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Tom Kelly: Anticipation and patience

Tom Kelly
Ridgelines
There’s nothing like it! The Park City ridgeline offers more skiing than any resort in North America.
Photo by Tom Kelly

The first rays of sun illuminated the peaks along the ridgeline. I glanced out to the horizon for any signs of new snow. Binoculars brought things into focus as I scanned the horizon for tell-tale signs of snow guns working overtime in the sub-freezing temperatures.

The upper face of Bald Mountain at Deer Valley Resort was looking pretty good. Scanning to the west, Jupiter Peak stood sentinel over Park City Mountain Resort with a beautiful blanket of clean snow. I peered over to Canyons, trying to get a glimpse of Kokopelli — the best early season choice. To the right, the big broad shoulders of Echo and Eclipse off Sun Peak Express were looking sweet.

If you’re a skier, your fall is framed with anticipation, looking for any sign that the ski season is coming. It tests your patience. The anticipation begins in August, though mostly anecdotal at that point. It starts to pick up after Miners’ Day in September. By October, it’s full-on nervousness.



The anticipation process starts with a review of the Farmer’s Almanac. Not much science here. But it has proven to work. Let’s see what enthusiasm it might bring.

“According to the Farmers’ Almanac’s time-tested weather formula, there will be snow, but probably not as much as snow-sport enthusiasts might dream of. On average, we’ll see near-normal amounts of the white stuff from coast to coast. However, there will be notable month-to-month variations.”



OK, near normal. I can live with that. Maybe. I read it again and wondered, “Hey, maybe I could get a copy writing job here.” Who writes this stuff?

As September winds down, you start to do your inventory in earnest. Did I get that Epic Pass renewed? In which jacket did I leave my passes last spring? Oh, and where are my skis? There have been years where a pair was missing. And, yes, I did leave a pair at the Deer Valley ski valet one year.

It’s time to try on the boots. How is that boot fitting from last January feeling? A couple visits to the podiatrist helps on my persistent ingrown toenails. I just have to make it through the season without toe pain. It’s one thing to talk about your aching knees at the Umbrella Bar after skiing, but you really can’t make much of a story out of sore toes.

In October you start tallying snowfall. This is a really bad idea. After more than three decades in town, I can tell you that October snowfall is only an indicator of October snowfall. It’s a tease that never materializes. Still, it’s enough for my neighbor to start his season of Instagram posts of his backcountry adventures.

One good thing about October snowfall is that it’s a good time to test your apps. It’s a month to live vicariously through Open Snow. Check it out, 48 inches of new snow this week at Alta. You wonder how this will help you in December.

As we head into November and that October snowfall becomes history, the nervousness really sets in. Is it ever going to snow for real? That said, you take advantage of 60-degree Sundays to get that yard work done before winter. It’s time to order wildflower seeds to throw down before that first truly lasting snowfall.

November is also the time to start monitoring the 14-day storm watch at Powderbuoy. Sometimes it’s accurate, sometimes it’s not. But it’s always fun to follow.

Sometime around Nov. 8 my Facebook memory for the day was a photo from the Silver Lake base at Deer Valley from 11 years ago. Snow guns were blasting. Surface conditions looked fantastic. And it was still nearly a month until DV’s opening. Those were the days.

Park Record columnist Tom Kelly.
Courtesy photo

I started thinking back to the days of America’s Opening over Thanksgiving. How did we pull that off? America’s Opening moved to November to showcase early snow. That seems to have gone away. Then I remembered the 2001 World Cup that started on Nov. 16! Tough to imagine that today.

It was tough to get the news last week on the season opening delays. It’s just another test of our patience. Maybe I’ll head over to Little Cottonwood this weekend to get my fix.

Most of all, it’s nice to think about the season ahead — maskless lift lines, full capacity chairlifts and an opportunity to personally engage again with visitors to our wonderful little ski town.

Wisconsin native Tom Kelly landed in Park City in 1988 (still working on becoming an official local). Inducted into the U.S. Ski & Snowboard Hall of Fame in 2019, he is most known for his role as lead spokesperson for Olympic skiing and snowboarding for over 30 years until his retirement in 2018. This is his 52nd season on skis.


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