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Ray Grass: Alta snow is news in India

Published: Thursday, Feb. 8 2007 12:35 a.m. MST

Imagine my surprise ... sitting at the breakfast counter a half a world away, in Goa, India, in early January. ... temperature 85 degrees and rising, not a cloud in the sky and dressed in the attire of the day — flip-flops, shorts and white T-shirt — reading the morning paper.

There on the pages of the Herald, the largest English daily in Goa, started in 1900, were stories pointing out the mistake of not awarding Gandhi the Nobel Prize, a proposal to beautify the zoo and a notice of repair work on a highway.

Then something caught my eye. It was a picture of a snow-covered mountain and a skier standing in the foreground. The headline read, "Stepping back in time at ski resort."

The picture looked vaguely familiar. Then I read the caption — "Skier heads down a trail at Utah's Alta ski area. The site has been open for 68 years." — and the dateline: Alta, Utah.

Realize, now, 80 degrees is about as cold as it gets in Goa. The closest thing they get to snow is the ice crystals on the ice cream cartons at Baskin and Robbins. ... And the paper picks up on a story about Alta.

The story was about Alta's ability to fend off change in its 68 years of operation. There have, of course, been changes, many, including a new Watson Shelter, a high-speed lift and even a little snowmaking.

Granted, Alta has been able to stay true to its creed, which is that Alta is for skiers.

Oddly enough, the story quoted a Colorado skier claiming that once he skied Utah snow, he was hooked and now makes an "annual pilgrimage" to Utah. This couldn't have made Colorado resorts happy.

There I was, a world away, reading about Alta and snow and skiing, and stopping long enough to turn toward the air conditioner and flipping the switch to high.

Seeing the article made me stop and wonder, for the first time in a couple of weeks, just how the skiing was, how cold the temperatures had dipped and who was covering my ski beat while I was vacationing on the tropical beaches of Goa.

Funny how you never seem to miss something until you're away from it — far, far away.

Strange as it may sound, I missed the cold a little, especially later in the day when I found it necessary to run into the ocean spray to escape the burning sand.

A few days later there was a story talking about how poor snowfall put off skiing in India. Somehow, I never tied India to skiing. Cricket and football or soccer, yes. That's about all you get on the sports channels.

The ski resort the paper was reporting on was in Himachal Pradesh, near the northern border and not too awfully far from Mount Everest. Seems as though it hadn't snowed in three weeks.

So, not only was Europe and the East Coast of the United States going through lean snowfalls, but India, of all places, was suffering the same problem.

Things like this make you realize that Utah and skiing is big news — even a half a world away.