Ski Expo • Vail's pass gives the Beehive State a reason to hit the Denver show for the first time.
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For the first time ever, Utah's ski industry is participating this weekend in the Colorado Ski & Snowboard Expo in Denver.
So why start now?
Maybe because Vail Resorts is part of Utah's ski industry for the first time, too, becoming the manager of Canyons Resort this summer for Talisker Corp. And all of those people who bought Vail's relatively inexpensive Epic Pass ($689 this season) get a chance to ski Canyons as part of the deal.
"There are now thousands and thousands of Colorado skiers who have Epic passes to a resort in Utah," said Nathan Rafferty, president of Ski Utah, marketing arm of the state's 14 active resorts.
"It makes a whole lot of sense for us to have a booth in Colorado telling them that that Epic pass around their necks also works here in Utah," he added. "It gives people a good excuse to hop in their car or take a cheap $100 flight to Salt Lake. They might be able to get to Canyons quicker than they can get to Vail from Denver on a weekend."
Operators of the 22nd annual expo are delighted to have Ski Utah and some of the state's resorts represented at the Colorado Convention Center. Resorts from Taos, N.M. to Canada also are present.
"It's a classic case of a rising tide floats all boats," said Expo spokeswoman Joan Christensen, a Salt Lake City native. "The more people are talking about skiing, the better off we all are. It's a better happening for us at the Expo to have more participants. We're all growing the industry."
Although Colorado has twice as many resorts as Utah and typically sells almost three times as many lift tickets, the two Intermountain states have jousted for years in friendly competition.
Ski Utah continued the tradition in making its debut at the Colorado ski show.
People who stop by the Beehive State's booth get a Ski Utah license plate holder with a suggested Colorado vanity plate that says "ISKIUT."
"It's less of a poke in the eye and more of a good-natured ribbing," Rafferty said. "We're in competition with Colorado, but it's a friendly rivalry. And there's a lot of skiers in that state, more per capita than in a lot of places, including Utah."
To Christensen, emphasizing the Utah/Colorado connection has extra appeal, even in a season where numerous resorts have formed package deals with resorts in other states, trying to drive destination-visitor business.
"Winter Park has a pass that's good in New Zealand, but how many people are going to get there?" she wondered. "Probably not many. But Utah's just on the other end of Highway 40 [from Colorado]. That's easy to get to."