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Skiers ride a lift at Snowbasin on the Weber County ski resort's opening day for the 2020-2021 season on Nov. 27, 2020.

OGDEN — In spite of operating during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Utah ski resorts welcomed more skiers during the winter of 2020-21 than any other season in the state’s history.

That’s according to a new report released by Ski Utah, the marketing firm owned and operated by the 15 statewide ski resorts (including Weber County’s Snowbasin, Nordic Valley and Powder Mountain) that make up the Utah Ski and Snowboard Association.

In an email, Ski Utah Director of Communications Alison Palmintere said Utah ski resorts saw a record-breaking total of more than 5.3 million skier days during this past winter season. That number is up nearly 3.5% from the previous record-breaking season, which happened during the 2018-19 winter. The National Ski Areas Association defines “skier days” as one person visiting a ski area for any part of a day or night for the purpose of skiing or snowboarding.

“Going into the season, our metric for success was simply getting open and remaining open,” said Nathan Rafferty, president of Ski Utah. “(But) throughout the season it became clear that skiing provided a respite from the day-to-day realities of the pandemic and allowed an option for (people) to safely socialize outside. 2020-21 looked different in terms of guest experience; it was our best year yet.”

Rafferty said Ski Utah resorts worked together to implement a variety of COVID-19 protocols that allowed them to remain open through the entirety of the season. Those measures included capacity limitations and reservations at several mountains. Resorts also further limited capacity on shuttles, trams, gondolas and chair lifts, and enhanced cleaning protocols in lodging and dining areas.

Rafferty said while more people skied in Utah in 2020-21 than ever before, most Utah resorts didn’t see any attendance records broken for individual days because weekly action was spread out more this season.

“With many skiers working remotely, it’s clear (people) were able to enjoy more off-peak skiing, like weekday afternoon visits or short lunchtime trips to the mountains,” he said.

According to the National Ski Areas Association, the ski industry is a major contributor to the United States economy, creating over $55 billion in retail spending and over 533,000 jobs across all 50 states. Ski Utah says state ski resorts, which are generally centered in the northernmost third of the state, typically have a yearly direct economic impact of around $1.5 billion.

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