Ski resorts set to reopen, adjust to drought conditions

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The Sheen family have a fun time in the Albion area of Alta Ski Area on a sunny winter day. Ski resorts make efforts to maintain good snow in response to this year’s drought. (Ski Utah Chris Pearson)

As summer winds down and fall begins, the world is one season closer to the best of them all for some: ski season. With the lack of water Utah has had this year, however, how will resorts maintain their powder? 

2021 is on track to be Utah’s driest year in the past 127 years, according to the National Weather Service. In response to this year’s drought, Sundance Ski Resort located in Provo Canyon has prepared various devices to maintain its snow level.

Alysha Jeppson, Sundance’s marketing coordinator, is confident in the resort’s abilities to produce good powder despite dry conditions. 

“We’ve added a snowmaking reservoir that will allow us to better use existing water supply for enhanced snow making capabilities,” Jeppson said. “We will also add multiple snow air guns to the mountain to increase the speed, amount and quality of snow coverage.”

In addition to the snowmaking upgrades, Sundance has added two new lifts and a new beginner area. It has also expanded mountain dining and created additional parking to the resort, Jeppson said.

Nathan Rafferty, president of Ski Utah, said ski areas saw a record-breaking total of 5,301,766 skier days for Utah ski resorts in the 2020-2021 winter season. This number is up 3.44% over the previous record-breaking 2018-2019 season.

Ski Utah helps with marketing for the Utah Ski and Snowboard Association. Their website has up-to-date snow and travel information.

According to Rafferty, skiing had provided a respite from the realities of the pandemic and allowed an option for guests to safely socialize outside. 

“Our resorts came together to implement a variety of COVID-19 protocols that allowed each of our resorts to not only remain open through the end of the season but also break our existing Utah skier day record,” Rafferty said. “While 2020-21 looked different in terms of guest experience, it was our best year yet.” 

With this year’s drought and continuing effects from the pandemic, ski resort directors like Alison Palmintere from Ski Utah are not sure what to expect but are hopeful for this season. Palmintere, Ski Utah’s communications director, remains optimistic for the approaching winter.

“It’s hard to predict what this upcoming season will bring, but we are excited for the snow to come and are looking forward to another exciting ski season,” Palmintere said. 

Alta, Snowbasin and Park City will be the first resorts to open this year, with Park City opening Nov. 19, Alta opening Nov. 20, and Snowbasin opening Nov. 24. Deer Valley and Sundance follow soon after, opening Dec. 4 and Dec. 7.

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