Utah has reaped the benefits that come with being an Olympic
Games host high exposure, improved infrastructure and more
government revenues. But even though the Olympic buildup proved to
be a boon to Salt Lake City and the state, a post-Olympic world may
not be as rosy.
More than $680 million was spent in preparation for the games,
thousands of jobs were created and world-class facilities built.
The Olympics dropped a worldwide spotlight on the city and the
state, which it successfully used to its advantage. A survey
conducted after the games revealed that 7.1 million more adults
said that they would vacation in Utah, than before the games.
State officials have noted that with a substantial increase in
tourism capacity, a big part of Utah’s post-Olympic legacy could be
its increased tourism business.
But given a budget shortfall, economic uncertainty and a looming
war the state is facing limitations in what it can do to promote
its legacy, while it is still fresh in the hearts and minds of the
Domestic leisure travel was the only source of growth for state
tourism in 2002. In a post-9/11 world, the majority of visitors to
Utah last year were people who drove over from Western states. Both
business and international travel declined in 2002, despite the
As a result, domestic travelers, especially car-driving
westerners, have been the state’s marketing priority and it will
likely remain that way. A state budget crunch is expected to chip
away at some of the $4 million used to promote tourism. And the
winter season may prove to be less of a priority, since roughly
half of the $4 billion generated by tourism is made in the
The window may be closing on the emotional pull that the 2001
Olympics have on travelers. Utah’s Olympic memory is expected to
fade as most do once the next torch is lighted.
“The Olympics gives a type of awareness bump that would be
impossible any other way,” said Jon Kemp, a research coordinator
with Utah Travel Council. “As time passes and people don’t have
that immediate recall, people will still remember that the Olympics
were held here. It becomes a brand identity, and that doesn’t go
The Olympics have left behind million-dollar facilities, now
open to the public for recreational use.
Mountain resorts invested more than a quarter-billion dollars to
prepare for the Olympic games and continue to spend millions on
In addition to resort investments, the Olympics left the state
with a $76 million legacy fund to develop future Olympic talent and
to maintain the state-of-the-art venues that were built for the
At the Utah Olympic Park, just a ten-minute drive from Park
City, visitors can arrange for a slide down the Olympic bobsled
course, on a sled ridden by real Olympic athletes. The park also
houses a museum and conducts ski-jumping clinics on its ramps.
The Kearns Speed skating Oval in Salt Lake City is open to the
public, as is the Olympic curling facility in Ogden.
All the places can be accessed from the Salt Lake City airport
in less than an hour.
Olympic ski runs were held on three different mountains. Here’s
an assessment of the Olympic ski areas, after a recent press trip
that was sponsored by Ski Utah:
Best Kept Secret
Snowbasin emerged from more than 60 years of obscurity, when it
was selected as the Olympic venue for the downhill, combined and
super-G skiing competitions. Now Snowbasin is a an anomaly among
ski resorts: It has world-class facilities and no crowds.
“In terms of skiers, a week in Vail is the equivalent of a year
here,” said Kevin Stauffer, the guest services supervisor with
The resort once hosted the national championships on an
out-of-the-way run that eventually became overgrown and unused,
since the only way to get there was a steep hike up the
But in 1998, a $70 million infusion transformed the old course
into the resort’s prized Olympic runs.
The Snowbasin resort nearly doubled its size adding two
gondolas, a quad chair and a 15-passenger tram to serve the Olympic
Snowbasin is still in the process of transitioning from a local
resort to a world-class venue. A golf course for summer recreation
is on the way, as is lodging.
The Pampered Crowd
The moneyed skier, looking for more than just skiing, should
consider Deer Valley.
The resort hosted Olympic alpine slalom, aerial and freestyle
mogul events and tends to cater to a high-end clientele.
It has award-winning food in its lodges and was voted the best
North American resort in 2001, by the readers of SKI magazine.
It is also home to the tony Stein Erikson Lodge with luxury
suites going for $1200-plus a night.
“For the most part, out-of-state visitors will go out of there,”
said Nathan Rafferty, a spokesman for Ski Utah.
“They really focus on the destination skier there the skier who
looks for great service and wants more of a vacation.”
The Park City Mountain Resort has been the cornerstone of Utah
Opened in 1863, it was the first resort in Park City.
During the Olympics, the resort hosted the men’s and women’s
alpine giant slalom and snowboarding events.
Park City Mountain has the second most runs in the state of
Utah, just behind the neighboring Canyons Resort.
Park City is also designed for families, with ski and snowboard
programs and family-focused amenities.
As a contrast to Deer Valley, the Park City Mountain Resort has
captured the youth market with special runs aimed at a new
generation of skier and snowboarder, living on the cutting edge of
The resort has a regulation halfpipe and claims it has the
world’s only Olympic superpipe both open to the public.