Recalibrating ski season
This has been a very strange winter. There were some bitter, pipe-bursting cold nights between Christmas and New Year’s, but for most of the season, it has been unseasonably warm. I’m not whining about warm. A little of that -27 goes a long way. But it apparently is never going to snow again. We’re done. At least until about the first of May, when it will hit like a Biblical plague. Nature has a way of evening things out, and the only way this season can get back to whatever normal is, is with blizzards in May. There’s something to look forward to.
The skiing is OK but unexciting. I’ve been at several gatherings lately where longtime locals all admit, despite all logic, the skiing has actually been very good. They say that in a tone of voice usually reserved for discussions of unpleasant rashes. But it is good. Talk to vacationers, and they couldn’t be happier. Bluebird days (above the persistent fog layer), soft snow that has been perfectly groomed, and temperatures that not even a Floridian can complain about. "Is it like this all the time here?" they ask. I sure hope not. It’s February. It’s supposed to be miserable.
I’m still getting out a lot. There was a little new snow during the week. In the diminished expectations of this lousy snow year, it counted as a powder day. Against all kinds of better judgment, we hiked into Puma Bowl, and it was great. The snow underneath was soft because it hadn’t frozen in several nights. There had to be at least 50mm of new snow, and in a couple of places, it had blown in, and was maybe 75mm deep. It was very good skiing.
Describing the new snow accumulations in the metric system seems to help. It sounds like a lot more snow when you say 50mm instead of 2 inches. Nobody in the US has the faintest idea what 50mm looks like. It sounds huge. If the resorts advertised nationally that we received 50mm of snow in the last 72 hours, it would get some attention. Flights would be booked. We’d have TV weathermen and women cruising the streets in their new, tricked-out storm chaser SUVs reporting that the streets were slightly damp because, despite 50mm of new snow, it didn’t stick to the 50 degree pavement. Still, UDOT will salt the bejeesus out of it because there are just so many hours in the day that the guys can sit in the equipment shed playing canasta waiting for something to plow.
The skiing is actually pretty good, it’s just not exciting. Because we put up with April and May in Summit County, we are entitled to exciting ski conditions in February. Good just isn’t good enough. That run down Puma Bowl was something I’d normally do three or four times a day. I’d be in Jupiter exploring new lines through the trees, or going off the cornice in Scotts for a soft landing in knee-deep powder. I’d finish a long morning of skiing with my legs throbbing, my heart pounding, and my brain uncluttered and energized. In other words, there would be enough exercise involved to justify a huge Deer Valley lunch.
This year, after a morning of high-speed cruising on yet another day of perfectly groomed and indistinguishable runs, I quit early because I lose interest. There isn’t enough music on all the iPods in the world to keep it going all day. The regular ski groups have dwindled with the interest level, and it’s now the same three or four die-hards. I don’t mean to take anything away from them or disparage their pleasant company, but the conversation has become a little stale. The rest of the gang doesn’t believe the skiing is worth taking time away from alphabetizing their tool sheds, and won’t come out.
So I end up eating an unearned lunch, getting fat, and going home early. I take the dogs out for long, muddy walks to get some exercise. I got my road bike out. I was all set to go for a ride, and then realized that the quarter mile from my house to the nearest paved road was ankle deep mud. To go for a bike ride, I needed to do a car shuttle out to the highway. So even that doesn’t quite work in these conditions. This is why we hate May.
What do you do? I’ve practically washed the paint off the car to no avail. I was all set to buy new ski gear — skis, boots, new-fangled telemark bindings, from soup to nuts. But I just can’t justify pulling the trigger on that for conditions like these. Recalibrated to metric or not, the bottom line is we really need snow.
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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Skier, mountaineer, environmental activist and Park City resident Caroline Gleich writes that Andy Beerman’s commitment to the climate is vital to Park City’s future.