More Dogs on Main Street
December 14, 2007
Last weekend’s storm was a thing of beauty. It hit hard in just the right places, and stacked the snow up on the mountains that were basically bare ground the day before. The gust of wind you felt was the collective sigh of relief from everybody in town who was beginning to consider the possibility of large-scale Christmas cancellations. Everybody, from hourly workers who weren’t getting any work (or pay) to business owners with mountains of inventory, was getting worried. If the resorts aren’t really open, the people planning holiday vacations cancel, and life gets complicated in a hurry. The mood was pretty ugly. Then it snowed. Whew. That was close.
It’s been a long time since we’ve had a bust for the holidays. It’s not fun. With snow-making what it is now, all three resorts were able to honestly say they were open, and while a couple of runs on machine-made snow is nothing to get excited about, it was pretty tolerable skiing for the early season. But day after day of warm, sunny weather wasn’t helping things. All the snow-making machinery in the world won’t accomplish much when it’s 60 degrees outside. Nobody is going to spend what it takes for a ski vacation to ski Payday and Treasure Hollow on machine-made snow.
The New England resorts had a bad start a couple of years back. They found that once you’ve missed Christmas, it’s impossible to put the season back together, even if the snow finally comes. Seasonal employees who aren’t called in to work the lifts because the lifts aren’t running still have to eat. When the season didn’t get rolling, they had to move on to other jobs. Once the snow came, the employees were gone. Resorts had snow but no lifties. Restaurants had customers but no cooks. Not a pretty situation.
It was a funny storm. The ski areas got slammed, but other areas weren’t hit. I had less than a foot at my house in Woodland. There was one day I drove in to Park City and the roads were bare all the way to Quinn’s Junction. Crossing under the Highway 40 overpass was like crossing the Arctic Circle. We just got lucky with the placement of the big dump. The resorts aren’t fully open yet, but I suspect that is a factor of not having enough traffic to really justify the expense of opening a lot of additional lifts, more than lack of snow. More terrain opens every day, and the skiing has been very good. If you haven’t been out, you’re missing some nice skiing on mountains opened just for you.
The storm was beautiful. The snow hung in the trees for days afterwards. Somehow, when there is still snow hanging in the trees, you get the sense that there is fresh snow even though the storm ended a week ago. It looks like a powder day when there is snow in the trees.
I saw something at PCMR that was really unusual. The snow had stuck to the cable for the Zip Line across Treasure Hollow. It had stuck to the sides as well as the top, and accumulated to the point that it looked like the cable was about 6 inches thick. Suddenly, at one end, it broke free. But it didn’t just fall off the cable. For some reason, it slowly peeled off, like pulling insulation off a wire. In slow motion, the snow came off one end, but stayed attached to the cable at the other as it worked its way across the valley. One end was hitting the ground while the other end was still peeling off the cable at the top. It gradually moved across the canyon in a continuous ribbon of snow. I’ve never seen it unravel that way instead of just falling off.
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There was enough wind in the Kamas area that the snow stuck to the sides of the power poles instead of settling on top. It was wet, sticky snow, and really packed in on the wind-loaded surfaces. Since then it has stayed cold enough to hold the snow. We could use another storm of about the same size before the holiday crowds arrive (and, of course, we could always use more snow, just because you can never have too much). But we’re up and running. The skiing is good, and the disaster of missing Christmas has been averted. The mood in town is noticeably improved.
It always amazes me how complicated the first few days of skiing seem. I’ve been skiing all my life, and organizing the gear shouldn’t be all that complicated. But it still seems like there is a re-education process every year, so much to keep track of. Locating the gear, deciding whether conditions require the rock skis or are clear enough to go with the good ones, sorting out the gloves to find two that match it just seems harder than it should on the first couple of days. There is always something that was broken or worn out at the end of last season that was supposed to have been replaced at the end-of-season sales. That never happens, so I’m surprised to find that the elastic in the strap on my goggles didn’t miraculously heal itself over the summer, and the missing basket on my pole is still, for some reason, missing. It just takes a day or two to pull it all together.
The same is true with the legs. Despite my recent bout with Bird Flu, I went into the ski season pretty strong. The legs should have been ready to go. I’d been on my bike all summer and spent the fall working on the ranch on projects that had me hiking all over. But the first day on the slopes is always pretty painful. The muscles need to adjust to the differences between cranking a bike and holding a turn. After the third day out, I think I’ve got it figured out again.
The crowds will arrive by next weekend, so go get it while you can.
Tom Clyde served as Park City attorney in the 1980s and is the author of "More Dogs On Main Street." He has been a columnist at The Park Record for nearly 20 years.