$655 a night? Utah is drawing more skiers, and more of their money, researchers say.

Visitors to the state in 2022-23 spent nearly twice what they did a decade ago, according to the Kem C. Gardner Institute, and skier visits shot up. But the number of recreation workers has barely budged.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Skiing at Alta, on Saturday, February 4, 2023.

The 2022-23 ski season in Utah packed in the superlatives: record snowfall, record visitation and, now, record spending.

Out-of-state visitors spent nearly $2 billion during their ski vacations last season, according to a report released Wednesday by the Kem C. Gardner Institute titled “The Economic Contributions of Utah’s Ski Industry.” Locals added another $694 million.

(Christopher Cherrington | The Salt Lake Tribune)

The roughly 12% increase in total spending over the previous season likely is linked to the 903 inches of snow Utah saw in 2022-23 — nearly double the state average. The 7.1 million visits to the state’s 15 ski areas — a 22% increase over the previous year’s record — also may be a driving factor.

But the average cost of lodging during peak ski season is worth noting. According to the report, it was an eye-popping $655 per night.

Nathan Rafferty, the president and CEO of Ski Utah, the marketing arm of the state’s ski industry, believes all played a part. Mostly, though, it’s about the snow,

“The big takeaway to me,” he said, “is that snowfall drives skier visits.

“When you start that early and can go that late,” he added, “that’s how you get to these really big numbers.”

Jennifer Leaver, the senior tourism analyst for the Kem C. Gardner Institute, connected the boom to an increased interest in skiing in Utah, both by locals and tourists. She pointed out that 44% of skier visits last season were by Utahns, up from 37% a few years earlier.

“Even on years when the snow was not quite as good as it was last year,” she said, “we still had four record years of those last five.”

Rafferty noted that most of those seasons were colored by the pandemic and a corresponding surge in outdoor recreation. Data from last season and this one, he said, appear to mark the return of a strong correlation between snow patterns and visitation. Ski Utah expects healthy visitation again this season, which has seen 621 inches of snowfall. That data won’t be available until all the resorts cease winter operations, however, which could be as late as June.

Another place the pandemic’s fingerprints can still be found is in employment. Despite the gush in skier and snowboarder visits, the number of recreational jobs, including for resort workers, remains roughly the same as it was in 2015-16 when Utah saw 2.6 million fewer skier visits.

Resorts are not skimping on workers, Rafferty said. Rather, he believes the numbers expose their struggle to find seasonal employees.

“Even in the best years, if you asked the head of human resources at any of our large resorts,” he said, “you’d never say there was a year where they were turning people away, that they didn’t need help.”

(Christopher Cherrington | The Salt Lake Tribune)

The institute’s report revealed a few other morsels about who is hitting the slopes.

The average age of skiers and snowboarders in Utah in 2022-23 was 48. In addition to cruising the slopes at an average cost of $78 per pass, they delighted in eating and shopping. On average, they spent $86 and $71, respectively, per person per day on those activities. Another $16 went to transportation, including car rentals, and $11 toward entertainment.

“There are a lot of folks who don’t get tons of time off,” Rafferty said, “and they’re ready to open their wallets when they come out.”

Despite separate studies showing more people are picking up or returning to skiing and snowboarding, lessons were not in high demand last season. The average guest spent about $15 per day on them, the same as they spent on rentals. That figure, too, could be a factor of the heavy and consistent snowfall, Rafferty said.

“If there was anything that was skewed last year,” he said, “lessons did take a hit because the lessons are something you take when it’s sunny and easy to ski outside.”

(Christopher Cherrington | The Salt Lake Tribune)

With 44 days of a foot or more of fresh snow on record, one thing Utah skiers saw little of last season was the sun.