News / Utah / 

Big holiday crowds challenge some Utah ski resorts


8 photos

Estimated read time: 4-5 minutes

This archived news story is available only for your personal, non-commercial use. Information in the story may be outdated or superseded by additional information. Reading or replaying the story in its archived form does not constitute a republication of the story.

SALT LAKE CITY — Sometimes you can have nearly too much of a good thing. A number of local ski resorts were blessed with big crowds on Presidents Day, but those same crowds forced the closure of Big and Little Cottonwood canyons because of safety concerns.

Crowds cause restricted canyon access

Late Monday morning, law enforcement officials shut down access at the mouths of each canyon after sending out alerts saying, "All ski resorts are at or near capacity. Uphill traffic will be limited to buses or shuttles." Those restrictions were eventually lifted about two hours later, leaving scores of would-be snow enthusiasts like Garrett Edwards and Jake Simms of Atlanta waiting for around three hours to get up to the slopes.


We were going to try to drive at first, but we abandoned it for the bus. It's disappointing (because) you're losing one of your ski days.

–Snowboarder Sean Breedlove


"We missed the bus the first time, then we got a cab but the cab wasn't allowed to go up the mountain," Edwards said.

The experience was similar for snowboarder Sean Breedlove of Austin, Texas, who waited for 90 minutes along with his two sons after he was forced to park his rental car when the canyon was closed to vehicles.

"We were going to try to drive at first, but we abandoned it for the bus," he said. "It's disappointing (because) you're losing one of your ski days."

They were all finally able to board a ski bus in time to get in a few late afternoon runs.

Meanwhile, resorts in Summit County were able to avoid some of the traffic problems faced by Salt Lake County ski areas this weekend, with the larger "destination" resorts looking to capitalize for more than just a long holiday weekend.

At Deer Valley, where they limit the number of skiers to 7,500 a day, they sold out for the third day in a row, and have a lot of reservations through the week.

Another busy day in a full ski season

Brighton spokesman Jared Winkler said this weekend was indicative of the overall ski season so far, with mainly good conditions coupled with a few inopportune challenges to face.

He said the season started off very well with lots of snow and good turnout from local skiers and riders, but a dry spell last month suppressed a lot of demand, resulting in smaller crowds.

Some vehicles were turned away at the resorts due to full parking lots and too many cars lining the canyon roads.
Some vehicles were turned away at the resorts due to full parking lots and too many cars lining the canyon roads.

"This business is all about people wanting to ski fresh snow," he said. "It slowed down in January, but February is picking back up."

While official data is kept confidential by Brighton and every other privately-owned resort in Utah, Winkler estimated that the daily turnout for Brighton over the holiday weekend would probably range from 2,500 patrons to 3,500 patrons. He said the number of skier days this season is "pretty average (compared) to the last few years."

"And the last few years we've been doing a little bit better," he added. "We always want to strive to beat the year before."

"This week is actually going to be very busy," said Krista Parry, director of marketing and communications at Park City Mountain Resort. "(Monday) is busy, but we're expecting (Tuesday) and Wednesday to be just as busy up here."

She said much of their business would include skiers from the East Coast who "get the whole week off."

Many eastern and northeastern ski areas call this "Ski Week," according to Parry — because schools are out for five days, leaving families with extra time to spend on the slopes.

"It's considered their February break," she said.

Parry said skier days for her resort are "right on par" with last year, which was a major improvement from the previous season that was significantly impacted by the economic downturn.

"We are definitely looking at this being a strong week, which hopefully means a strong season," Parry said.


We've had issue with a lot of people misunderstanding that just because they don't have snow in their yards, that there isn't enough snow in the hills.

–Jeremy Maughan, Wolf Mountain Resort


Not all Utah resorts fared the sameSome northern Utah ski areas have been impacted by a misperception brought on by Mother Nature.

"Our skier visits have been trending down a little bit this year compared to years past," said Jeremy Maughan, marketing director for Wolf Mountain in Eden. "We attribute a lot of that to (lack) of snow on the other side of the mountain."

Maughan said local skiers often get the misguided impression that rain in the Ogden area along the I-15 corridor means no snow in the neighboring mountain areas.

"Even though we've had plenty of snow this year … we've had issue with a lot of people misunderstanding that just because they don't have snow in their yards, that there isn't enough snow in the hills."

He said the overall snowfall has been good this season, with totals right at the typical seasonal average.

Luckily, he said this weekend should help improve their skier numbers thanks to at least two feet of new snow at each of the three local ski areas, Wolf Mountain, Powder Mountain and Snowbasin.

"This (weekend's) snow couldn't have been better timing," Maughan said.

-----

Story written by Jasen Lee, with contributions from Jed Boal.

Photos

Related Links

KSL.com

    SIGN UP FOR THE KSL.COM NEWSLETTER

    Catch up on the top news and features from KSL.com, sent weekly.
    By subscribing, you acknowledge and agree to KSL.com's Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

    KSL Weather Forecast