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Park City snowfall: Mother Nature has not delivered any early gifts to skiers

Long-range projections call for a below-average winter, National Weather Service says

There is little snow at the lower elevations of the Park City area as the region suffers through a warm, dry start to the winter. The National Weather Service predictions on Friday did not call for snow through at least Thursday.
Jay Hamburger/Park Record

Mother Nature has not delivered any early gifts to Park City skiers and snowboarders.

As December nears, the area is suffering through an especially dry spell of weather. And until recent days, the temperatures remained too warm for Park City Mountain Resort and Deer Valley Resort to make the large amounts of snow that are crucial to the early part of the ski season.

PCMR was forced to delay the opening of the ski season. The start is set for Sunday after the resort had planned an opening prior to Thanksgiving. Deer Valley remains on schedule for a Dec. 4 opening.



Even as PCMR is poised to open, with Deer Valley’s start following a few days afterward, the short-range weather forecast offers little holiday cheer for skiers and snowboarders.

The National Weather Service predictions on Friday did not call for snow through at least Thursday. Daytime high temperatures on Saturday and Sunday were predicted to be in the 40s, but the highs were expected to climb into the 50s from Monday until Thursday, topping out at 55 on Monday. The low temperatures were predicted in the 20s and 30s.



It will be cold enough at some points through Thursday to make snow at the resorts, but the high temperatures will likely prevent extended snowmaking operations through at least early December.

A National Weather Service hydrologist who tracks storms and snow pack said in an interview an alteration in the weather pattern is not expected until, possibly, the middle of December.

Glen Merrill, who works in the National Weather Service offices in Salt Lake City, said a high-pressure system settled in over the region in late October and in November. The high pressure moved the track of storms to the north of Utah and kept temperatures in the area above normal, he said. Much of the early-season snow that fell prior to the high-pressure system settling in ultimately melted. He said the snow that fell at elevations below 9,000 feet essentially was lost.

Merrill, meanwhile, said predictions for December, January and February for the Park City area are “slightly leaning toward a below-average winter right now.”

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Nov. 18 issued an outlook for December, January and February that leans toward above-average temperatures for the Park City area, although the map puts the area toward the edge of above-average temperatures and a category of equal chances for above-average and below-average temperatures.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on the same day issued an outlook for precipitation for December, January and February that puts the Park City area in the category of equal chances of above average and below average for precipitation.

“It could still go in any direction,” Merrill said about the winter.

Although skiers and snowboarders are most interested in the snowfall possibilities as they await the opening of the resorts, government figures in Park City and Summit County will be closely watching the totals as well.

Water managers are especially interested in the snowfall totals in a winter. The spring runoff is crucial to the regional water supply in the summer and the fall. The Park City area, like much of the rest of Utah, is mired in one of the worst droughts on record, and a strong winter will be needed to pull the state out of the crisis.

Emergency managers, meanwhile, watch the snowfall statistics as they prepare for the next wildfire season, which usually starts in earnest in the middle of the summer and lasts into the fall. The amount of snow that falls in a winter can influence the wildfire danger in the months afterward. The snow in a below-average year can melt more quickly, leading to the possibility of drier vegetation and increased danger of wildfires.

“We do have a lot of time to bounce back,” Merrill said.


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