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23 Jan, Sunday
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Excellent Ski Season has Summit, Wasatch County Leaders Optimistic

Heber—A few good snow dumps at the right time will put anyone into a good mood. At least, the favorable weather, over 4.5 million skier days, and high overall tourist turnout has certainly done it for the Summit and Wasatch County leaders that met Wednesday morning at Red Ledges for Utah Business’ annual regional roundtable.

“I think this past winner was a lot of good things colliding,” said Bill Malone, president and CEO of Visit Park City. “Big investment into the product, weather at the right time—it’s not always how much snow, it’s when you get it, and how that makes the needle move.”

The snowfall—and who didn’t get it—certainly made a difference insofar as tourist numbers for the area. Bill Rock, senior vice president and COO of Park City Mountain Resort, said that Epic Pass holders, with their flexibility to move to where the snow is best, led many from the Eastern portion of the U.S. to make their way westward. Epic Passes, said Rock, allow holders to effectively have passes to seven resorts in Colorado, Utah, Lake Tahoe, Europe and Japan. The mobility was good for Utah last year.

“Last year, in North America, the East Coast had a terrible ski season. The Midwest had a terrible ski season. Anything kind of west of the Mississippi did really, really well. So it’s kind of a tale of haves and have-nots in the ski industry this year,” said Malone. “So, certainly a lot of East Coast visitation came out West because of what they were facing with the snow conditions.”

Areas of opportunity, according to Malone, include late March and early April. Getting Martin Luther King, Jr. Day weekend separate from the festivities of Sundance has also allowed the local ski industry to focus their marketing on the weekend and build up the numbers. “That was a big deal for our community,” he said. “There’s only so many [long weekends] in the ski season, and the ability to now have that, and now to market to that and try to drive business on that side [has been good].”

The excellence of the ski season hasn’t just driven Summit County. Tracy See, park manager for Wasatch Mountain State Park, said that the snowmobiling and cross-country skiing concessionaires at Soldier Hollow reported their top sales in both those areas in this past year. Ryan Starks, executive director of Heber Valley Tourism and Economic Development, said that more and more, tourists are starting to venture down from the mountains and take a peek at what else the surrounding area has to offer.

“[Ski season] used to be more of a separate issue, but I think more and more the line between Summit and Wasatch Counties is getting blurry. When Summit County has a great ski season, it certainly benefits us in that people spill over. They want to see what else we have,” said Starks. “So we have a lot of traffic in our visitor’s center, skiers from PC saying ‘what else is there?’ and we can refer them to our Homestead Crater, or the Heber Valley Railroad.”

The roundtable was moderated by Myles Rademan, director of Leadership Park City. Read the full conversation in the September issue of Utah Business.