Powder days — Slow start gives way to near epic season

Published: Thursday, Feb. 14 2008 12:00 a.m. MST

Skier enjoys the snow at Solitude Ski Resort in Little Cottonwood Canyon. Resorts are reporting more than 100-inch bases.

Tom Smart, Deseret Morning News

SNOWBIRD — At first, skiers and snowboarders wondered if it would ever snow.

In November, Snowbird received a total of 11 inches of natural snow.

Then skiers and boarders wondered if it would ever stop snowing.

In January, Alta received a record 179 inches, and there were very few blue-sky days.

And now, skiers and snowboarders can rest assured that the second half of the ski season won't lack snow.

Consider these points:

• Some Utah resorts are 140 percent of average for their year-to-date snowfall.

• Park City has had 44 powder days thus far this season.

• Powder Mountain had eight days where it received more than 10 inches of new snow in January.

• Alta received 179 inches of snow in January, which tied an all-time record originally set in 1996. Long-term average for January is 92.22 inches.

• Solitude averaged seven inches of new snow a day in December.

• Snowbird averaged five inches a day through January.

• Alta has had 49 days where it reported new snow this season and 17 days where 24-hour totals were more than 10 inches.

• Alta had a total of 404 inches in all of 2006-07. It hit 404 inches for this season back on Feb. 1. Its current total is 467 inches. Snowbird had 365 inches in 2006-07. It hit 367 inches on Feb. 4. The long-term average for the season for both resorts is 500 inches.

• In the first eight days of February, Alta received 51.5 inches of new snow. The long-term average for February is 89.4 inches.

• Since 1981, Alta has recorded seven seasons where totals went over the 600-inch mark, which amounts to enough snow to bury a six-story building. Those seasons were: 1981-82 (748), 1982-83 (687), 1983-84 (708.5), 1996-97 (620.5), 1997-98 (659.5), 2004-05 (697.5) and 2005-06 (641).

• And, the two snowiest months are typically March and April, which means a record could well be in the making.

Back in mid-November, no one would have ever guessed snow totals would be this high midway through the season.

Only four resorts were able to open for the Thanksgiving holiday, and only then because of man-made snow equipment.

Then, on Dec. 1 it started to snow. Snowbird received a foot.

Since then, the phones have been ringing and parking lots have been full.

"Our call volume has been consistently strong since early January. The great snow has given people reasons to book all the way through March. Early indicators are that Presidents week is looking great, and with Easter falling on March 23, we are encouraged about March," said Elizabeth Dowd, public relations manager at The Canyons.

"The local business is also looking good, as the great conditions have brought out the locals."

The constant string of storms resulted in some hardships, especially for local skiers. There have been several days when both Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons were closed for avalanche control.

There have also been fewer blue-sky ski days that typically attract locals.

Laura Schaffer, director of public relations at Snowbird, said that over the weekend it was obvious that "people were out looking for and enjoying those clear, blue skies. You could tell they were happy to see the clear skies."