With this year's plentiful snowfall, Utah ski resorts are on pace to have one of their best snow seasons, but the piles of snow haven't led to higher profits.
That's because most ski areas across the nation have also seen high amounts of snow, and skiers haven't been forced to travel to Utah to find snow-covered slopes, spokesmen for the Utah resorts say. Instead, the skiers have stayed closer to home.
"The problem is from a national perspective: The whole country has a glut of snow," said Solitude spokesman Jay Burke. "So some of our primary markets like Southern California, the East Coast all of those places have a ton of snow."
The declining economy also has played a role in fewer out-of-state skiers visiting local resorts, Burke said.
Despite the decrease in tourists, several local resorts are estimating better-than-average attendance, due in large part to high snow totals at virtually every one of the state's 13 ski resorts bringing in a high number of in-state skiers and snowboarders.
"Coming off of last year with an unusually low snow year, it was important to have all of this snow to remind the local skiers why they live in Utah," said Snowbird public relations director Laura Schaffer. "Last year, when we didn't get as much snow, we didn't get as many local skiers. This year, with all the snowfall, more and more locals were excited about getting out on the mountain."
Snowbird also saw an increase in European tourists, who found a bargain here because of the strong exchange rate for the euro against the declining dollar, she said.
Utah's ski resorts had well-above normal snowfall even in southern Utah. Brian Head resort in Iron County received an estimated 325 inches of powder this season, about 120 percent of normal, according to sales director Ron Burgess.
"It's been an above average year, and it's made up for what we've lacked the last couple of years," Burgess said. "This season, we've never been where we've been worrying about how our conditions are going to be."
In the previous two years, his resort was "scratching for snow," but this year everything is up. He said that the resort's profits have also increased this year with the plentiful snowfall.
In northern Utah, Snowbasin received an estimated 400-plus inches of snow, while Solitude and Snowbird have reported over 500 inches. Alta's Web site said the resort has received more than 600 inches of snow this season.
"Our skier visits have increased 8 to 10 percent each year," said Denzel Rowland, general manager at Snowbasin, near Huntsville. "Any time you get an abundance of snow and you get numerous powder days, it's a gold star for your business."
He added that although snow totals are up this season, his resort will still likely close by mid-April, as people make the transition from snow sports to warm-weather outdoor activities like golf and biking. Most of the other resort spokesmen also said they will probably close for the season by mid- to late April.
The one exception was Snowbird. Schaffer said Snowbird will stay open daily through May 11 and plans to remain open on weekends until at least Memorial Day. Schaffer noted that a couple of years ago, the resort had skiing until July 4."We'll stay open as long as conditions allow us to," she said.
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