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Utah 2018-19: travel planning, snow conditions, deals

Utah set a record in 2018-19 for the most skier visits ever.

Ski Utah, May 2019
" . . .
“One of the key factors that made this season so memorable was the consistency of snowfall,” said Evan Thayer, local forecaster for Open Snow. “Since the resorts opened, we went no more than seven days without snowfall. We also avoided long stretches of high pressure and warm temperatures, which meant that the snow quality remained high for the duration of the season.”
. . ."

Warning . . . musings of a numbers geek below. :smile:

Some people think the major multi-resort passes (MCP, Epic, Ikon) are responsible for more crowded slopes this season around SLC. But looking at the table of skier visits made me wonder about the snowfall for the same period. Since Alta has monthly and annual totals on their website, it was easy to rank the same decade. The snow total range is from 300" to just over 700", with around 400" being the standard expectation. The connection between snow depth and skier interest is pretty obvious. (Be better as a graph but that's too much trouble.)

Season: total snowfall at Alta - snowfall rank, skier visit rank - skier days rounded to 0.1 million
2009-10: 560" - 4, 7 - 4.1 M
2010-11: 723" - 1, 4 - 4.2 M
2011-12: 390" - 8, 10 - 3.8 M
2012-13: 449" - 5, 8 - 4.0 M
2013-14: 432" - 7, 5 - 4.1 M
2014-15: 308" - 10, 9 - 3.9 M
2015-16: 428" - 6, 3 - 4.5 M
2016-17: 596" - 3, 2 - 4.6 M
2017-18: 388" - 9, 6 - 4.1 M
2018-19: 626" - 2, 1 - 5.1 M

The comparison I find interesting is the low snow years. 2011-12 was just before the MCP started, 2014-15 was the third MCP season with both Alta & Snowbird included (2 combo days), and by 2017-18 Alta and Snowbird were separate (2 days each). Skier days increased a bit between those three seasons with comparable snow totals. By 2015-16 the MCP was well established but the jump in skier visits was probably due to good snow, not a lot of new MCP holders.

Another factor is that Utah is the fastest growing state at the moment. There are about 400,000 more people living in Utah compared to ten years ago. Presumably some of the people moving into Utah are going there partially because of the easy access to mountains for skiing and other outdoor activities. Would be interesting to know if the number of local season passes for Alta and the other SLC ski resorts has increased in the same period.

The Salt Lake Tribune, Dec 2018
Utah ranks No. 1 for population growth this decade — adds nearly 400K new residents

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Snowbird is still open on weekends for snowsports. Only the Tram, Little Cloud, and Mineral Basin lifts. $50 lift ticket if have a season pass from any other resort.

Some summer activities have started, including the new Woodward WreckTangle. But opening dates for Peruvian chair and the mountain coaster are TBD.

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Got curious when an Alta email noted that the Summer Road is opening on July 15. That seems a bit later than usual, but the opening always depends on the snowpack. The Albion Basin Campground is opening on July 20. I gather some years it's open by early July.

Turns out that Summer 2019 will be unusual. The Sunnyside lift will not be running at all for hikers. There is construction going on that means the Albion parking lot will be closed. Another difference is that the Snowpine Lodge is open so it's possible to stay in a luxury lodge. in Alta. Managing crowds in Little Cottonwood Canyon has become a major issue in recent years.

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Summer FAQs for 2019
  • What are the important summer dates? Summer starts June 29th and runs through September 2nd, 2019 (conditions permitting).
  • The summer road is scheduled to open on July 15th.
  • Where can I park for free? The Wildcat base area.
  • Where can I buy food/snacks? The Wildcat lot, or as we're calling it this summer, the Wildcat Basecamp. The Gulch at the Snowpine Lodge is open daily from 3–9pm, while Swen's restaurant at the Snowpine Lodge is serving brunch from 8am-2pm on Saturday and Sunday. Don't miss Saturday lunch and Sunday brunch at Alta Lodge.
  • Where is the best place to access hiking trails? You guessed it, the Wildcat base area. Parking and hiking trail access to the Albion Basin via the Wildcat base area is always FREE! If you don't have the energy to hike from the Wildcat Base Area, you can pay $5 to ride a shuttle or pay to drive into the Albion Basin.
  • Why is the Albion parking lot, Sunnyside lift, Albion Grill and Alta Java closed this summer? Due to construction projects and infrastructure upgrades in the Albion lot and Sunnyside lift maintenance.
  • Can I bring my dog? No. Little Cottonwood Canyon is a Salt Lake County protected watershed area that supplies drinking water to Salt Lake residents.
  • Why is vehicle access limited into the Albion Basin? In recent years the basin has been over-loved. Vehicle access into Albion Basin is being limited to balance visitor use with available amenities and natural resource protection as the ultimate goal.
  • Why is there an $8 Amenity Fee per vehicle to drive into the Albion Basin? This money helps fund maintenance of the summer road, parking lots, trash removal, hiking trails and maintenance to bathroom facilities on-mountain. In past summers, Alta was not responsible for maintaining the summer road.
  • What's the deal with the shuttle? Starting July, 20th the shuttle will operate on weekends and holidays from the Wildcat base area to the Cecret Lake trailhead. The shuttle will leave the Wildcat base every half hour on weekends and holidays. The cost will be $5 per person.
  • Will there be mountain hosts available to provide information on hiking trails and the mountain? Yes, knowledgeable mountain hosts will be available at the Wildcat base area.
  • Can I purchase a winter season pass this summer at Alta? Yes, winter season passes, information and public restrooms will be available at Skier Services at the Wildcat base area.
  • Business Office Hours: Monday--Thursday, 7:30am--4:30pm.
Snowbird will be open for a few more days before closing out the 2018-19 season on July 4th. Has happened before a few times: 1995, 2005, 2011.

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