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Despite pandemic, Utah ski resorts looking to build on record-breaking season

Posted at 9:33 PM, Nov 20, 2021

SALT LAKE CITY — Even with COVID-19 precautions in place at Utah ski resorts during the 2020-21 winter season, skiers and riders turned out in record-breaking fashion to hit the slopes.

During a news conference this week, Nathan Rafferty, the president of Ski Utah, highlighted some of the participation numbers from last season.

“We had an all-time high in terms of participation: 5.3 million skier visits,” Rafferty said of the state's resorts.

Nationally last season, there were more than 10.5 million skiers and riders at resorts across the country, according to Rafferty.

READ: Some Utah ski resorts postpone opening days due to warm temperatures

Looking ahead, resorts will scale back on COVID-19 precautions and most will resume "normal" outdoor activity, featuring full chairlifts and less required mask-wearing.

“There are many different protocols indoors at some of the ski areas,” Rafferty said. “I think it’s a really safe bet to tuck a mask in your pocket and make sure you know what the protocols at various resorts are because they’re really going to vary this year.”

Ahead of the upcoming season, resorts across the state have invested in upgrades, including parking improvements, new lifts and snowmaking improvements.

“It was a three-person lift that was almost 50 years old,” Snowbasin spokesman Michael Rueckert said about the Middle Bowl triple-chair. “It’s being replaced with the Middle Bowl Express. That capacity will double from three to six, and the ride time will shorten from 12 minutes to under six minutes.”

Powder Mountain and Snowbird will be celebrating milestone seasons, both highlighting 50 years of operation. Most resorts in Utah feature snowmaking, and many have improved infrastructure in recent years. However, Powder Mountain still holds on to their approach of only working with what mother nature gives them.

“We just wait for the real stuff,” said JP Goulet, the director of base operations and marketing at Powder Mountain. “We believe the snow surface is so much better, less water content in it, a little softer snow, and people enjoy that.”

Despite a lack in early season natural snow, some resorts have been firing up the snow guns this past week with temperatures starting to drop below freezing. A handful of resorts are trying to open Thanksgiving week.

As the season gets going, Ski Utah is holding a clothing drive at their headquarters in Salt Lake City. The goal is to get "historically underrepresented demographics" into skiing, and gear is one of the biggest barriers between someone getting on the snow or not.

  • Items needed: Ski jackets, pants, gloves, helmets, goggles
  • Sizes: Small to XL (men's & women's)
  • Donated items may be dropped off by Dec. 10 at Ski Utah’s office – 2749 E. Parleys Way, Suite 310, Salt Lake City. Monday – Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

2021-22 Anticipated Opening Dates (subject to change; via skiutah.com)

  • Alta: November 24
  • Beaver: to be announced
  • Brian Head: November 24
  • Brighton: to be announced
  • Cherry Peak: to be announced
  • Deer Valley: December 4
  • Eagle Point: December 17
  • Nordic Valley: December 3
  • Park City Mountain: to be announced
  • Powder Mountain: to be announced
  • Snowbasin: to be announced
  • Snowbird: December 1
  • Solitude: November 23
  • Sundance: December 10
  • Woodward Park City: to be announced