This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
If only the first snows had arrived a week earlier; who knows how many more skiers and snowboarders would have flocked to Utah ski resorts in the just completed, record-setting season?
But Ski Utah President Nathan Rafferty was not complaining too much Wednesday, not when the state's 14 resorts attracted 4,584,658 skier days in the 2016-17 season.
That eclipsed the previous record (4,457,575 skier days), which stood for only a year, by 2.9 percent. A skier day is counted each time a person buys a daily lift ticket or uses a season's pass.
"The continued growth shows Utah's winter sports industry is thriving," he added. "While there is still room to grow, we could not have asked for better results this year."
Winter's late arrival put a damper on some travel plans over the important Thanksgiving weekend.
Up through Nov. 20, only 12 inches of snow had fallen at Alta Ski Area, which maintains daily snowfall records. But once snow started falling, it came often and with a fury.
From Nov. 21-28, Alta received 62½ inches of snow. On 21 occasions during the winter, the resort atop Little Cottonwood Canyon measured 10 inches or more. Another 24 times, early-morning skiers cut tracks through 5 to 8 inches of new snow.
The records also showed some good multiday dumps 43½ inches from Feb. 21-23, 56½ inches from April 24-28 and, best of all, 71½ inches from Jan. 19-24.
"Mother Nature did come through for us," Rafferty said, noting the 2016-17 season lasted 197 days, ending Sunday with the final day at Snowbird Ski & Summer Resort.
Honors for the most snow went to Brighton Resort, which collected 632 inches during the season, including more than 200 inches in January.
Weather conditions also were favorable at Snowbasin Resort above Ogden. It received 443 inches of snow, up from a season average closer to 300 inches.
"We groomed the [2002 Olympic] men's downhill course from top to bottom several times this year," said resort spokeswoman Megan Collins, "and had our earliest opening of the John Paul chairlift in five years."
Snowbasin also had a successful beginners' program, which involved 1,500 new skiers and 'boarders last winter. "We hope that will make them lifetime skiers," she added.
Emily Summers was bullish about the winter experience at both resorts she represents Deer Valley and Solitude.
Solitude sold more season passes this year and also came close to matching the state's increase in visitation, she said, citing growth among both local and destination skiers.
Summers said out-of-towners flocked to Deer Valley this winter, particularly families with school-age children, "selling out our ski school for the whole month of March."
Down south at Brian Head Resort outside of Parowan, plentiful snow enticed "an explosion" of visitors from Las Vegas and southern California, said spokesman Mark Wilder.
With all of these resorts getting so much snow, Alta didn't lure as many additional skiers as one might think, said spokeswoman Connie Marshall, although its season results were in line with the state's.
"The bottom line is that it's a healthy thing for Utah when we all do so well," she said. "We had wonderful intervals of snow with breaks in between. Our parking lots were filled many days."
Rafferty credited Vail Resort's Epic Pass for pulling in more skiers to Park City Mountain "they're singing a pretty happy tune these days," he said of Summit County's ski industry and the state Office of Tourism for bolstering Ski Utah's marketing campaigns.
Why not, said Tourism Office Director Vicki Varela. Utah's resorts generate $8.2 billion in spending in their winter and summer seasons, supporting the state with $11.5 billion in tax revenues.
email@example.com Utah's recent seasons
The number of skier days counted at Utah's 14 resorts in the past 10 winters
2016-17 • 4,584,658
2015-16 • 4,457,575
2014-15 • 3,946,762
2013-14 • 4,148,573
2012-13 • 4,018,812
2011-12 • 3,825,090
2010-11 • 4,247,510
2009-10 • 4,070,822
2008-09 • 3,972,984
2007-08 • 4,249,190
Source: Ski Utah