The cold spell slowed Utah's ski season, but it didn't freeze it up. Skiers skied during the cold days, but not as many as might have had it been warmer.
Still, post-holiday figures show that the 1990-91 season isn't that far behind and in some cases is ahead of the 1989-90 ski year.The reason is that most resorts opened on schedule and offered good skiing when they did open. Had the unseasonably cold weather not hit, resorts would be far ahead of last year.
According to Doug Harmon, area manager at ParkWest, the chill had an effect on business, but the last five days helped buffer it. With the inversion over Salt Lake City, temperatures and skiing have been ideal.
Consensus of many skiers at the resort this week was, in fact, that skiing was good. One skier said it was the best early-season skiing he's had in several years. Another called it good "January" conditions. A Florida skier, skiing ParkWest for the first time, called it a "great discovery."
Generally, snow cover was good. There were spots on steeper faces where rocks and branches shown through.
Looking at this season, Harmon pointed out that the next three weeks will be important.
"For one thing, it will tell where the locals are . . . If the Utah skiers will keep skiing," he said.
Onno Weiringa, general manger of Alta, pointed out that the only thing that cuts skier traffic down faster than a cold spell is a closing of the canyon.
"I'd say if it had been warmer, we'd have had 25 percent more skiers. As it is we're real even with last year," he said.
As far as ski conditions, he said that because of new grooming techniques and snow control, "we're coming out of the holidays in better shape than we ever have before."
Mark Menlove, communication director at Park City, said that even with the cold temperatures the area is running slightly ahead of last year's figures.
"We went into the holidays quite a bit ahead of last year, but we lost it with the cold temperatures. Right now we're making up ground. This week we're way ahead of the same week last year," he said.
Consensus among several areas is that the number of local skiers and out-of-state skiers was about even. And, that if skier trends continue this could be a record year.
Brighton is reporting the greatest depth with 54 inches, followed by Alta with 53, Solitude with 51 and Snowbird with 47. Brian Head is reporting 33 inches, but more snow is expected there this week.