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Snow resorts cautiously optimistic about ski season


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BIG COTTONWOOD CANYON -- You can't blame Utah's ski industry for being excited right now. Whenever the first snow hits the valley, it seems like a lot of people are ready to start thinking about ski season.

One drive up Big Cottonwood Canyon to Brighton proves it, where die-hards like Sandy resident Sean Farley were busy walking up snow-covered hills, snowboarding down them to hit a jump, and then doing it all over again: several times.

"It's a good time," said Farley. "It's awesome. It's good to take,like, even that little run."

The little run he kept sliding down was making 100 feet long, right next to where a chairlift operator was busy testing the lifts.

"There's been a few kids taking on some grass and rocks; but day after day, it's getting a little deeper and deeper," said Jared Winkler, Brighton Resort's spokesman. "We're super excited. It's looking good."

Brighton is making snow Tuesday night for the first time this season. Right now, everything is covered with natural snow.

Winkler says the early natural snow is important because it gets the word out to the rest of the country that Utah's resorts are about to open.

"It's very important for us to get snow early, because that helps our bookings," said Winkler. "If we don't get snow early on, people kind of hesitate to book around Thanksgiving and their Christmas trip, and kind of wait until they book later in the season."

Last year, northern Utah's resorts got a lot of snow in October, which made everyone in the ski industry excited. However, no more significant snow fell for almost two months. That left a lot of slushy, rocky and muddy runs for a lot of resorts that opened early. This year, with more early-October snow, everyone is cautiously optimistic.

"We don't want to jump the gun too soon," said Jessica Kunzer, spokeswoman for Ski Utah. "I think you'll see the majority of Utah's resorts opening probably a little closer to Thanksgiving."

Brighton and Solitude are planning on being the first among Utah's resort to open with a planned Nov. 12 opening day.

This past weekend's snow fall has already helped with bookings at some of the resorts.

"They're seeing bookings slightly ahead of where they were at this time last year," said Kunzer, "but then again, it should be noted that lead times on bookings have become quite a bit shorter than they were a few years ago due to online bookings and other reservation systems."

Winkler says early bookings at Brighton are about average; but now that the first big snowfall happened, he thinks it'll take a couple of days before people start making solid winter ski plans.

"We think we'll start hearing some phone calls and things like that," said Winkler.

"There are direct correlations between early-season snow fall and bookings, so all the more reasons why we're so excited about this snow fall," said Kunzer.

Ski Utah is also excited about this season for more than just early snow. There's a new luxury hotel at Deer Valley. The Canyons has a heated chair lift. There's even a new ski hill, Eagle Point, located in Beaver County.

E-mail: acabrero@ksl.com

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Alex Cabrero

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