help from Mother Nature.

Rafferty notes that “reservations over Christmas are as good as we’ve ever seen. All we can do is set the pins up and it’s up to Mother Nature to knock them down. We can’t do it all. We need a little help.

“We need a few good storms so people can go home and tell friends just how good skiing and snowboarding is in Utah.’’

For the 2016-17 season, Utah counted 4,584,658 skier/snowboarder days, an increase of 127,083 over the previous record — 2015-16 with 4,457,575.

The record represents an 8.7 percent increase over the state’s five-year average. Nationally, skier days were up by more than 2 million, which represents a 3.7 increase over the previous season. The 10-year low for Utah was the 2011-12 season when 3,825,090 skier days were recorded.

One reason for the increase was Utah enjoyed above-normal snow years. Brighton, for example, recorded 632 inches, which is about 132 over the long-term average.

“People have to remember this is Utah and when it snows, it snows a bunch. Even when we thought we had the world’s worst season three years ago, Alta had 383 inches, which represented the highest snow total of any resort in the United States.’’

Deer Valley was sold to a yet-to-be-named company controlled by KSL Capital Partners (no connection to KSL-TV/Radio) and Henry Crown and Company.

This was followed by Deer Valley being named the No. 1 resort in North America by Ski Magazine. The resort was the only Utah resort in the top 15. Nine Colorado resorts made the top 15.

Park City Mountain was 16, Snowbird 17, Alta 21, Solitude 22, Snowbasin 25 and Brighton 29.

Deer Valley earned top votes in the magazine’s worldwide survey for its grooming, service, lodging and kid-friendly environment.

As for what to look for in the future, a storm is expected on Saturday and another on Wednesday. And, as happens in Utah, many more will follow in the winter months.