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Park City economy recovering from COVID-19 shut downs

Posted at 6:47 PM, Dec 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-17 20:47:23-05

PARK CITY, Utah — Park City's tourism-based economy has done better than expected, despite the impacts of the Coronavirus pandemic.

"At the very beginning, when our resorts shut down, it was tragic for our community," said Jennifer Wesselhoff, the President and CEO of the Park City Chamber and Visitor's Bureau.

Although the city is not expected to have as profitable a winter season as years past, businesses are still managing to make money. This is due in part to visitors from around the country where the impacts of the pandemic have been more restrictive.

Wesselhoff said Park City faired surprisingly well during the typically slower summer months, which gives her some hope for the winter season, the time of year when local businesses make most of their revenues.

"We're cautiously optimistic about the future and the winter here in Park City."

Tourists from places like California, where pandemic restrictions are tighter, are continuing to flock to the skiing destination to enjoy the outdoors.

"The outdoor industry is thriving," said Adam Cole, the owner and operator of Cole Sport, a local ski retailer and rental shop that has been open in Park City since 1982. "We've seen patterns of people calling that had trips to Tahoe, and are now coming to Park City instead."

Cole said the summer went very well for his business, and he hopes the winter season will be the same. So far, it's off to a good start.

"Surprisingly December has been really busy for us," he added. "I think everyone wants to be outside. Skiing seems like a pretty safe thing too."

Wesselhoff added that part of the reason for the sucess has been the health safety measures in place throughout the pandemic.

"Summit County was one of the first in the state to issue a county-wide mask mandate," Wesselhoff said. "I think that helped us. Visitors and residents want to know they're going to be safe when they are traveling."

The restaurant industry, on the other hand, has had a tougher time.

"The goal for us has been to be as creative as possible, and throw as many things against the wall," said Brooks Kirchheimer, co-owner of Hearth and Hill, a restaurant in Park City's New Park district. "Some have stuck really well and been super successful, and other things we're like 'well now we tried it and next time now we know what the results are."

Kirchheimer has worked hard to team up with other local businesses also experiencing hard times.

"There was a theatre company that we saw in the newspaper was struggling obviously because of the pandemic, and so we reached out to them and we've been able to have them do some curbside caroling on Mondays," he said.

Kirchheimer has also noticed customers coming in from states where restrictions are tighter.

"We had a gentleman that drove in from Colorado, because in Colorado dine-in business was still prohibited," he added. "He came here just solely because he was so desperate to eat out and enjoy a meal in a restaurant. That to me was eye-opening."

Business owners and the chamber said balancing the health of the economy with the health safety residents and visitors has been tough. But they look forward to continuing to welcome visitors from around the country, while maintaining strict guidelines to keep everyone safe.