This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2015, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Even with a winter that barely was, Utah ski resorts managed to come within range of their usual plateau of 4 million skier visits.
Officially, the number released Tuesday by Ski Utah was 3,946,762. That was 4.9 percent below the previous winter, when the snow wasn't plentiful either but still better than this season.
Viewed negatively, it was the second-worst season of the past decade, trailing only the also-drier-than-usual winter of 2011-12.
Viewed positively, it was still the ninth-busiest season in the history of Utah's ski industry the Top 10 consisting entirely of years from the past decade and just 2.2 percent below the five-year average.
As president of the ski industry's marketing organization, Ski Utah's Nathan Rafferty offered a generally positive assessment of what he acknowledged to be a challenging winter.
"Considering Mother Nature, we're pretty pleased," Rafferty said, citing a National Weather Service statistic that put snowfall statewide at 41 percent of average.
"From talking to resorts, I'm hearing positive things. People had money to spend. The resorts created great skiing conditions for what they had to work with," he added. "This year, people's ski vacation was skiing and some other things."
Rafferty's observations coincided with the findings of DestiMetrics, a Denver company that tracks visitation to Western destination resorts. Its survey indicated ski areas took in record revenues despite skier days being off about 5 percent.
The weather did come through for Utah in one respect, Rafferty noted.
"What snow we got came early," he said, with the snowpack on Jan. 1 being 100 to 130 percent of normal. And even if the clouds disappeared after that, the snow stuck around for the most part.
Powder-spoiled local skiers and snowboarders may have turned up their noses at the hardpack and stayed home. But destination visitors came nonetheless.
"A lot of our visitors like skiing on groomed slopes under blue skies with 45-degree temperatures," Rafferty said, betting that Utah also attracted some ski refugees from the terribly dry conditions all along the West Coast and too much snow and cold in the Northeast.
Being the optimist, Ski Utah's CEO noted that the last time Utah had a winter anywhere near this snow stingy (1976-77), skier visits fell 53 percent because resorts didn't have the snowmaking capacity to make up for some of what nature failed to deliver.
"If we're just 5 percent down in visits with only 41 percent of our usual snowfall, think what our skier visits would have been like if we had even average snow," Rafferty ruminated. "We're poised to have a good winter if Mother Nature cooperates with us even just a little bit."