Enough skiers for a west-side resort?
By Leigh Dethman
Deseret Morning News
Published: October 6, 2007
Utah might have the greatest snow on Earth, but are there enough skiers to go around?
With plans for a new resort on the west side of the valley in the Oquirrh Mountains, ski industry insiders say another resort won't snow under the market.
Kennecott officials plan to build a new 3,150-acre ski resort in the mountains above Magna. The resort is part of Kennecott's future vision of Salt Lake County's west bench, with neighborhoods and businesses stretching across the Oquirrhs from the Utah County line all the way to the Great Salt Lake.
The development is estimated to bring in nearly 500,000 new residents in the next 75 years, many of whom will likely be skiers, said Russell Fox, manager of land planning for Kennecott.
The resort would be the first of its kind on the west side of the valley.
"All indications are the market can handle it," Fox said. "With the population potential out on the west bench, it's going to continue to impact the other ski resorts over time."
Nathan Rafferty, president and chief executive officer of Ski Utah, said another resort can only help the Salt Lake market.
"We're in our fourth record year in a row and our — knock on wood — industry here in Utah seems to be doing nothing but shooting upward," said Rafferty. "If they figure out the right niche for them in terms of what kind of customers they want to attract, I think they could do really well, and I'd love to see another resort complement the ones we've got."
Utah's 13 ski resorts put up record numbers last year, with 4,028,094 skier days. The state ended up No. 3 in total skiers behind Colorado and California.
Rafferty said ski markets can reach a point where one resort is too many, but Utah is not to that point yet.
"We're really growing," Rafferty said. "It will just force other resorts to elevate their game a little more and be more competitive, and that's all going to benefit the consumer. It's just another choice for people."
The resort is still in the very early planning stages, a spokeswoman for Kennecott said. The base elevation is planned for 6,200 feet, with the resort's peak reaching 9,350 feet, Fox said.
The planned resort will eventually overlook 10,000 homes in a secluded mountain community called the "Little Valley" flats.
Fox said planners have identified a ski area that is north facing, so the snowpack should be OK. Kennecott recently completed an initial analysis that looked at the slopes, angles and "everything that would justify that there could be a resort out there."
Now Kennecott officials will continue to monitor weather conditions to see what types of snowpacks the resort will get.
"So far, it's promising," Fox said.
Just when the resort is actually built is the real question. The sooner people move in, the sooner Kennecott will build the resort, Fox said.
Ski resorts on the east side of the valley say they're more than happy to share the snow.
"If this is an opportunity to introduce more people to the sport of skiing and snowboarding then we think it's great," said Julia Partain, spokeswoman for Snowbird resort. "We're just really in favor getting more people on skis and boards."
Kennecott also plans to build hiking and biking trails in the Oquirrh Mountains, a spokeswoman said