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Steve Griffin, Deseret News
Snow begins to pile up as Deer Valley starts making snow in Park City on Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2018.

SALT LAKE CITY — From slopes to lifts to roads, officials at many of Utah's ski resorts are banking on improvements and additions to make this winter one of the state's best.

And with cooler temperatures earlier this fall, some snow has already fallen at the higher elevations in the mountains and a few resorts have begun their snowmaking efforts to help the process along.

Brian Head in southern Utah is hoping to be the first to welcome skiers and snowboarders on Nov. 16, according to the Ski Utah website. Brighton, Park City and Snowbasin are targeting Nov. 21 for opening day.

Steve Griffin, Deseret News
Snow begins to pile up as Deer Valley starts making snow in Park City on Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2018.

Utah ski resorts carved out a top 10 season in 2017-18, even in an off winter with just 60 percent of average snowfall. In June, Ski Utah reported the season registered as the sixth-best all-time for local ski areas in terms of skier visits, accounting for $1.3 billion in spending to the state's economy.

In addition to snowmaking, a number of resorts spent the summer making capital investments and improvements to enhance the visitor experience, according to Caitlin Furin, Ski Utah communications director.

"Whether it's faster lifts, snowmaking on certain terrain that people have access to certain areas at the beginning of the season or something as simple as expanding seating in restaurants, those small things are really making a difference to people visiting Utah," she said.

Besides improvements, Furin also noted that skiers and snowboarders have a variety of ways to increase the value of their winter season with the availability of multi-resort season passes.

"Even if you ski three to four times a year or if you're skiing 100 times a year, those passes are going to be your best bet as far as value goes," she said.

Steve Griffin, Deseret News
Snow begins to pile up at the top of Payday run at Park City Mountain in Park City on Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2018.

She also noted that efforts are being made to reduce congestion in the canyon ski areas with the continuation of designated ski buses to transport visitors to and from resorts in the Cottonwood canyons.

"A couple of years ago they introduced new routes and more frequency, so that's a good option for people," Furin said. "In Park City, the (public) transportation is free and they have the new electric express buses that get you up to Main Street."

She said civic leaders near ski areas are also working to devise strategies to reduce the environmental impact of skier traffic in and around the resorts. She noted that Snowbird has introduced the RIDE (Reducing Individual Driving for the Environment) app that rewards those who take the UTA ski bus or carpool with three or more people to Snowbird.

"After talking with their environmental office, they are hoping this program they're developing will be used by resorts not only in Utah but across the country," Furin said.

Resort upgrades

Alta Ski Area is adding a fixed-grip quad chairlift connecting the ski area to the newly expanded Snowpine Lodge. Additionally, the Alta Environmental Center and Alta Ski Area are working to meet its 2020 environmental goal of a 20 percent reduction in carbon emissions.

The Snowpine Lodge was expanded to include new rooms. The property will also include a full-service restaurant, après ski bar, outdoor pool and hot tub, indoor grotto, a game room and a ballroom.

Deer Valley Resort has undergone its largest capital improvement project in over a decade with $8.1 million in enhancements this season. The most notable improvement is the replacement of the Homestake chairlift with a new, detachable, high-speed quad chairlift that will cut ride time in half and increase uphill skier capacity by 400 skiers per hour. The resort also reports it is enhancing snowmaking systems and upgrading various day lodge and maintenance facilities across the mountain.

Stein Eriksen Lodge at Deer Valley is completing a $14 million expansion that includes a new pool, outdoor deck and plaza, entertainment center, movie theater and slopeside coffee shop. Guest ski lockers have also been expanded and enhanced.

Eagle Point Resort in Beaver is adding the resort's first-ever snowmaking system. The new system lays the groundwork for future expansion across the resort's 650 total acres. The resort is also adding high-speed internet in lodges and wi-fi hotspots around the resort

Nordic Valley recently announced a proposal to expand. With a focus on sustainability and environmental stewardship, the proposed expansion would take the resort from 140 acres to over 2,800, including a new 4.3 mile-long gondola connecting North Ogden to the existing Nordic Valley base area.

Debuting this season at Park City Mountain, the new High Meadow Park at Canyons Village will offer guests a dedicated learning area designed exclusively for beginner skiers. The existing High Meadow four-passenger lift will be replaced with a high-speed, four-passenger lift, increasing uphill capacity by 50 percent and shortening overall ride time by 70 percent.

The Park City resort also reports improvements at the Cloud Dine Restaurant and Mid-Mountain Lodge restaurants, adding 200 seats to increase guest capacity by more than 60 percent. The restaurant will also gain a new, full-service bar as part of the renovation

Snowbasin is renovating Earl's Lodge located at the base of the resort, increasing seating capacity in the Cinnabar by 50 percent. The resort's mountain operations team worked over the summer grading and widening the existing Mt. Ogden Bowl Road, creating a more consistent pitch that will enable earlier grooming in the season to provide beginner and intermediate level skiers as well as snowboarders with a better experience coming down from John Paul Lodge.

Snowbird installed two pedestrian bridges allowing for easier access to The Cliff Lodge, Snowbird Center and Lower Village. The renovation of the Snowbird Center will add a 1,700-square-foot guest lounge on Level 2. Directly down the hall from the new guest lounge area are newly expanded restrooms with additional stalls, hand dryers and another family restroom. Just up the flight of stairs is the Forklift's new outdoor bar.

Ski passes

Ski Utah Gold Pass ($5,200): The Gold Pass is a fully transferable lift pass that is valid for 50 days of skiing/riding at each of Utah’s resorts except Park City, where it is valid for 100 days. It is also valid for summer lift access to resorts open during the summer months.

Ski Utah Silver Pass ($3,250): The Silver Pass is valid for 30 days of skiing/riding at each Utah resort except Park City, where the pass is valid for 60 days of skiing. It is also valid for summer lift access to resorts open during the summer months.

Ski Utah Passport ($45): This pass offers fifth-graders three days of skiing and sixth-graders one day of skiing at each of Utah’s resorts. Visit skiutah.com/passes/passport to get notified once applications are open.

Ski Utah Yeti Pass ($649): The Yeti Pass is good for one lift ticket at every Utah resort.

Ski City Super Pass (price varies): The Ski City Super Pass allows unrestricted access to Alta, Snowbird, Brighton and/or Solitude. The pass can be purchased for a range of three to 10 days of skiing. The UTA ski bus is free to and from the resort with the purchase of this pass. Price varies depending on the number of days purchased.

Epic Pass ($899): The Epic Pass offers unrestricted access to 65 ski resorts throughout the world, including Park City. The number of days varies by resort. For lower rates with a few restrictions, there is the Epic Local Pass, the Epic 7-Day Pass, the Epic 4-Day Pass, Park City Youth Pass and Park City 4-Pack. An Epic Military Pass is also available.

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Ikon Pass ($999): The Ikon Pass offers access to more than 30 resorts around the world with no blackout dates, including Deer Valley, Alta or Snowbird, Brighton Resort and Solitude Mountain Resort. An Ikon Base Pass is also available for a lower rate with few restrictions.

Mountain Collective ($449): The Mountain Collective offers two days of skiing or riding at 17 iconic destinations, including Alta, Snowbird and Snowbasin. There are no blackout dates and pass holders get 50 percent off all additional days at Collective destinations.

Source: Ski Utah