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Little snowpack means mountains are ready to greet campers

Campgrounds almost snow free, set to open soon

Published: Friday, May 11 2012 12:07 a.m. MDT

Little snow is visible at the Spruces campground, Tuesday, May 8, 2012.

Ravell Call, Ravell Call, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Weekend campers can begin to revel soon in the promise of outdoor fun in Utah's mountains with the early disappearance of the state's snowpack.

"I got nothing, seriously," replied a mournful Randy Julander, Utah's Snow Survey supervisor with the Natural Resources Conservation Service, when asked about the snow out there.

"Stream flows are going down at a time when they should be going up. The snow melt is all but over. It's pretty ugly."

It's a stark contrast to last year, when record snowfall kept the Mirror Lake Highway and even the Spruces campground in Big Cottonwood Canyon closed into July.

"You couldn't get a more night and day comparison," Julander said. "Last year we were barely starting to melt snow right now across the Colorado basin and this year, it is over and done."

Most campgrounds across the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest will be open a week before Memorial Day weekend or by that weekend, said spokeswoman Kathy Jo Pollock.

"We don't have anything open yet," she said Wednesday, pointing to clearing of debris, water quality tests and other maintenance to be done. People can check out possible sites at FS.usda.gov/uwcnf.

She, too, remarked on the staggering snowpack that shortened everyone's camping season last year.

"We've just got a little bit of snow left at Spruces campground," she said.

Some high elevation campgrounds and byways such as the Alpine Loop between American Fork and Provo canyons may remain off-limits until June, but Utah Department of Transportation workers are hoping to open Mirror Lake Highway before Memorial Day weekend, said spokesman Adan Carrillo.

"A lot of snow has been melted away by Mother Nature," he said. "Usually we will still have some more snow storms into May and we run the risk of getting dumped on."

Not so much this year, he said, since it looks like any chance of new mountain snow has evaporated like the runoff.

This past March was the warmest on record in the United States (since 1895) when temperatures were averaged across the country. Most of Utah, in particular, is at risk for extreme or severe drought given the dry pattern, which hasn't shown any signs of letting up, according to the National Climatic Data Center.

Julander said about the only positive to the pattern is people can enjoy the mountains.

"It may be a little soft, little muddy, but there are tons of places you can get to."

Email: amyjoi@desnews.com

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