What's new at Utah ski resorts this year?
In a year when Utah ski resorts did not add much in the way of on-the-hill features, the big news involves cooperative passes.
Vail Resorts' takeover of management at the Canyons means Utah skiers can take advantage of the $729 Epic Pass, which provides unlimited skiing not only at the Canyons but at popular out-of-state resorts such as Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone, Heavenly and Northstar.
"That kicked off the competition," said Ski Utah President Nathan Rafferty at the group's season kickoff press conference.
Alta, Deer Valley, Park City Mountain Resort and Snowbird responded by creating "The Best Pass Benefit" that offers qualifying season pass holders three days of free lift access at each of the other resorts' mountains.
Other passes benefitting locals include the Big Cottonwood Pass, Mountain Collective and Powder Alliance.
The Big Cottonwood season pass will sell for $999 and allow skiers to ski at both Brighton and Solitude. The Mountain Collective is a $379 pass that offers 12 days of skiing at Alta, Snowbird, Aspen Snowmass, Jackson Hole, Mammoth, WhistlerBlackcomb, Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows. Snowbasin is the lone Utah representative in the Powder Alliance, which allows its season pass holders to receive three passes at 11 other western resorts.
Rafferty said the big on-the-mountain news this year is that Snowbird has replaced its venerable Gad 2 lift with a state-of-the-art, high-speed quad that will cut the riding time in half.
Brian Head also invested $3.5 million into improvements that included renovating two base lodges, three new magic carpet surface lifts and new food and beverage options.
Other improvements included Brighton adding an all-girl terrain park featuring pink rails. It will be the only clinic in the country to offer all-girl clinics. Solitude spent the summer widening the SolBright trail that connects it with Brighton.
Other resorts invested in snowmaking, grooming fleets and restaurant improvements.
Park City Mountain Resort will celebrate its 50th season and Ski Utah's Interconnect experience will be held for the 30th year.
Park City Mountain Resort will offer two new pass holder deals. The "My Pass. My Way" option can be added to a season pass, providing holders with Fast Tracks express lane access, night skiing and snowboarding privileges or underground parking. Youth and Teen season pass holders also get a "License 2 Ride" free lift access at five other North American resorts.
The Canyons is offering "Family Adventure Package" gift cards between $50 and $200 per night, allowing families to access dog sled rides, zip line tours, sleigh rides and private guides.
Deer Valley is promoting a "Ski, Stay and Dine Package" that provides a 20 percent discount off lodging and lift tickets, plus a $50 Deer Valley restaurant card for evening dining.