Tom Clyde: El Niño and hornets |

Tom Clyde: El Niño and hornets

Tom Clyde, Park Record columnist

This fall weather has been great. It’s about 10 degrees warmer than it should be, making for great conditions for avoiding responsibility and playing outside. It would also be great weather for wrapping up several projects around the ranch that really should be done before winter comes. I just can’t bring myself to waste a nice biking day on repair projects, so they are not getting done. If I wait long enough, winter will come and it will be too late. At least it worked that way last year when I didn’t get to them, and the year before that.

Shutting off the main irrigation canal is one job I did get done while it was warm. That usually involves getting pretty wet because there is always a stick or something caught in the headgate and it won’t close tight unless I get in the water and pull the stuff out of the way. That’s not a job to do when there is ice forming. So the water is off, the pipes are drained, and things are pretty well put to bed for winter. I might even put the snowblower on the back of the tractor while it’s still warm.

I was biking at Park City Mountain the other day. The trails are perfect and the colors up high are much better than expected. The aspens down low turned brown and the leaves fell off early. Up high, they didn’t get the fungus or whatever affected the lower trees, and it looked like fall is supposed to look. There is a lot of work left to do on the big remodel of the resort. The cable is in place on King Con but there are no chairs, so it hasn’t been tested yet. I didn’t notice whether Motherlode was finished or not. The new gondola towers are in, at least as far as Pinecone Ridge, but the cable (people who work on it call it the "rope") isn’t on the towers.

It’s hard to tell how far along the new restaurant is. They have built that in a very short time. The siding isn’t on the building yet, but it looks like the roof is on and the interior work is able to move ahead no matter what the weather does. Having functional bathrooms there is pretty important for opening. At the rate they have been moving, it ought to be ready. The construction crews on the lifts and buildings certainly have to be liking this weather.

We’re deep enough into the season that it should be turning any day now. There’s usually been a skiff of snow by now. My favorite transition was several years ago when I was mountain biking on a Tuesday in shorts and a T-shirt and two days later, on Thanksgiving Day, Jupiter Bowl was open with almost 5 feet of snow. Ever since then, I’ve come to expect conveniently timed and immediate transitions. The winters that build slowly, with lots of melting and mud along the way, really aren’t acceptable any more.

So what’s this winter going to bring? The experts keep pointing to a giant El Niño building in the Pacific. They compare it to the winter of 1997, which was a huge snow year here. But they also put out maps that show northern Utah in a kind of no-man’s land between unusually dry conditions to the north and unusually wet conditions to the south. There is an extremely high probability that it will be one or the other.

I finally spotted a hornet nest the other day. It’s big as a basketball and in the very top of the tree. The folklore theory is that, when the nests are big and high in the trees, it will be a snowy winter, and when the hornets nest low to the ground, it will be dry and cold. With the leaves mostly off the trees, I’ve been looking for nests. I’ve only found one.

Is one hornet nest sufficient data on which to base a totally unscientific forecast for the coming winter? Congress acts on less. I’d certainly feel better about jumping to unscientific conclusions if I had a few more hornet nests to consider. But you go with the data you have. So between the El gigantic Niño and one hornet nest, I’m calling for above-normal snow this winter. And if I’m wrong, it’s all the hornets’ fault.

In other news, I was shocked to hear that Playboy magazine announced that it will quit publishing nude photos of women. They will continue to print seductive photos, but no more nudes. This is an amazing news item because apparently Playboy magazine still exists. Who knew? I don’t think it affects the winter forecast in any way.

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.