Park City enduring unusually dry start to winter season
December 29, 2011
Paul Clark fielded the question that is boggling the minds of winter recreation addicts all over the West: Where, exactly, is the snow?
"This (winter) is going to be a weird one, for sure," said Clark, who is in his first year as director of the White Pine Nordic Center.
And when cross-country skiers ask Clark about ski conditions, he delivers the same recycled response.
"We’ve been able to get by on about two inches," he said, "but that is rapidly vanishing."
In comparison to last season’s record-shattering snowfall in many parts of Utah, the start of this year’s winter has been nearly bone dry. Entering 2012, the lack of natural snow will continue to frustrate regular Park City recreation-goers.
"When you live in the mountains, you’ve got to do what Mother Nature dictates," said Charlie Sturgis, executive director of the Mountain Trails Foundation and a Park City resident since 1985.
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"They’ve been like this before," he said. "This is a way to test your skills as a snow farmer and really be able to make something out of nothing."
Sturgis said, in his 26 years as a Parkite, there have been about 10 winters with what he dubs "trying starts" to the snowy season. He recommends the avid winter outdoorsy types venture outside their comfort zone and hop back on mountain bikes or enjoy the season by hiking along the plethora of available Summit County trails.
According to Emily Summers, communications manager for Deer Valley Resort, the lack of snow has been a thorn in everyone’s side, but added that the resort has seen the investments in advanced snowmaking pay off in a very big way. She said Deer Valley purchased 41 additional energy-efficient snowmaking guns in the off-season to go along with the automated snow guns that have built-in weather stations and run automatically depending on the current climate.
"We do a lot of improvements each year and one that’s really consistent is the snowmaking upgrades," she said. "It’s definitely a priority."
Asked if it might be time to panic, Summers said the folks at Deer Valley are eagerly awaiting that string of sought-after storms to help build on the manmade snow.
"We’re definitely antsy," she said. "Everyone is ready for some powder. But we’ve completely sold out the last two days and people still came for the holidays. We are still making snow for four to five runs at a time, but January is a big booking month and it’d be nice if Mother Nature helps us out."
Steve Pastorino, director of public relations for Canyons Resort and Talisker Mountain Incorporated said the mood at Canyons remains high and employees and guests there are simply waiting for the snow.
"It’s disappointing, obviously, but we have made more snow than any time in our history this year," he said. "We have more of the mountain open than we ever would have in these conditions. What we have opened is in pretty decent condition.
"People are finding ways to entertain themselves here, but there’s nothing any of us can do to make it snow other than pray to snow gods."
Pastorino said the lack of natural snowfall hasn’t discouraged vacationers and added the resort is close to capacity in terms of current lodging numbers.
"The people are here and the people are still coming, but we’re not delivering the experience we’d like to with all 4,000 acres and 19 lifts open," he said. "It’s not uncommon to have pretty dry Decembers in Utah. We’ve been lucky and fortunate the last few years to have had really good seasons. The snow’s going to come. We’re not worried about it."
Andy Miller, communications manager at Park City Mountain Resort, was out on the hill Thursday afternoon working and talking with the snow groomers and said what is open on hill is in great condition.
"We’re just making snow," he said. "Definitely not hitting any panic button. The snow will come, we know that.
"We would love to be blanketed with snow like we were this time a year ago."