Update: Last call for powder; Utah spring skiing is better than ever
PARK CITY - Closing in on his 100th ski day of the season, 63-year-old Art Smith reveled in the snow conditions Monday at The Canyons Resort.
"It's tracked powder, but it's still soft," said the retired U.S. Postal Service employee and Murray resident. "And if you can ski the trees, you can get untracked powder."
The graceful Smith had no problem weaving through the trees and, having skied for nearly 30 years at The Canyons (and ParkWest and Wolf Mountain before that), he had his favored hidden shots that only a veteran can know. For him, it was an invigorating and relaxing way to spend a late March day, enjoying a still-deepening Wasatch Mountain snowpack that ranged from 97 inches at Sundance to 162 inches at Alta.
Those kinds of snow totals blew away Brian and Terri Jeffers of suburban Pittsburgh. "I looked at The Canyons' Web site and the base [111 inches on Monday] was astounding," said Brian Jeffers, noting that Pennsylvania resorts where he usually skis typically have 30- inch bases for much of the year. "We don't have much to compare."
Utah resorts are wrapping up another banner season, one marked by consistent storms that frequently replenished bases and kept the snowpack from becoming bullet hard.
"We haven't had the 100-inch storm cycle," said Snowbird Ski & Summer Resort marketing director Dave Fields, referring to monster storms that park over Salt Lake's Cottonwood Canyons for two or three days and dump 80 to 100 inches of snow. "But we've had a lot of 8- to 14-inch storms. People have skied a lot of powder."
Snowbird plans to remain open through May 14, about a month longer than most Utah resorts, whose closing dates coincide with Easter weekend (April 15-16). Beaver Mountain and a couple of lower- elevation resorts, Sundance and Wolf Mountain, are closing SaturdayApril 1.
"We've had a huge season this year, our best ever. We had plenty of snow and a large number of skier visits," said Sundance spokeswoman Lucy Ridolphi.
Beaver Mountain was on track to post stellar ski numbers when Harry's Dream Lift, its longest chair, broke down Feb. 28. Since that lift was to be replaced this summer, the projected $50,000 repair price prompted owner Ted Seeholzer to leave it down and to use wagons and snow machines to move skiers to the impacted side of the resort above Logan.
Other than that, said Seeholzer, "we've had a good snow year, probably as good as we've had in years. We had picked up 7,000 skier days in December and January. That's a lot for us to pick up that many additional skier days. But we're losing ground with that [Harry's Dream] lift being down. People like that lift."
Southwestern Utah's Brian Head Resort got off to a slow start, which hurt Christmas business. But resort general manager Henry Hornberger said "in January we started getting snow and getting strong visitation. Snow-wise we're sitting great, and business has stayed strong."
National skiing and snowboarding magazine stories about this type of snow prompted Brad and Shelley Hobbs of Midland, Mich. to bring their teenage sons, Aaron and Cody, to Park City for a spring ski vacation.
"For us to get into good skiing back home we have to drive two to four hours," Brad Hobbs said Monday at The Canyons. Added Shelley: "Our sons were [psyched] because they were doing powder up to their thighs."
Even a skier as young as 7-year-old Nick Rose appreciates that kind of snow.
"It feels like you're floating on top of the clouds," the Chicago boy said.