The boosters of Utah powder, like the head of Ski Utah Nathan Rafferty, were ecstatic about the state’s record-breaking ski season.
While the industry has been transformed by the marketing of the Epic and Ikon Passes, Rafferty said the advantages they bring outweigh the challenges.
Rafferty said that not every ski resort in the state set a record for 2018-19 but the vast majority did.
Overall, the state saw 5.125 million skier visits. That was certainly above the previous weak winter season, with 4.1 million visits, but this season even exceeded the previous record-breaking winter, of 2016-17, which had 4.6 million visits.
Rafferty reviewed the ups and downs of the past year.
“We had a bit of a soft start. Coming off of crummy snow season last year. There were a lot a lot of people wondering if it was going to snow again and snow it did. Our December could have been better and we got kind of hung up with the way Christmas landed this year. Where we would have rather had—in most years it's spread out a little bit over two full weeks and I think we could have done better with that. But we're pretty excited about 5.1 million skiers. It would be nice to see Easter fall back in a decent place where we can stretch that ski season a little bit. There’s a place to do it and certainly mid-week and there's an educational component there too and getting people to ski not just on Saturdays. But this year boy you know people skied when it's snowed and it doesn't matter what day it was.”
He noted that they got 111 days of measurable snowfall last season, and there was only a seven-day period when they didn’t see powder.
Rafferty didn’t see the season driven by resort conglomerates selling the Epic and Ikon passes. The major reasons were the snowfall—and locals turning out to use their season passes.
“The real dramatic number and I've talked to some of the resorts and they saw an increase from their season pass holders of more than 40% this year. I mean I'm sure you skied more this year than you did last year I know I did. When it snows, people ski and it never stops snowing this year.”
Still, he said that thanks to the all-resort passes, it’s a different world compared to when he hit the slopes as a young skier.
“I would love to be able to have—having grown up in Utah you got to pick one resort and that was your resort and now the option to have that and all the great public transit we've got now. I mean, a lot of options.”
He said the passes are a great attraction, pricewise.
“You wind the clock back to before these things were available and you know you were paying $1000 or more for a single resort pass. Now you're paying what is it $800 or $900 if you're in high school it's couple hundred bucks nd you have access to all these resorts. Next year the epic pass you’re going to be able to ski at Snow Basin, Sun Valley just up the street. Ikon having an option for all these different resorts so for the consumer it's incredible, you have all these different options.”
Still, that meant that more skiers jammed into the Park City resorts when the Cottonwood Canyons were closed. Rafferty said that was a good outcome for Park City.
“You know I'm happy to see different skiers coming over to this side of the mountain. Again last year was a perfect storm of a ton of road closures in the Cottonwood Canyons and I'm glad people come over and sample little Park City. I think these people are opening their eyes to the great skiing that's over on this side and the fun little mountain town. Hopefully they came into town afterwards and enjoyed some food and bars and restaurants and shopping and all that stuff. So, I think it's all a good thing.”
Rafferty added that if you still haven’t put your ski boots away, Snowbird is open on the weekends, and there’s a good chance it will be open for a ski day on July 4th.