Everything you need to know about Utah’s 2023 ski season and how to afford it
Nov 14, 2023, 2:46 PM | Updated: Nov 15, 2023, 10:57 am
(Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret news)
SALT LAKE CITY — November causes slope lovers in Utah to salivate each year, as their winter hearts ache for the first big storm and mountain freedom.
Likewise, skiers all over the world turn their attention to Utah’s recipe for the greatest snow on earth.
For both locals and visitors, the biggest resource to use when planning a trip or a season in the mountains is Ski Utah, a nonprofit trade organization that covers all aspects of the ski industry in Utah.
Their website acts as a bible for the Utah skier. Everything from resort and trail maps, daily snow reports from those resorts, trip planning aids, and passes can be found there.
2022-23 season recap
Every skier and snowboarder knows that the sport is dependent on potentially transient weather patterns — another reason for them to feel anxious come November. Utah resorts have plans for improvements in their guest experience for 2023, but the record-breaking 2022 season will be one to beat.
President and CEO of Ski Utah, Nathan Rafferty described it as “a once in a generation ski season” in a press conference Tuesday.
He shared that 903 inches of snow were recorded in Alta in the ’22 season, which was the most ever recorded in history, and many other resorts broke their personal bests too. It was the longest season on record for Utah; Park City Mountain making it to May for the first time in 40 years and Snowbird open well into June.
Rafferty said there were 7.1 Million skier visits in 2022, which is a 22% increase from the year prior.
“For anyone thinking about economics, all-time spending was up as well. So $2.64 billion dollars in spending, and that’s up 11% from the previous year,” Rafferty said. “Importantly, that translates to more than a quarter billion dollars in state local tax revenue.”
New for 2023-24
Rafferty promised ski-lift improvements and new lifts at Brighton, Solitude. Snowbird, Park City, Eagle Point, Powder Mountain and Snow Basin.
He also announced that Deer Valley’s ski terrain will more than double in the next decade or so. They’ve also updated their food and beverage experiences and will renovate the Royal Street Café, adding a 21 and over ski bar called The Royal.
Brighton started construction on a new mid-mountain lodge and restaurant in August, called Snake Creek Lodge. With plans to open for the ’23-24 season, construction should conclude sometime during the season.
Rafferty announced more efforts to make parking an easier feat. He said that much of Big Cottonwood canyon will run on a booking system, so that skiers are guaranteed a spot.
After testing this method in recent years, he said the results were successful.
“It reduced the level of drama so significantly,” Rafferty said.
When asked if he was concerned about following such a large success last year, Rafferty said he’s still confident 2023 will be a great season.
“If you’re sitting around the kitchen table in New York City or San Francisco or Chicago, or at a cocktail party discussing with your friends where you should go skiing this year — how Utah is not on that list, I’m not sure,” he said. “I think we’re queued up for another great season.”
Resort open dates
“Cross your fingers that this storm comes through this weekend,” Rafferty said.
Some resorts are banking on that storm and plan to open mid-November. A constant updated list can be found any time on skiutah.com, but dates are published now for most resorts:
- Alta – TBD
- Brian Head – Friday, November 17, 2023
- Deer Valley – Saturday, December 2, 2023
- Eagle Point – Friday, December 15, 2023
- Nordic Valley – Saturday, December 2, 2023
- Park City Mountain – Friday, November 17, 2023
- Snowbasin – TBD
- Snowbird – Thursday, November 30, 2023
- Solitude – Friday, November 17, 2023
- Sundance – Saturday, December 2, 2023
- Woodward – Friday, November 17, 2023
Best ways to pay
Ticket prices and season passes are no exemption from inflation, with costs for just one day pass ranging from about $120-$279 and season passes from $500- $3,000. While some saving might be required, there are ways to work around some of the costs attached to a life on the slopes.
The first is to buy tickets early in the season. The closer opening dates get, the more expensive prices can be. Also, discounted passes are often offered for night skiing and for passes on weekdays.
In addition to tickets, gear can be expensive, especially for first-timers building a snow suit from the ground up.
One option is to track and attend local gear swaps, which take place all over the Salt Lake Valley and counties nearby. It’s a great way to trade gear that kids have grown out of for bigger sizes, and find deals for new gear.
Not to mention, gear swaps offer community with other snow people and reinforces how important the buddy system can be on the mountain.
Additionally, many retailers have used equipment that can be viewed online or in store. REI, Backcountry, and other thrift sites have options for equipment in good condition and marked far down in price. Some also buy used gear, which can also help bring down costs.
While it might take a bit more time to assemble a full gear set, it may compete with the option of renting gear from a shop or resort.
For students, Rafferty highlighted a program that Ski Utah championed, to get fourth, fifth, and sixth graders out in the snow for cheaper costs. For $69, it offers three day-passes at each of Utah’s 15 ski resorts for the season — adding up to 45 days of skiing total. Prices for the passport increase to $89 on Dec. 1.
Win your way there
Another way to save, in potentially mind blowing ways, is to enter Ski Utah’s Sweepstakes.
“This is as close to gambling as you get in Utah,” Rafferty said. “This is a way to win two gold passes, $10,00 a piece.”
In addition, the sweepstakes offer a private cat skiing experience for 10, a private dinner for up to 24 guests at Solitude’s Yurt, $2,500 to Rossignol.com, two Stio Environ outerwear kits, and merchandise from the outdoor brand, Gregory.
A second sweepstakes entry is being offered from Nov. 13 to 17 which includes Delta Airlines tickets.
Something to do while you wait for snow
Rafferty announced Tuesday the recent premiere of a short film called “The Last Gunners”. Ski Utah produced the film in conjunction with Alta.
The film, about avalanche mitigation pioneered at Alta, which has now been accepted as standard practice around the world. The film, Rafferty said, has already been accepted into several film festivals.
It highlights avalanche awareness — one of the most important things to know on the mountain. Especially, as the film points out, in Alta. Its terrain was made ski territory in the 1930’s and turned out to be dangerous for a people in a time when avalanche knowledge was few and far between.