Utah ski resorts were likely headed for a record season in 2019-20, but early closures prompted by the coronavirus wiped that out.
Despite the virus’ effects, the resorts recorded their fourth-best season ever, with nearly 4.4 million skier visits. Still, the industry is estimated to have lost $232.4 million in revenue because of COVID-19-related closures.
“Ending the ski season early in Utah was devastating for our ski resorts and for our community,” said Nathan Rafferty, president and CEO of Ski Utah, “but to see this abbreviated season still rank as our fourth-highest visitation on record shows the strength of Utah’s ski industry.”
A skier day is counted when a person visits a ski area for all or any part of a day or night in order to ski or snowboard.
The 4.4 million skier visits fell short of the 2018-19 season record of more than 5.1 million visits, representing a 14.3 percent drop. Still, skier visits were up 2.4 percent from the 10-year average.
Per capita spending last season reached a new record and contributed to an overall direct economic impact of $1.55 billion, the second-highest level ever, behind only $1.7 billion in 2018-19.
Utah’s skier visit numbers were down a similar amount to the national figures. Utah’s total was down 14.3 percent from the prior season, while the national figure dropped 14 percent, totaling 51.1 million.
U.S. ski areas were open for 99 days in 2019-20, down from 121 days the prior season, and 93 percent of resorts in the United States closed earlier than projected.
As resorts open for summer activities, they have begun to operate under a new normal, featuring limited capacities and additional health and safety precautions. Resorts also are looking ahead to the 2020-21 season by offering deferral programs, additional insurance and extended deadlines for season pass purchases.
“Utah was poised to log a second record season in a row before resort closures began on March 14, one of the busiest check-in days of the season,” Rafferty said. “I am proud of our industry and the difficult but responsible decisions made by Utah resorts to prioritize the safety of their guests and employees. While it’s sure to look different next winter with new safety measures in place, I am optimistic that skiing and riding will be better than ever during the upcoming 2020-21 ski season.”