Ski Utah Pres. & CEO: Preliminary data for the season shows more local skiing

PARK CITY, Utah — Ski Utah President and CEO Nathan Rafferty told TownLift in an interview that tours for the 2021-22 season were “pretty similar” to the previous year, in which a new record was set with more than 5.3 million ski days.

Data is still coming in for the season, which doesn’t officially end until Snowbird closes. Based on preliminary numbers, “we actually saw more local skiers than destination customers than when we did this survey two years ago,” Rafferty said.

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He said there has been a big increase in local skiing recently and the traffic issues are not just related to an increase in customers at the destination. He noted that major markets like New York have seen a rebound in visits this season, but their biggest international market, Australia, was still closed due to Covid restrictions.

Park City Mountain recently announced that it will be implementing a paid reservation system next season. Rafferty said that as a “traffic mitigation tool” paid parking is “really useful”.

“We’re really catching up with a lot of the industry. It’s rare that you don’t pay for parking at the biggest ski areas in Colorado or California,” he said.

Next year, 20% of Ski Utah’s advertising budget will be devoted to “responsible travel”.

“What it looks like, instead of saying come ski the biggest snow in the world, we say when you come ski the biggest snow in the world, here’s how to do it.” — Nathan Rafferty, President and CEO of Ski Utah

Rafferty said the aim is to nudge people towards quieter points in the season and encourage the use of public transport and advance reservations.

He also praised the workers at the resort amid a season that has seen many challenges – streaks of snow, the omicron surge in December and labor shortages.

“It feels like the last two years have been two decades,” Rafferty said, referring to the pandemic’s impact on the state’s winter sports industry.

“Very, very difficult circumstances to run stations, and I am more than proud of the effort put in by the stations, including and especially all the employees who worked so hard this winter…many of them were working double shifts. work because they were covering for people.”

On a recent trip to Washington DC, he spoke to Utah officials about the need to increase J1 visas, which are essential for resort staffing during peak season.

He singled out Senator Mitt Romney and Representatives John Curtis and Blake Moore for their efforts related to climate change. “It was not that long ago, I would say five years ago, I couldn’t even say the words ‘climate change’ when I visited our delegation.”

Ski Utah also piloted a program called “Discover Winter” this season, which aims to diversify the slopes by primarily introducing immigrants to the sport and culture of skiing, with additional support from various ski shops and private donations.

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