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Utah sets new skier visit record

Leslie Thatcher

Two years after ski resorts had to shut down early due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Utah has posted back-to-back record-setting ski years.

Utah’s 15 resorts collectively had 5.8 million skier visits this past winter – a half million more visits over the previous year. According to Ski Utah CEO Nathan Rafferty, this past season was as successful as it was challenging due to a lack of snow and staffing.

“We had a 10 percent increase over last year's all-time record - 5.8 million skier visits,” Rafferty said. “We're really excited and proud to contribute to the state's economy and, you know, push that great number out there.”

5.3 million skiers and snowboarders hit Utah’s slopes the winter before. Rafferty says multi-resort season pass sales can account for the steady increases. According to the National Ski Areas Association, season pass sales now represent almost 52 percent of all lift passes sold.

“Season passes finally have ticked over and have exceeded the number of day tickets people are seeing,” Rafferty said. “This is on a nationwide level, which is great for the stability of our sport, because as you know, if somebody has a season pass in their pocket, they're more likely to ski. If they're just on a day ticket they're going to look out the window, if it's snowing or sunny, they'll go skiing. But if the weather is inclement, then maybe they're going to stay home. And so, we love that stability.”

In addition, many resorts have implemented new technology to track skier days, which Rafferty says allows for more accurate counting.

Even without a great snow year this past winter in Utah where it was mostly sunny for much of January and February, Rafferty says the new multi-resort passes allow snow riders to go where the good skiing is. He expects that trend to continue.

“I think we are going to see the continuation of riding this wave of outdoor recreation and it’s not just in skiing,” Rafferty said. “We see it at our state and national parks, we're seeing it nationwide. It'll be interesting to see what happens. There are so many different factors, certainly the economy, what happens with COVID next year? How much of this flexible travel or flexible work will people have? I think that's a huge factor, too.”

A new skier day record was also set nationally with 61 million skier days reported in the United States. The Rocky Mountain Region, including Utah, Colorado, Idaho, and Wyoming, recorded the highest number of visits nationwide with 25.2 million skier days from the six-state region.

Reports from other areas of the county show Colorado is also projecting a new statewide skier visit record. Colorado Ski County member resorts were up 14 percent year-over-year, totaling 13.8 million visits this past winter. Vermont saw a 6.5 percent increase in skier visits reporting nearly 3.8 million visits. But New Hampshire reports their skier visits were down 3 percent compared to a year ago.