Early winter weather may be a good omen for ski season
The whirring of snowmaking machines has been droning throughout the mountains in the Park City area, city and county officials have been vigorously planning and skiers have been painstakingly sharpening their edges — all in preparation for the long-awaited opening day.
Park City Mountain launched its ski season Wednesday, moved up from Friday, and was expected to host a boisterous crowd for its earliest opening since 1996. The resort’s chief, as well as representatives from Deer Valley Resort, Utah Olympic Park, High Valley Transit, City Hall and the County Courthouse, shared insight into the 2022-2023 winter season earlier this week.
Around 50 people, most of whom were affiliated with those hosting the “snow talk,” attended on Monday. The first-time event was organized to spread the word about public transit options, new projects and changes at the resorts before the season kicks off.
“It’s exciting to see a little snow in early November,” said Chris Robinson, chair of the Summit County Council.
Resort officials appeared optimistic that recent snowfall and cold temperatures were good omens for the season to come. Deirdra Walsh, the vice president and chief operating officer of Park City Mountain, and Todd Bennett, the president and chief operating officer of Deer Valley, each reported receiving more than 81 inches of snow recently. For Park City Mountain, that was the same as Dec. 31 of last year.
The winter weather helped move up opening day, Walsh said, which takes a village, and she thanked staffers for their work.
Both the Park City side and the Canyons Village side will open Wednesday. The Payday Express and First Time lifts are open on the Park City side. Meanwhile, the Saddleback Express and Over and Out lifts, as well as the Red Pine Gondola, are operating on the Canyons Village side. The Cabriolet on the Canyons Village side, which takes people from the parking lot to the center of the base area, is also open.
Walsh indicated the resort would be operating under an accelerated plan, which includes continued snowmaking operations, to open more terrain in the coming weeks. Monday was the sixth day straight of 24 hours of snowmaking for Park City Mountain; the resort has completed more than 300 hours in total.
Skiers and snowboarders heading to the Park City side on Wednesday or Thursday will not have to make a reservation under the new parking system. Parking reservations will be required on Friday in the Main, Silver King and First Time lots. They are free until Dec. 11 with reservations increasing to $25 per vehicle per day on Dec. 12. Parking is free before 8:30 a.m. and after 1 p.m. and does not require a reservation.
The paid system is designed as a traffic-fighting measure. It’s expected to increase the number of people carpooling or using public transportation while reducing the number of vehicles on the road, according to Walsh. Reservations also help spread out the times when people are arriving at the resort by guaranteeing a parking spot and eliminating the need to beat the rush.
Each account can make up to five parking reservations, which can be managed by visiting http://parkatparkcitymountain.com.
Caroline Rodriguez, the executive director of the High Valley Transit District, anticipates more people will use the free, on-demand service because of the new parking system. She said it’s hard to project what the growth will be. High Valley Transit currently has the resources to meet the demand, she said, but they could become strained over time — particularly as the transit provider struggles to hire drivers. The transit district is also expected to partner with the Utah Transit Authority to take over the Park City-Salt Lake City Connect bus route in December, after the schedule was cut.
Park City Mountain partnered with City Hall to create a new traffic circulation plan at the Park City-side base area that prioritizes bus and transit access as an incentive. Free parking is still available at the Canyons Village base area and outlying park-n-ride locations.
However, some community members on Monday complained about packed buses, confusing routes and long wait times.
Rodriguez urged patience and encouraged people to give public transportation a try.
“We’re all adjusting to a new reality,” she said.
Deer Valley, which is slated to open on Dec. 3, is offering initiatives and incentives for employees to use public transportation, according to Bennett. The resort offers complimentary parking for guests at five base area parking lots and limited parking at the Jordanelle Express Gondola as well as a complimentary shuttle to Snow Park Lodge.
Snowmaking operations are also going well at Deer Valley, with the resort pumping up to 8,000 gallons of water per minute to make snow.
“If you know any snowmakers out there, that is tough work. Give them a hug — they’re not going to let you because they’re snowmakers and they won’t let you get close — but if you do see the folks getting ready for the mountains, it’s really important work,” Bennett said.
He added the resort is also looking at increasing its housing stock by up to 30% in the coming weeks to address the limited supply of affordable residences.
Jamie Kimball, the general manager of the Utah Olympic Park, provided an update on the West Peak expansion project, which is intended to improve training for local athletes. The second phase includes new terrain for an alpine and freestyle training area and is expected to be completed at the beginning of winter. There are still a few details to tighten up, Kimball said, but the project will otherwise bridge UOP’s training program.
He also previewed the upcoming competition season, highlighting the International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation (IBSF) Bobsled and Skeleton World Cup, scheduled for Dec. 1 through 3, and the International Luge Federation (FIL) Luge World Cup, slated for Dec. 16 and 17.