Snowmobilers seek places to ride amid sparse snowpack

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 17 2012 4:21 p.m. MST

Dee Eggett, snowmobile rental manager at Daniel's Summit Lodge in Wasatch County, rides near the lodge Monday, Jan. 16, 2012. The lodge is one of the few places in Utah with enough snow for snowmobiling, though not all of its groomed trails have opened this winter.

Geoff Liesik, Deseret News

HEBER CITY — Guy Hassell admits there was skepticism about the success of his family's winter outing.

"We were thinking there's no way we'll be snowmobiling," the South Ogden father of three said Monday.

"Driving up in the mountains, all you could see was dirt," Hassell said. "But when you get up here, and you make that turn in, it's unbelievable."

That sense of disbelief — more than the anemic snowpack — has been the biggest hurdle for the owners of Daniel's Summit Lodge this year.

"We have guests that come every year that will say, 'You had more snow last May than you have now,' but when they go out on the trails, they have just as good a time as they've ever had," said Deanne Hill, marketing director for the resort.

But even with Monday's snowfall, the fields and hills around nearby Strawberry Reservoir are still brown and bare. The area is a favorite destinations for snowmobilers. The lack of snow there is the disturbing norm for Utah this winter.

"It's not a good thing," said Utah Snowmobile Association President Brian Howarth.

Howarth called riding opportunities in the state "scarce" right now, noting that a number of snowmobiling events set for this weekend are in jeopardy of being canceled.

"Right now it's just kind of a waiting game," Howarth said. 

Utah State Parks and Recreation crews are also waiting on more snow before they resume grooming operations at 10 of the 11 snowmobiling complexes in the state. Only the Logan Canyon Complex currently has enough snow for grooming, according to Chris Haller, the state's OHV program coordinator. 

There are at least eight trails in Logan Canyon. Only three trails are being groomed, Haller said. "We don't have the snow."

Back at Daniel's Summit Lodge, most of the people renting snowmobiles are from out of state, Hill said. She speculated that most Utahns believe if people were still golfing in December, there can't be any snow worth riding.

"They're the hardest to convince that there's enough snow, because they are looking around and seeing no snow where they are, and they don't believe that we have snow," Hill said.

Not all of the trails around the lodge are open, but there is still more snow there than elsewhere in the state. Elevation is the difference maker for Daniel's Summit, Hill said.

"We start at 8,500 feet, so our trails go up from there," she said. "Definitely our location is why we have that little block of snow that not everywhere else has."

That doesn't mean the resort isn't hoping for more of the white stuff to fall.

"We're crossing our fingers, doing the dance, whatever we need to do to get that snow," Hill said. 

E-mail: gliesik@desnews.com Twitter: GeoffLiesik

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