Story and photo by BRANDON RISLEY
People normally think of hot summers and national parks in southern Utah and cold winters with lots of skiing in the northern part of the state. But that has not been the case during the winter of 2014-2015.
The famous Utah slopes have been bare for the most part due to the outrageously high temperatures the state has experienced this winter. In February alone, according to accuweather.com, Utah has exceeded 60 degrees on numerous occasions and has been nearly 16 degrees warmer than the average February weather. February in Salt Lake City normally averages around 43 degrees with about 1.37 inches of precipitation. With March’s first weekend coming to an end, Utah has gotten record high temperatures as well as an astonishing accumulation of 0.17 inches of precipitation.
One of the main parts of Utah that might have struggled due to this weather was the ski shops. The state has a wide variety that are known for getting very good business.
In an interview with Mark Johnson, the manager of the Ski ‘N See shop in downtown Salt Lake City, he talked about how the weather hasn’t been affecting his shop much because there will always be sales.
“You know it hasn’t been as bad as you’d think,” Johnson said. “Yes we’ve had fewer sales with out-of-towners but at the same time people still want to ski and it’s not like it won’t get cold at the mountain. I think our Park City shops have struggled a little more but we’re definitely making due.”
He said the Park City shops haven’t done as well because Park City is a huge tourist city. And, he said, out-of-town people aren’t traveling there as much this winter because of the lack of snow.
“Most of the people that live in Park City already have equipment because they ski more frequently than people that may live in other parts of the state,” Johnson said. “Without the tourists flocking to ski [in Park City] our sales drop around 10 to 15 percent.”
With multiple locations across the state set up near most of the major resorts, Ski ‘N See is one of the premiere shops for purchasing ski and snow board equipment. From inexpensive beginner gear to pricier items for more experienced riders, Ski ‘N See has it all.
Derek Evans, a Salt Lake City resident and loyal customer of the downtown Salt Lake City store, said his experience with Ski ‘N See over the years has been great.
“The numerous times I’ve been there have been awesome and I would definitely recommend it for anyone,” Evans said. “One of the things I love about this place is the fact that you can rent equipment for cheaper than the actual mountains will charge you. My first experience I rented because I didn’t quite know what I wanted to buy yet and the staff were very helpful and showed me exactly what I needed.”
In 2003 Ski ‘N See struck up a partnership with ARCS Ski and Board. ARCS Ski and Board is now owned by Ski ‘N See and they have expanded from one store in Park City to four others in Deer Valley, Cottonwood Heights and Sandy.
In a 2012 press release, Ski ‘N See owner Roy Ostendorf said that expanding his business was more about optimizing website searches than anything. “Ski ‘N See was created in 1987, well before the internet or the need for your company name to be so descriptive of what is offered inside your doors,” said Ostendorf in the release. “Ski ‘N See is near the bottom of the alphabet, but we don’t want to abandon the name completely. The new shops gave us the chance to grow while taking the internet into account.”
Johnson, manager of the Salt Lake City location, said that another bonus of the partnership was to expand Ski ‘N See’s reach in Utah as well as give people more leeway in returning their equipment.
“One of the great things about the partnership is that people could rent their equipment in one place and then return it to any of the Ski ‘N See or ARCS locations,” Johnson said. “This has made our customers very happy.”
With 12 Ski ‘N See and ARCS locations, both Ostendorf and Johnson haven’t feared the lack of snow very much. “We’re not really worried about it to be honest,” Ostendorf said. “We survived the critical months of December through February and it really didn’t drop off that much. We have been able to open  stores because people have been coming to us for nearly 30 years. People still want to ski in this beautiful state and they will still flock to buy and rent gear when necessary.”
Johnson reiterated those exact thoughts saying, “We made it through the winter with minimal casualties. The diehards still came in to get their gear fixed up and the people new to skiing still needed equipment. We’re going to be fine.”
With reasonable prices and highly rated gear, Ski ‘N See hasn’t been affected much by the snow drought in Utah. The tourists haven’t been coming in at usual rates, but the diehard skiers and snow boarders of Utah have not let them down.