Only in the Wasatch Mountains. One day fall, the very next winter . . . and skiing.
Utah resorts got as much as 32 inches of new snow Tuesday. It was enough for six resorts to open and guarantee opening dates for a half-dozen more.Resort personnel couldn't get to the snowcats fast enough to begin packing and grooming. It's been three years since ski areas have had this much snow to work with at this time of year.
Last year the first good snow didn't come until after Thanksgiving. As a result, most resorts lost the lucrative weekend business. Many areas view Thanksgiving as the cornerstone of a good season. Without it there is no cushion against any later problems.
But, on cue, it snowed Tuesday and this weekend skiers will have a choice of resorts.
Park City was the state's first area to open. For two weeks, now, the area has been offering limited skiing on two lifts on man-made snow.
By Friday, reported Robbie Beck McHugh, marketing director, skiers will be able to ski from top to bottom on "very good snow."
McHugh said the resort got 24 inches of new snow at the summit.
Because Park City had its open shingle out early, and even though skiing was limited to a few runs, it benefited. McHugh said that instead of having cancellations, which other resorts experienced as the holiday drew closer and closed signs still hung, reservations there picked up.
Brighton, the second area to open with a combination of man-made and natural snow, got the heaviest snowfall - 32 inches - from the storm.
It was enough, said area manager Randy Doyle, to open all areas off Snake Creek, Majestic and Mary's lifts for "one of the better Thanksgivings we've had for several years." He said he hopes to have the Millicent side of the area open by the weekend.
Alta will open on Friday. Onno Wieringa, general manger, said the area received 30 inches of new snow.
"This gives us a 44-inch base mid-mountain, which is really pretty good for this time of year. Skiers will still have to take it easy on some runs, but generally skiing will be very good," he said.
As snowstorms go, this one couldn't have been better for the ski areas if they had ordered it in special. The early flakes were wet and heavy, which is exactly what is needed to make a good, firm base. Later in the afternoon the temperatures dropped and snow lightened up, which makes for ideal skiing.
"The first snow was wet and heavy. The first 12 inches was 12 percent (moisture) which is good snow for packing. We got 27 inches out of the storm. It's funny, but 24 hours before everything was doom and gloom. Now it's winter," said John Loomis, mountain manager at Snowbird.
Snowbird will have most of its mountain open to skiers on Thursday.
According to Wendy Jacobson, of the Snowbird marketing department, there were some cancellations last week, "but really not many. Most people said they were going to chance it. We've gotten a lot of calls since the snow," she said.
Solitude opened its Moonbeam and Link lifts on Wednesday and planned to have the entire mountain open by Friday. Solitude's Nordic Center and cross country trail system will also be open.
According to resort owner Gary DeSeelhorst, the area got 30 inches of new snow . . . "Which made everything just great. It really does look good. We've got a good cover and they tell me skiing is really good."
Powder Mountain will open its Timberline and Sundance lifts to both day and night skiing on Friday. It received 24 inches of snow from the Tuesday storm.
Not every resort got all the snow needed to open. Snowbasin, east of Ogden, received about 18 inches, which made for the start of a good base but it wasn't enough to open for Thanksgiving.
Brian Head, east of Cedar City, also came up a little short. It got 16 inches of snow, but needs at least another foot to be able to open the mountain.
Other resorts got enough snow to open, but have scheduled dates after the holiday.
Deer Valley, Sundance and Beaver Mountain are scheduled to open on Dec. 1; ParkWest is shooting for Dec. 7; and Elk Meadows has a target date of Dec. 15.
The forecast is for good weather over the weekend, with the next storm possibly coming in Monday.
Here is the latest report on snow depths at the different resorts.
Alta - 43 inches - 4 of 8 lifts open.
Brighton - 38 inches - Mary, Majestic and Snake Creek open.
Park City - 21 inches - 3 lifts, 4 runs open.
Snowbird - 37 inches - all lifts open.
Solitude - 32 inches - 5 of 7 lifts open.
Road conditions - Dry and clear.
Weather - Variable clouds, scattered snow flurries. Lows 30s to 40s.
Surface Conditions - Powder and packed powder.