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Snow pack is way below normal

Patrick Parkinson, Of the Record staff

It may be too little too late.

"If you have an absence of snow like this, especially for the people who live in Park City, the skiing won’t be as good," National Weather Service hydrologist Brian McInerney said. "In Park City when the skiing is poor there is a general malaise that goes over the entire community."

Winter began with a pummeling but since November high pressure has parked itself over Utah.

"It’s not moving," McInerney said, adding that storms split north and south have pounded resorts in Canada and New Mexico. "Where the high pressure is centered, there is an absence of any storm activity."

Snow pack near Thaynes Canyon at Park City Mountain Resort Friday measured 70 percent of normal, he said, adding that last February the same monitor measured water content at 130 percent of normal.

"It was good skiing all around," McInerney said, explaining that, "we’re just not getting the big accumulations. We need consecutive, large storm cycles."

At Parleys Summit this week the number of inches of water in the snow pack totaled 64 percent of normal, he said, adding that last year snow pack in that area was 110 percent of normal.

At a measuring station at Trial Lake, which is in the Uinta Mountains, recordings showed the snow pack at 56 percent of normal. Last year at this time the same monitor measured 125 percent, lamented McInerney.

The station at Chalk Creek east of Coalville measured one of the highest readings in Summit County with 81 percent of normal snow pack, McInerney said.

"Getting to normal conditions (this year) is less than 5 percent probability," he explained.

The dry spell baffles climate experts who say full reservoirs and recharged groundwater last fall meant the possibility for lots of snow.

"I was optimistic. Why this didn’t turn out, I think, is anyone’s guess," McInerney said stopping short of attributing the dearth of snow to global climate change. "We’ve had years like this in the past."

The state experienced a drought between 2001 and 2004 before heavy snowfall helped refill reservoirs, he said.

"When you look at what we have in storage, this will be OK," McInerney said.

A cool, wet spring though would help, he said, adding, "We don’t know what the spring is going to look like."

"We’re about 60 percent of normal," McInerney said.

Resorts with snowmaking equipment, however, are weathering the dry conditions.

"I’m from the East Coast, so a bad day in Utah is a good day anywhere else," said Libby Dowd, a spokeswoman at The Canyons. "Certainly the challenges have been when temperatures have been warm, but all in all snowmaking has been great and Mother Nature has come around in February."

Officials at Deer Valley Resort concur.

"The only grumblings have been from local people," said Chuck English, Deer Valley’s director of mountain operations. "The destination skiers who come to town have been raving to us about how great the season is."

Temperatures for snowmaking have been favorable, he said.

This week’s snowfall was more in keeping with what locals are used to.

"It seems like a lot more because we have been in such a dry slide for the past three months," he said. "When there are consecutive powder days, everybody’s mood is elevated and there hasn’t been much screaming and hollering these days."


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