Utah's ski industry wants skiing to be easy, affordable, inviting, exciting and entertaining. And it plans to make a lot of changes to achieve those goals, both on the ski slopes and on the street corners.
The most obvious change the Utah skier will see will be the arrival of the quad - a pricey, high-speed four-chair lift that puts twice as many skiers on the mountain per hour as a traditional chair lift.Solitude is getting one right away; Park City Ski Area will be getting one; and several other resorts are checking into the possibility of getting the $2 million lift.
"I think every area in Utah is a potential for lift construction," said Bob Bailey, executive director of Ski Utah.
Not that Utah needs quad lifts. A recent survey of out-of-state skiers showed that one of Utah's most popular features is its comparatively short lift lines.
Still, the quad lifts have become a critical marketing tool. "Once people have it in their mind that those lifts are the way to go, they are reluctant to visit places that don't have those lifts," Bailey said.
The Colorado resorts have the lifts. Since Utah competes for the same out-of-state skiers as Colorado, Utah will put them in, too.
So, Utah skiers will see the cost of lift tickets rise, in part because local resorts will have to pay for the quad lifts, which transport twice as many people but cost twice as much as the lifts they replace, Bailey said.
The Deseret News asked representatives at two resorts, Park City Ski Area and Solitude, if the resorts would be raising the price of lift tickets next year.
Marketing officials at both resorts said an increase is likely.
Even though both resorts plan to put in quad lifts, the spokesmen attributed the price hike to other factors as well.
"There may be as much as a 6 percent inflation rate next year. You have to figure that in," said Robbie Beck, director of marketing for the Park City Ski Area. "There are other costs such as taxes, the cost of making snow and utilities."
"Certainly our lift-ticket price will increase as our improvements come in," said Mark Wilson, vice president at Solitude. "However, we remain very sensitive to the need to remain affordable."
Those who have never skied before will notice Utah resorts trying harder to get them on the slopes. Resorts will offer more begin-to-learn packages, which will be marketed more heavily than in the past.
"There's not enough being done in that area. I think there's tremendous room for improvement," Bailey said.
If local shops follow the national lead, they may begin to put together their own ski packages that include lessons and lift tickets.
Other resorts may offer beginner perks similar to those at Solitude, which constructed a new beginner lift for entry-level skiers that is operated free of charge.
The free lift also helps create the impression that skiing is an affordable sport. "If you remove the price of a lift ticket from a person's introduction to the sport, you create an affordable experience that's also attractive to families," Wilson said.
More Utah resorts may be looking for ways to create that affordable, attractive experience for beginners.
People will probably see ski information dispersed in more unusual ways. Bailey talked about creating a local phone number for those who want to find out how they can learn to ski. Ski Utah will try to bring retail shops into the picture by making them ski information centers as the national ski associations suggest.
And everywhere, consumers will see advertising. "Ski Utah will be very consumer- driven this year," Bailey said. "We're going to advertise heavily."
Utah will sell itself as a family state for family skiers. Bailey believes Utah's family orientation gives it a strong start in the national scramble for family skiers.
"We're going to advertise heavily how much of a family state Utah is and how much of a family sport skiing is," he said.
The recent trend toward more groomed slopes will continue as Utah resorts cater to the older skier in an attempt to add new skiers.
"You'd be amazed at the number of trails groomed at night," Bailey said. There will be even more of it.
If all goes as planned, Utahns will see a strong orientation toward customer service; stores and resorts will want to do everything they can to make skiing a pleasant experience.
"Service is the name of the game," Bailey said.
Representatives of Utah resorts, ski shops and promotion groups met at Brian Head this week to discuss, among other things, how Utah can adapt to the national drive for new skiers.