Utah resorts outperform expectations during pandemic

Local News

Brian Head Resort, Brian Head, Utah, date not specified | Photo courtesy of Brian Head Resort, St. George News

PARK CITY, Utah (ABC4) – This year’s ski season has exceeded expectations, according to a group that tracks and promotes the state’s ski and snowboard industry.

“The numbers aren’t where they were last year, but we weren’t expecting them to be,” said Nathan Rafferty, President, and CEO of Ski Utah.

Utah’s 15 resorts, each with thousands of employees, worked diligently to adopt COVID-appropriate precautions, said Rafferty. Those included ticket reservations, parking restrictions, and overall capacity limits. Plus, fewer people were likely to carpool or take the bus over social distancing concerns.

Still, in the fall, nobody quite knew what the numbers would look like during an unpredictable pandemic.

And then, winter started with modest snow.

“We have a saying in the ski industry. It’s the snow, stupid. As much as we think we’re incredible marketers when it snows, people ski,” said Rafferty.

And in February, it snowed.

“We got that in spades, maybe too much all at once, but I’m never one to complain about snow,” said Rafferty.

Demand has surged since then. Visitors from out of state, lower than in typical years, are driving further distances than ever before. In years past, plates from California, Colorado, and Arizona were common.

Now, plates display states from all over the country — from New York to Texas.

“There are people hopping in their car and making a road trip out of it. They’re able to work remotely, so they can spend longer time out here. Some of them are moving out here temporarily,” said Rafferty.

It’s too early to call this year a “huge success,” said Rafferty. But, if the snow continues like it did in February, that’s a realistic label.

Spring Break, which typically brings families to Utah’s slopes, is approaching. And ski season is far from over.

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