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Reflections on a Snowy Winter and New Passes

By Adam Fehr 03-12-2019

While the snow conditions have etched smiles on the faces of Alta enthusiasts, it has also magnified the transportation and parking issues in Little Cottonwood Canyon

We are now two-thirds of the way through our 81st ski season and what a season it has been! After six of the last seven seasons with less than average snowfall, we are now enjoying an above average snow year. As of March 11th, we have received 462 inches of snow which is 110% of our 40-year average. While the snow conditions have etched smiles on the faces of Alta enthusiasts, it has also magnified the transportation and parking issues in Little Cottonwood Canyon. A growing population base in the broader Salt Lake area, weather conditions and a road with limited capacity have resulted in more traffic congestion issues than we have ever had–impacting both skiers and employees. We are sensitive to these issues and are continuing to work with the Utah Department of Transportation, the Forest Service and other governmental agencies on short and long term solutions.

The reality we are facing is that while skier visits to Alta have increased 25% during the past 15 years, the road and parking capacity remain the same as they were 15 years ago. We are encouraging the Central Wasatch Commission, UDOT and local, state and federal legislators to make transportation solutions a priority in concert with, rather than independent of, federal designations and environmental protections.

Snowfall across the nation has brought skiers out in force. While skier visits to Alta show a double-digit increase over last season, we are currently only 6% ahead of the 16-17 ski season. Our day and multi-day ticket visits are down significantly this season due to the migration of many of our skiers to the Ikon Pass. Our net increase in skier visits from the Ikon Pass is currently running roughly 3%. Our largest increase in skier visits is coming from local pass holders whose visits are up 13% compared to the prior season. With that said, powder is our greatest commodity and we applaud our local pass holders for enjoying this year’s plentiful powder days.

We are not alone in facing a busy winter. In a recent discussion with GM's from other Mountain Collective destinations in the West, all indicated that skier visits are up due to good snow conditions and the largest area of increase is from local season pass holders. We are also seeing significantly more skiers than we have ever had in the backcountry areas around Alta. It will not surprise us if this is a record skier visit year for Utah and North America. The widespread uptick in skier visits across our country suggests that demand in a snowy year may be greater than the supply in some regions of the country.

Changes in the ski industry have resulted in all of the major ski areas in North America participating in either the Ikon or Epic pass to remain competitive and sustainable. Alta entered into a multi-year agreement to be a limited Ikon destination in January of 2018. This decision was not made lightly and we are closely monitoring the impact multi-resort passes are having on the ski industry, skier patterns and the Alta experience. Please know that we are committed to preserving the Alta experience by matching the number of skiers visiting Alta with our infrastructure, services and terrain. We welcome your feedback and ask for your patience as adjustments will take time given agreements that are in place and the approval process required to make changes. In the meantime, we hope to share more magical Alta moments with you during the remainder of the season.

 

Thanks for skiing Alta this winter,

Mike Maughan

General Manager - Alta Ski Area

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