Working ESA and Gathering in together will help attendence. There was an excellent turnout the prior year at JH, I remember there were at least 6 of us who were able to attend the JH Gathering in 2004 because it worked in with ESA, that was out of a total of around 30 attendees, not a huge percentage. But it sounds like 6 extra attendees would have more than doubled this years attendence, what a shame after Ryan put all the time and effort he put into organising it.
My vote is to have it after ESA Snowbird 2006 within travelling/driving distance of SLC - plenty of ski areas to chose from. Does not have to be in Utah, even Steamboat is within driving distance of SLC. I guess the first step is to find someone willing to donate thier time to organise.