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2013-14 ski season better than last year, experts say

2013-14 ski season better than last year, experts say

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SALT LAKE CITY — Some Utah ski/snowboard resorts have closed, most will close before the end of the month and one will take the season into May. And, early indications are that the 2013-14 ski/snowboard season may not be a record, but will very likely be an improvement over the 2012-13 season.

“We won’t have final numbers until Snowbird closes, but from everything we’ve heard, all Utah resorts have had a strong year. And, if nothing else, we’ll be a little better than last season,’’ said Susie English, director of communications for Ski Utah.

For the 2012-13 season, Utah resorts recorded 4.03 million skier/snowboarder days. (An individual skiing or snowboarding one day is counted as one skier/snowboarder day.) Last season was a 5.4 percent increase over the 2011-12 season, which had the second lowest total in 10 years — 3.82 million skier/snowboarder days.

Utah’s 5.4 percent increase that year was the highest among Rocky Mountain resorts, which averaged 1.9 percent and included resorts in Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico and Wyoming.

Emily Moench, communications manager at Snowbird, said the season thus far has been “fantastic’’ and spring skiing has been “phenomenal.’’

“With the deep base we have now we’ll be able to stay open until Memorial Day. Looking back we’ve had a strong visitor base from out-of-state and the local (skier/snowboarder) crowd has been good,’’ she added.

Utah’s 10-year skier/snowboarder figures
Numbers show year, number of visitors, and rank in 10-year period:
  • 2012-13: 4,031,621 (6)
  • 2011-12: 3,826,130 (9)
  • 2010-11: 4,223,064 (2)
  • 2009-10: 4,048,153 (5)
  • 2008-09: 3,972,984 (7)
  • 2007-08: 4,249,190 (1)
  • 2006-07: 4,082,094 (3)
  • 2005-06: 4,062,188 (4)
  • 2004-05: 3,895,578 (8)
  • 2003-04: 3, 429,190 (10)

However, the 2013-14 ski/snowboard season was somewhat unusual. It started strong, slumped mid-season and is finishing strong. Because of the usually cold temperature and series of storms, skiers and snowboarders have enjoyed some of the best powder skiing of the season in recent weeks.

“And, while we didn’t see our usual 500-inch season, the snow pack has been better than we’ve had in years because of the higher density in the snow,’’ noted Dave DeSeelhorst, Solitude general manager.

Connie Marshall, director of marketing at Alta, explained that this season showed real promise in the beginning, “then we hit a cold, dry spell in December and January, but then we got snow in February and we’ve had primo conditions ever since. This spring the skiing has been some of the best we’ve had all year.’’

DeSeelhorst said like other resorts, the numbers at Solitude, “have been much better than last year, which proves just how resilient the ski business is after five years of an economic recession.’’

Utah and Colorado both enjoyed good snow years, but California had one of the worst on record. During the Christmas holiday, California resorts were holding a snowfall only 11 percent of normal. Utah received a large number of tourists from eastern states, but this year saw an increased number of skiers and snowboarders from California.

Several ski resorts have closed and several more will close soon. Beaver Mountain, Eagle Point, Sundance and Wolf Mountain have closed. Canyons, Deer Valley and Powder Mountain will close on Sunday. Brian Head, Brighton, Park City, Snowbasin and Solitude will close April 20. Alta will close on a daily basis on April 20 and will reopen April 25-27 and May 2-4.

As noted, Snowbird will be the last resort to close. Current plans are that the resort will open daily through May 11, then reopen Friday, Saturday and Sunday through May 26 (Memorial Day).

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