Our snowmakers have been working around the clock, so we said it is time to put in a call to Mother Nature. —Krista Parry
PARK CITY — Some have danced for rain.
In Utah and other parts of the West, it's all about the white stuff.
It's why officials at Park City Mountain Resort brought in members of the Northern Ute Tribe to perform a snow blessing.
On Saturday, they prayed, danced and chanted as hundreds of helmet-clad skiers and boarders watched and hoped the ritual would elicit more cooperation from Mother Nature.
A similar gathering in California was planned for Sunday at Lake Tahoe with dancers from the Paiute, Shoshone and Washoe tribes.
If ever there was a year it is needed, this is it.
December was among the driest on record in Northern California. The California Department of Water Resources reported the snowpack water content throughout the Sierra Nevada at 19 percent of the average for early January.
In Utah, snow levels are less than 50 percent of average.
Park City has been forced to make 40 percent more snow than at this time last year.
"Our snowmakers have been working around the clock, so we said it is time to put in a call to Mother Nature," said Krista Parry, marketing director at Park City Mountain Resort.
She also called on a friend, Frank Arrowchis, who led a similar ceremony at Arches National Park to bless the Olympic Flame during the torch relay in 2002.
Arrowchis led the prayer Saturday in English, followed by one in Ute by Spiritual Leader Albert Lance Manning.
"We hope our prayers are answered because it's for everybody," Arrowchis said. "Prayer has a lot of power if it's done right. We hope we do get some snow. If we don't, we tried."
Forecasters say good news may be on the way as a new storm pattern is emerging that could start dumping snow in Utah and the rest of the West next week.
Brian McInerney, a hydrologist with the National Weather Service in Salt Lake city, said the high pressure ridge that has dominated since mid-November is disappearing.
That will allow storms to track in from the West again.
He said the jet stream, as it is currently tracking, may push much of the moisture about 100 miles north of Salt Lake City.
"But if the storm track goes down a little south, we could be in for lot of snow starting next Wednesday, with most precipitation coming by the weekend," McInerney said. "The key is the high pressure is breaking down and opening the door for storm activity."
On Saturday, the temperature in Park City was 43 degrees at noon, with joggers in shorts and not a cloud in the sky.
The temperature reading was about twice as high as the base in many areas, though Alta, Snowbird and Brighton were reporting 37-inch bases.
At this time last year Park City had a 77-inch base with 112 of 114 runs open and every lift operating. On Saturday it had only 58 runs open and three lifts still closed.
McInerney said a weather service recording station inside Park City indicates it has received 5 inches of snow-water equivalent this season, 42 percent of normal and less than a third what the resort had at this time last year.
The lack of snow has sparked plenty of rumors that some resorts in Utah — particularly Canyons — might be closing for several weeks.
Nathan Rafferty, president of Ski Utah, said those rumors are false.
"I'm not going to blow smoke and tell you it is what it was last year," he said. "But the snow from Mother Nature and what resorts (produce) have made for skiing that's a lot better than you think."
Just don't tell a powder-hound, or as Rafferty says, "spoiled locals dying to get out and ski some powder."
"It's one thing if you're from Salt Lake City or a Utah local and are used to big powder days," Rafferty said.
"It's another to be a family from Cincinnati, Ohio, absolutely thrilled to be on an intermediate and beginner slope under blue skies and warm temperatures. The destination skiers who bring a good chunk of money to the state are pretty thrilled."
Still, Mike Larsen, 39 of Alpine, who was skiing Saturday with his son, Davis, can't forget last year.
There was so much snow under one lift the resort had to close the run because it was too high. Now the run has more rocks than snow.