OGDEN — A winter in which snow was hard to come by made it a tough season for Utah ski resorts, but the three Top of Utah resorts are optimistic that things will return to normal or improve next season.
Statewide, Utah’s 14 ski areas saw slightly more than 3.8 million skier and snowboarder day visits for the 2011-12 season — a 10 percent drop from a banner 2010-11 season and the lowest number in eight years, according to the promotional group Ski Utah.
Not even artificial snowmaking capabilities could stop Wolf Mountain from having to shut down its lifts in mid-March, said General Manager Jeff Summers.
The decline in visitors to Wolf Mountain was about the same as the 10 percent figure cited by Ski Utah, he said.
“March was not very kind to anybody,” Summers said. “It just got too warm for us to make snow.”
Powder Mountain spokesman Patrick Lundin didn’t give an exact percentage of how much business was down at the resort, which relies entirely on natural snowfall, but said it was “definitely” down.
“A lot of people were waiting for the snow, and Mother Nature never really produced,” Lundin said. “We went from a record year (in 2010-11) to one of the worst snow years in the past 40 years.”
At Snowbasin, one of the most extensive snowmaking systems in the western United States helped make up for the lack of natural snowfall, said spokesman Jason Dyer.
“We didn’t feel the pinch as much as some of the other resorts,” he said. “We still had a lot of people come from out of town — about the same as the year before.”
However, Dyer said overall numbers were down because many locals who hold out for big powder days didn’t show up as often.
“You have the local powder hounds who are only going to show up when it’s deep, so we took a little bit of a hit there,” he said. “The 600 acres where we make snow didn’t skip a beat, but our off-trail terrain took a bit of a beating.”
Despite the decline, Utah fared better than the nation as a whole, where skier days were down 15 percent, according to the National Ski Areas Association.
With the difficult season behind them, local resorts are looking ahead.
Snowbasin will open for summer activities, including lift-served mountain biking, on June 16, and Lundin said early sales of season passes for next winter have been strong.
“People are going to be more hungry than ever because last year didn’t really satisfy their need for Utah powder,” he said, “but that just puts us one year closer to the next epic season.”