Ski season gets under way in Utah

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Despite balmy weather, most of Utah's ski resorts are anticipating opening by the end of the month.

Brighton and Solitude resorts have already opened. Brian Head is planning on opening later this week.

The Utah ski industry is a billion dollar business.

"We create 20,000 jobs and bring $1.3 billion into Utah's economy. Not insignificant, for sure," said Nathan Rafferty, the president of Ski Utah.

Utah's ski resorts are hoping to improve on the past five years, which reported an overall decline in visitors.

"Everything goes up and down," said Jason Dyer, a spokesman for Snowbasin. "We had a not-so-lustrous year, two years ago. Last year, I think it was about average. I really think we're going to have a great year."

In 2010, Ski Utah recorded 724 inches of snow (snow totals are measured at Alta). That same year, Ski Utah recorded 4.2 million skier visits. In 2011, only 384 inches of snow was reported. Ski visits also dropped to 3.8 million.

"The last two years were below average, but that's why they call it an average, right?" Rafferty said.

None of the resorts have made major infrastructure improvements this year, Rafferty told reporters at an event promoting the 2013-14 ski season. Some resorts have partnered together to offer passes that allow people to ski or snowboard at several different places for one price.

"We've had a great reception to our season pass sales," said Andy Miller with Park City Mountain Resort. "I think a lot of it has to do with the pass benefit between us, Snowbird and Deer Valley."

Park City Mountain Resort is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, in the midst of a legal battle for its future. The mountain's landlord, Talisker, recently served it with an eviction notice. Miller said they were assured their season would not be interfered with while the lawsuit moves forward.

"We're focused on putting together a great season, our biggest season yet, our 50th season," he said. "We're letting the lawyers take care of the dirty work."

Rafferty said Ski Utah was watching the legal issues with interest, but had to wait and see what happens next.

"We're certainly concerned," he said Tuesday. "We know it's going to come to a resolution at some point. We'll promote whatever comes out in the end."

The opening date for Utah's ski resorts are:

  • Alta - November 22
  • Beaver - mid-December (snow permitting)
  • Brian Head - November 15
  • Brighton - Open
  • Canyons - November 29
  • Deer Valley - December 7
  • Eagle Point - December 19
  • Park City Mountain Resort - November 23
  • Powder Mountain - November 27
  • Snowbasin - November 28
  • Snowbird - November 20
  • Solitude - Open
  • Sundance - December 6
  • Wolf Mountain - December 5

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