Unusual Utah ski season could lead to higher lift ticket prices


SALT LAKE CITY — While recent late winter snowstorms have been a boon to Utah’s ski resorts, the lack of snow earlier this season, unseasonably warm temperatures and a resulting lack of customers could force Wasatch Front snow resorts to raise lift ticket prices for next year more than the usual annual price hikes.

“At this moment, for this season, we’ve had fewer customers than we normally do during a good snow year. I would guess all the resorts in Utah were down a little bit. When the skier counts for the year come out, it won’t be a record-breaking year,” said Randy Doyle, general manager of Brighton Ski Resort.

He and other resort managers are hoping the March snowstorms may make up for the dry start of the season, when there was no precipitation and the thin base existing at Wasatch Front resorts was nearly all machine-made.

It was the second year in a row that Utah’s normal November snowstorms did not arrive until late December.

Despite last year’s unusually arid weather when resorts opened, it was a record-breaking year. But skiers and snowboarders may have stayed away this year when the same thing happened again — especially when Utah’s resort rival, Colorado, got plenty of early season snow.

“It is quite unusual (for Utah) to have so little snow at the beginning of the season. We are warming faster on the Arctic and the equator, so as a result, winters are warming earlier. It points to a large part of a global warming trend. It’s only going to get worse,” said Utah National Weather Service hydrologist Brian McInerney.

Through February, this year’s winter was on pace to be the fifth-warmest on record in Salt Lake City, according to the National Weather Service.

Connie Marshall, marketing director at Alta, said the resort had to delay its scheduled opening again this year. “We put off our opening date this year by 12 days. Last year, we delayed our opening for two weeks.”

Despite the delayed opening, lift operators and other staff had already been hired for the resorts and had to be paid, even though Alta and other resorts were not bringing in any money from skiers.

“In our case, we did get opened, but we had really limited skiing,” Doyle said of Brighton. “We didn’t have all of our lifts running or all of our runs open. In a normal year, we would have had all of our lifts and all of our runs open. We did get a storm just in time for the holidays. But leading up to that and following after, this year we definitely had fewer customers.

“We may need to raise lift ticket prices next season enough to make up for it.”

But Doyle emphasized that nothing has yet been determined and he is hopeful recent storms will help make up for the earlier losses.

“It’s too early to tell whether we’re going to need to have a much higher lift ticket price. We still don’t know how the rest of March will go. March is …read more

Source:: Deseret News – Utah News


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