Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — Cathy Nelson's 4-year-old spent Presidents Day on the slopes of Brighton learning how to ski.
The Cottonwood Heights resident sat at a Brighton cafeteria table Monday, holding a toddler and warming up while waiting for her husband and the tiny new skier to return.
"(Brighton)'s a good place to learn," Nelson said.
Her daughter, she said, would love skiing because anything that ends with hot chocolate and french fries is fun to a 4-year old.
The Nelsons weren't the only ones hitting the slopes on Monday. Ski resorts along the Wasatch Front geared up for a busy day — the end to a holiday weekend.
"Presidents Day is historically one of the busiest ski weekends of the season, second only to the week of Christmas," said Czar Johnson, director of Mountain Operations for Sundance Mountain Resort.
"We typically will see upward of a 50 percent increase compared to normal weekends," he said.
Johnson said that while the final numbers weren't yet in, Sundance was projected to hit a record-number of Presidents Day visitors this year.
Melissa Deanda, a sports desk employee at Brighton, said the buses from the mouth of the canyon to the resort were packed Monday morning. Even though the resort was busy, the parking lot wasn't completely full, she speculated, because people either rode the bus or carpooled.
"It's the last big ski holiday for travelers," Jared Winkler, Brighton's communications director, said.
There are three major holidays for ski resorts: Christmas and New Year's, Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Presidents Day, said Paul Marshall, Ski Utah's communications director.
According to Marshall, the long weekends bring guests from around the country and world into Salt Lake City to "experience some of the world's finest resorts."
Utah resorts are popular, Marshall said, because they are so accessible compared to other resorts around the country. The proximity of the Salt Lake International Airport to the resorts brings out-of-state guests back multiple times to relive their first good experience.
Whether tourists are flying in for the weekend or local residents are driving up the canyons for the day, a holiday brings in crowds.
"(Brighton gets) a handful of foreign tourists, but our main market is Salt Lake City and some destination travelers who are staying in Park City or downtown," Winkler said.
Those visitors, Winkler said, will come and visit for the day. Oftentimes, they are hopping between a few of the area resorts.
Brighton staff are prepared to handle crowds, Winkler said, because the resort has had such a good year. For example, when the resort anticipates a busy day and knows that the cafeteria will quickly fill up, the resort holds a barbecue outside on picnic tables to free up room in the cafeteria and offer more seating.
"We're going to get a little festivity going," Slava Eamilyamts, a food and beverage manager at the resort, said as he worked to set up the barbecue on Monday.
The food division, he said, prepares for the holiday by making sure there are plenty of employees on staff and that they've ordered plenty of food.
But more important than food preparation, Eamilyamts said, is the weather.
"Little bit of sunshine," he said. "That's what usually drives people up, I mean, great skiing, snow and the holiday. You have all of those components fall together."
Heavier snowfall this year has really helped draw people to the mountains to hit the slopes, Winkler said. Snowstorms dropped fresh powder right before both Martin Luther King Jr. Day and the Christmas holiday.
On Monday, other resorts also boasted fresh snow. Alta Ski Area tweeted that it had received 8 inches of snow overnight.
It's been a "healthy season" for nearly all of Utah's resorts, Marshall said.
Beyond the snowfall, the inversion has an impact on whether or not people decide to go skiing.
"I think (the inversion) can make a difference if people know that it's clear up here," Winkler said.
That's when the resorts try to advertise pictures of clear skies and warmer temperatures, he said. "It's hard to let people know how the current conditions are."
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