Well, it happened again. Another record ski/snowboard season. Another 4-million-plus year.

My question is: Why did it take so long?

Without a doubt, Utah has the best snow, the best mountains and the some of the best slope-side hamburgers available anywhere. Its mountains are groomed, its lift lines short, its runs are long and, best of all, its snow is soft.

Think soft snow isn't something skiers like? Try falling on a block of ice sometime. That's what it's like at some resorts I've skied outside of Utah.

Consider this, too, even at its worst, Utah gets more snow than eastern areas and many out here in the West. In the 2007-08 season, Alta got 404 inches. This year it got 702 inches. A good year in the East is 300 to 350 inches.

And when it comes to convenience, there's nowhere in the world where skiing is more convenient. A group of five, of which I was one, skied 11 of Utah's 13 resorts in a single day, all during daylight hours.

Even those outside Utah who've come to Utah like its skiing. For the third time in SKI Magazine's annual poll, Deer Valley was voted the No. 1 ski area in North America. In ratings just on snow conditions, five Utah resorts made the "best snow" top 10 list: Alta at No. 1, Powder Mountain at No. 2, Snowbird at No. 5, Solitude at No. 6 and Brighton at No. 9. Remember, there are roughly 700 ski resorts in North America.

It's taken skiers a long time, though, to appreciate convenience and snow.

Leading the charge has been the staff at Ski Utah, most recently led by past-president Kip Pitou and now president Nathan Rafferty. Where others have shown doubt, Ski Utah has shown nothing but optimism and hard work.

All made harder, by the way, because the past administration never grasped the importance of tourism and, in particular, Utah skiing. Utah's tourism budget was the lowest, by more than half, of any of its neighboring states.

Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. recognized the error of the past governor and tripled the budget through the Utah Office of Tourism — and the results are clear.

Utah resorts continue to draw record crowds, as for the first time skiing and snowboarding topped the $1 billion mark in contributions to the economy.

Congratulations are definitely in order here.

Looking back, though, to the 1955-56 ski season, only 121,000 passes were sold. It wasn't until 1971-72 Utah hit the million mark and nine years later the 2 million mark. Utah hit a record 4 million in 2005-06 and upped that to 4.25 million last season.

I can't count the number of times I've ridden a lift with visiting skiers and listened to them rave about Utah snow.

Or how many times I've heard the comment from a first-time visitor promising that now they've discovered Utah skiing, "I'll be back."

I've learned, though, it's hard to pry skiers away from runs and restaurants they're familiar with and get them to come to Utah.

It takes a lot of hard work, and repeating over and over again, that Utah does, indeed, have the Greatest Snow on Earth.


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