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Jed Boal ReportingAfter a blizzard of early snowfall the Utah ski and snowboard industry is primed for a lift. Utah skiing has battled big bumps in recent years in a drive to maximize its potential. With the threat of war and poor snowfall last year, many skiers and snowboarders stayed home.
Solitude has gone through a transformation in recent years from favorite among locals to a destination resort with a newly completed village at the base. In many ways it's a metaphor for the hopes and expectations of the Utah ski industry.
Utah winter resorts are poised to take it up a level. They're optimistic this will finally be the year of big growth. Ski Utah made an industry forecast today…
Kip Pitou, Ski Utah President: “We have the first snow in the nation. Word has gotten out."
Utah skiing and snowboarding pump more than $700 million dollars into the state's economy each year with three million skier days. After pre-Olympic expansions and other improvements, the state's 12 resorts are groomed for bigger crowds, potentially four million this year and six million in the future.
Kip Pitou, Ski Utah President: “Those of you who ski know that in the middle of the week you can shoot a gun and not hit anybody, so there's a lot of opportunity."
When the snow is this good this early, it gets the locals out and generates a lot of reservations.
Dave Fields, Snowbird: “We've had 92 inches since Halloween. We weren't supposed to open until Saturday."
56% of the business comes from out-of state. So far this year vacation bookings are up for the holidays and beyond and so is web site traffic. Resorts have spent more this year promoting Utah nationally--65 pages of magazine ads. The industry even got some play in USA Today.
Kip Pitou, Ski Utah President: “That helps drive our business and will continue to drive our business.
The competition for out of state skiers is intense. State tourism officials are drafting a bill that would earmark money from lodging and restaurant taxes for promotion out of state. Right now tourism promotion gets less than one million dollars of state money. The bill would raise between ten and 11 million.