A Utah ski resort company took over Zion National Park’s concessions. Here’s what it means for visitors.

Snowbird owner POWDR promising more sustainability after taking over lease held by Xanterra for 52 years.

(Mark Eddington | The Salt Lake Tribune) The east entrance to Zion National Park, Thursday, Sept. 21, 2023.

St. George • Concessions at the state’s most-visited national park will soon be run by a Utah resort company.

The National Park Service has awarded a 10-year contract to Destination Zion Lodge, LLC, a subsidiary of Park City-based POWDR, to operate Zion National Park’s lodging, retail and food and beverage services beginning in 2025. POWDR is replacing Xanterra Parks and Resorts, Inc., which is headquartered in Denver and has operated the park’s concessions since 1972.

“Zion Lodge has welcomed visitors for almost a century, and we appreciate the service its operators have provided to thousands of visitors during that time,” Zion Superintendent Jeff Bradybaugh told The Salt Lake Tribune via email. “Looking forward, we will continue to work with our new concessioner so that the Lodge contributes to our mission to conserve Zion now and forever.”

POWDR’s selection comes after a competitive bid process that began in September 2023, according to park officials. The NPS examined each applicant’s bid and awarded the contract to the company that scored the highest. Other than the length of the contract, neither park officials nor POWDR have disclosed any further details of the deal.

Expanding national park portfolio

While it is new to the national park concessions business, POWDR has been a recreational mainstay in North America for nearly three decades. It was founded in 1994 by John Cumming, an investor with his father Ian in the Mountain Hardwear clothing company. POWDR currently manages several ski and other resorts, including Snowbird and Woodward Park City in Utah and Copper Mountain in Colorado.

In January, POWDR officials took over management of concessions and lodging at California’s Stovepipe Wells Village in Death Valley National Park, and are excited about expanding the company’s footprint in America’s national parks

“We are honored and excited to have been selected as the new concessioner for Zion National Park,” Justin Sibley, CEO of POWDR, said in a prepared statement. “As a Utah-based company with deep roots in the outdoors, we understand the importance of preserving and protecting these incredible natural spaces while providing exceptional experiences for visitors.”

POWDR’s plans for Zion include upgrading the park’s lodging facilities, expanding its food and beverage choices and introducing educational programs that will help visitors better connect with the area’s geology, environment and cultural history. It also aims to hire a full-time environmental manager to help reduce the park’s environmental footprint.

Increasing sustainability, reducing footprint

Stacey Hutchinson, POWDR’s vice president of communications and government affairs, said the company will undertake several sustainability initiatives, including installing more hydration stations where visitors can refill reusable water bottles, reducing food waste, banning Styrofoam products and choosing more durable materials and equipment.

In addition, she continued, the company will maximize recycling for its operations and guests, operate only electric vehicles in Zion, bolster the number of electric vehicle charging options for visitors and encourage and expand bicycle use.

“We’ll also look to improve the living conditions for our employees, including expanded high-speed internet, upgraded rooms/bedding, improved common areas, and revitalizing the gym area, laundry facilities and meals,” Hutchinson said.

Xanterra will continue to operate concessions at Zion National Park until POWDR takes over on Jan. 1, 2025. As part of that transition, POWDR plans to retain the park’s existing concessions workers. Its staffing model also enables its employees to work at different company properties throughout the year, thus helping them secure year-round — rather than just seasonal — employment.

Zion, Utah’s top tourist draw, generated $947 million per year in overall economic output in 2021. It now attracts nearly 5 million visitors per year, a twofold increase since 2000.

“Zion is a true national treasure,” Sibley said, “and we are committed to being responsible stewards of this remarkable landscape.”