June 1, 2012

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Summit/Wasatch Regional Outlook

Utah Business Staff

June 1, 2012

Wasatch and Summit counties have seen a steady stream of tourists, much thanks to the growth of luxury hotels coupled with Utah’s Greatest Snow on Earth. In this regional economic outlook, leaders discuss how to keep those tourists coming back for more, especially during summer months. They also discuss diversifying the economy, education trends, and residential and commercial real estate.

We’d like to thank Canyons Resort for hosting the event and Myles Rademan, director of public affairs for Park City, for moderating the discussion.

Participants: Bob Wheaton, Deer Valley Resort; Ryan Starks, Heber Valley Economic Development & Tourism; Chris Hamaway, Montage Deer Valley; Jeff Ward, Silver Star Care and Park City Chamber; Mitchel Burns, Red Ledges; Anita Lewis, Summit County; Mike Goar, Canyons Resort; Sally Elliott, Summit County; Bret Howser, Park City Municipal; Curt Taylor, Heber Valley Bank; Mike Florance, Park City Angels; Russ Olsen, Stein Eriksen Lodge; Tim Anker, Commerce Cushman & Wakefield; Andy Garland, Zions Bank; Rich Sonntag, Promontory; Donnie Novelle, Park City Transportation; Bob Jasper, Summit County; Myles Rademan, Park City; Mark Nelson, Heber Valley Railroad.

5.2  percent unemployment rate
36,521  population
$74,535  median family income
Park City  largest city
Deer Valley Resort and Canyons Resort largest employers

6.7  percent unemployment rate
23,705  population
$61,593  median family income
Heber largest city
Wasatch School District  largest employer
*Source Department of Workforce Services

Let’s start out with the ski industry and talk a little bit about the season. This year was challenging. What are your plans going forward?

GOAR: Early snow is so important to our start to get people excited and talking the winter. And the lack of snowfall was certainly a challenge. We’re always worried that means the phones aren’t going to ring and people are not going to post vacations with us.

The December bookings, in large part, are done before the snow starts. So if we have any amount of snow, at least within reason, we’re going to see those destination visitors arrive. It’s what they experience: do they leave excited to come back the following year? Are they going to make the reservation for the next year?

Overall, through the course of the winter we’ve provided a beautiful product. And I have confidence that they’re going to return next winter and we’re going to have more snow next winter and it will be terrific.

How much does it cost in electricity to run those snow making guns as long as you had them running on a year like this?

WHEATON: As far as utilities go, at Deer Valley we’ll spend well over $1 million this year on the utility side of snow making. Labor is certainly our single biggest operating expense for snow making. This year at Deer Valley we will reinvest well over a million bucks again in capital investment. And that’s on top of our existing snow making system.     

In light of this year and how we’re ending up, will you do anything differently to market next year?

WHEATON: We continue to look at new opportunities. In the resort business in particular, it can never be business as usual. If we just proceed as normal, we’re going to get left in the dust. So we need to continue look at new and innovative marketing opportunities and also what our product needs to be.

GOAR: By any and all measurements, Salt Lake City is still the best place in North America to take a ski vacation. This winter proved, probably more so than a normal year, that this is the best place to plan your winter vacation. We’re going to come out of it fine. People are going to keep coming here.

FLORANCE: I’m an independent investor and not an expert in the industry, but I’m a consumer of the product. I ski a lot in the backcountry. We came down to the parking lot and there was a fellow there visiting from Portland. We were all lamenting about how little snow there was. And he basically said, “You guys are a bunch of idiots. The skiing is great.” And he’s from Portland, which supposedly had record snowfall in that part of the country. And I think Snowbird had on the order of 350 inches of snowfall this year.

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