Wasatch Front ski resorts could be open for business by Thanksgiving each year if the state agrees to help, according to Park City officials.
Their plan, announced in a meeting with Gov. Norm Bangerter on Tuesday, is to take all the state sales tax that skiers pay for lift tickets and give it back to resorts to build snow-making machines and high-tech lifts."This would be a unique opportunity to stimulate business at some of the resorts," said Gordon Strachan, vice president of economic development for the Park City Chamber of Commerce.
Strachan presented the plan along with Nick Badami, owner of the Park City ski resort. Although Park City already has snow-making equipment, the men insisted the plan would help resorts all along the Wasatch Front and would boost the state's tourist industry.
"If the national press says only Park City is open, it doesn't do us a lot of good as far as attracting people," Badami said. "If on the other hand they say the Utah ski resorts are open, we'll all be the beneficiaries. It's a strange kind of competition, but it's true."
Badami and Strachan are hoping state lawmakers will agree to the plan, known as the Ski Resort Capital Incentive Act, during the upcoming legislative session. The act will be sponsored by Sen. Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan.
Although the state will lose money by giving sales tax back to resorts, it will earn far more money through sales tax on ski-related items, Badami and Strachan said.
With modern snow-making equipment, snow can be made at temperatures as high as 39 degrees Fahrenheit, Badami said. That means November has an average of 14 to 18 days cold enough for skiing on man-made snow - days during which natural snow would not likely be on the ground, he said.
"You're not just selling more lift tickets, you're selling more ski clothes and skis and boots and all of the other stuff that people would be inclined to buy between Thanksgiving and Christmas," Strachan said.
Badami said the resorts would attract more out-of-state tourists if resorts opened early.
"Most of the retail sales in November now are to local people," he said.
Strachan and Badami said resorts would have to use the money only for improvements such as snow-making machines and high-speed lifts. The act is not likely to generate enough money to buy those items outright. Resort owners will have to foot the bill for the rest.