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It snowed so much this winter that Utah ski areas broke records

First Published      Last Updated Jun 15 2017 10:55 am

The honor for most snow goes to Brighton, which had 632 inches during the season.

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.

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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