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Wet spring gets summer tourism off to slow start

Published: Wednesday, July 6 2011 6:21 p.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — A chillier and wetter than normal spring has been great for Utah ski resorts, but much less so for the state's outdoor recreation and tourism industry.

Jessica Kunzer, director of communications for Ski Utah, said nearly $1.2 billion was spent by Utah skiers and snowboarders this year.

Overall, the state's 14 ski resorts totaled 4.2 million skier visits — a 4 percent increase from a season ago and the second-most ever in the state, Kunzer said.

"It was pretty fantastic," she said of the 2010-11 ski season.

A long ski season that saw a few thousand people on the slopes at Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort on the Fourth of July delayed the start for summer activities, particularly in northern Utah.

Several high mountain passes until recently had been blocked by snow, keeping campers and hikers out. And so far this year, fewer people are visiting Utah State Parks than in previous years, officials said.

For May, state parks visitation was down about 5 percent, said Tracie Cayford, deputy director for the Utah Office of Tourism. Numbers for June are not yet available.

"It was a little bit harder for northern Utah to thaw out," Cayford said. "It will be a challenge to make up for some of those numbers at the state parks."

To give people a nudge, the state Office of Tourism is running a public service campaign with Gov. Gary Herbert urging Utahns to get outside.

"Summer is finally here," Herbert says in an online video, "and it's time to get out and enjoy Utah's five national parks, our 43 state parks and our other scenic and recreational assets."

Utah National Parks, meanwhile, are having a solid year in the warmer southern part of the state, with visitation up 5 percent from a year ago, tourism officials said.

Contributing: Jared Page

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