After a short offseason that followed an abundant winter, Utah ski resorts are hoping the weather once again brings snow early and often to the state's mountains.
But even if this winter doesn't match last season's noteworthy snow totals, Utah's 14 active resorts have made a number of infrastructure investments during the summer to help them remain attractive destinations in a competitive ski market.
There aren't as many new big-ticket items as in some past years only two new lifts: one at Park City Mountain Resort (PCMR), the other at Beaver Mountain. But nobody stood still, either. Resorts improved base facilities, added snowmaking or grooming equipment or upgraded technological features to make it easier to enjoy a day on the slopes.
"Fortunately, some things in Utah will not change," said Jessica Kunzer, spokeswoman for Ski Utah, the marketing arm of the state's $1 billion-a-year ski industry. "Famous for incredible access, value, variety and copious amounts of snow, Utah's ski and snowboard industry continues to build on its gold medal reputation."
While Utah lift tickets remain cheaper than in most other ski states, the upcoming season will feature the first day pass costing triple digits. Deer Valley Resort, just named Ski magazine's top resort in North America for the fifth straight year, said it will charge $100 for an adult day pass during the season's three holiday periods (Christmas to New Year's and the Martin Luther King and Presidents Day weekends).
In non-holiday periods, that lift ticket will cost $96. Deer Valley's two Summit County neighbors, Canyons Resort and PCMR, have not disclosed yet what they will charge for an adult day pass. But a multiday pass at Canyons will start at $92 daily, indicating its usual daily rate will be close to Deer Valley's. Resorts typically charge people a few dollars less per day when they buy passes for consecutive days.
Twelve Utah resorts raised their ticket prices this season, anywhere from $1 to $5 daily. The lone exceptions are Brighton Resort and Solitude Mountain Resort in Big Cottonwood Canyon.
"We accomplished what we needed to do and didn't need to raise money," resort spokesman Jared Winkler said of Brighton's offseason improvements, which focused on making the snowmaking system more efficient by pulling water out of Twin Lakes rather than Mary's.
"This gives us better water pressure so we can run more guns on the old [distribution] system we have," he said, noting that benefits of an upgraded snowmaking system will be most pronounced on the Millicent side of Brighton's mountain and near its halfpipe.
At Solitude, the entire base village is now Wi-Fi accessible, the Moonbeam parking lot was expanded to accommodate another 100 vehicles and the Thirsty Squirrel Bar grew to provide "additional elbow room."
Said resort spokesman Nick Como: "We kept ticket prices the same since we had a large jump last season and the only major improvement was the Wi-Fi, which people have come to expect at luxury properties like ours."
Destination visitors also expect runs to be well groomed, so Snowbasin purchased two new grooming machines over the summer and Powder Mountain added one. Brighton, Sundance, Snowbasin and PCMR also have modified the grounds around their halfpipes and terrain parks to make them more accessible.
The two-seater Three Kings lift, which has been part of Park City Mountain Resort since the winter of 1971-72, was replaced by a fixed-grip triple chair that will increase capacity by 50 percent to the popular Three Kings terrain park.
Replacing the lift was a big part of the resort's $7 million upgrade, which also featured the installation of two conveyor lifts "magic carpets" in the new beginner's area and modifications to the foundation of the 22-foot Eagle Superpipe.
Nearly 1,000 acres of skiable terrain has been added by resorts for this year. Powder Mountain added about 350 of those with the expansion of its snowcat service to more hillsides outside of its boundaries, another 200 acres were added at Eagle Point Resort outside of Beaver, and the rest are taking shape at Beaver Mountain, which installed a new Little Beaver triple chair that is 400 feet longer than its predecessor.
Facility improvements also were completed at Snowbird, Brian Head, Solitude and Eagle Point.
From ski bum to community shining light
Do you know someone (maybe you?) who came to Utah primarily to ski, never left, and has become a valuable contributor to our society? If so, send an email to ski writer Mike Gorrell, email@example.com, with information about this person and what he/she does.