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March 17, 2017
This weather is very strange. It's been as high as 60 degrees at my house, and often isn't freezing at night. It's an indication of the snow depth that all this warm weather hasn't melted things back much. There are no bare spots in the yard, though it is melting back from the plowed areas. Every bit we can melt off now, slowly, is water that won't be washing down the streets in June, so I'm all for it.
Skiing is actually pretty good, for the magical two hours between a slight thaw and knee destroying slush. I had fun up in bowl for a while on some slushy soft moguls. From there down, however, was a terrifying mix of ice, slush and Texans. In hindsight, calling a cab to pick me up at Empire Lodge would have been money well spent. My friend always wants to use the valet parking at the Montage on days like that. It's a lot less expensive than a knee re-build.
Skiing down, I can't help but feel a bit sorry for some of the folks on the hill. They ski one week a year, book the trip around the kids' spring break and their own aversion to cold weather, and all they know is conditions like this. They may never have experienced the joy of mid-winter snow. I'd give up on the sport if this were it. There are plenty of other ways to hurt myself out there. The resorts have done an amazing job with grooming and making the most of it, but there's no getting around corduroy that is frozen solid in the morning, and piles of joint-mangling slush by afternoon. Those paying the walk-up rate seem determined to ski from 9 to 4, no matter how sloppy it gets. This is about as difficult as skiing gets.
Spoiled locals get to ski the sweet spot between 10 and noon and go home. I went home the other day and got my road bike out. People have been riding a lot recently. I've put it off because of the dirt road from my house out to the highway. It's been so bad that if I wanted to go for a bike ride, I would really need to ferry the bike out in the car to avoid filling my shoes, pedals, and drive-train with mud. It mostly dried out, and I went for a wonderful ride filled with the wonders of spring.
The winter’s accumulation of empty beer cans was in full bloom along the road. Somebody who lives along there is both a slob and an alcoholic.
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It was an easy cruise, which was just perfect for the first day on the bike since last fall. Along the way, there were redwing blackbirds in the cattails left over from last year. They've been back for a couple of weeks, but I got to hear them all along the ride. In a pasture down the road from my place, there were a dozen or more sandhill cranes. They'd found a meadow that had melted off more than the rest, and were looking for a meal. A flock of Canada geese flew overhead. Newborn calves played in the meadows.
The winter's accumulation of empty beer cans was in full bloom along the road. Somebody who lives along there is both a slob and an alcoholic. It's a little local back road, so you have to assume the litter is also local in origin. This winter was not kind to the pavement, and I found myself having to pay close attention to the potholes in front of me. But it felt so good to get out.
I watch the Trial Lake snow stake up in the Uintas like a hawk. I can read it online, and see how much water is perched high above my house. It all has to flow by at some point. The 30-year average (nobody will call anything having to do with weather "normal") for this time of year is about 20 inches of water in the snow pack. Right now there are 40. The melt-off begins around May 1 at that elevation, and the average maximum water content is only about 23 inches. So I've got 40 inches up there already, and it's a safe bet that we aren't finished with it yet.
It's a gamble. If it stays cool through spring and early summer, and it comes out slowly, I'll have irrigation water clear into September and everything is awesome. If we get a week in the 80s, my house is likely to be floating in Jordanelle. Flood insurance is expensive, and it doesn't do a thing to prevent the flood. But it would help put things back together again if the river changes course and comes roaring through the living room.
All I can say is that we should remember these spectacular spring days, and look back fondly when it is snowing again in May.
Tom Clyde practiced law in Park City for many years. He lives on a working ranch in Woodland and has been writing this column since 1986.
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