The change came none too soon. After two slow starts, it appears this ski season will get out of the gates on time. Utah's ski season is officially open.
Monday's storm, along with a little help from snow guns, allowed Brighton to fire the starting gun for the 1988-89 ski season early Wednesday. Powder Mountain followed with night skiing that evening. With more help from the storm expected to arrive Thursday, more than two dozen additional lifts will begin operating Friday morning.Late-arriving snow forced most Utah ski areas to miss the important Thanksgiving holidays in both 1986 and 1987. Last year only two resorts were open - Elk Meadows/Mount Holly and Brian Head.
A heavy storm Thursday, as predicted, would allow 11 of Utah's 15 ski areas to open for the holidays. It also would allow Alta tostart its 50th anniversary celebration and the younger Park City its 25th anniversary. And it would mean the Mahre brothers, Steve and Phil, can begin a new career - pro ski racing. The two are scheduled to start their pro ski debut during Park City's third annual American's Opening that starts Thanksgiving Day.
The turn in weather also allowed Utah areas to make what nature is sometimes slow in supplying - snow. Temperatures dropped enough to allow Park City to test its latest $1 million investment in snowmaking equipment, Brighton its new system, and Alta and Snowbird their portable systems.
The following is a brief look at the ski areas - what's new, target openings and adult day pass prices:
Alta - One more storm. That's what it would take, says Chic Morton of Alta, to get the area started on its 50th ski season, "Hopefully," he adds, "that'll be Friday." What improvements were made at Alta over the summer are now covered by snow. Morton said extensive work was put into grooming the hill, especially around the Supreme Lift. An adult lift ticket went from $16 to $18.
Beaver Mountain - The big news here is that lifts were tied into the regular power lines and taken off the generators. Last year a fire in the generators forced the area to close for over a week. An adult day pass is $14.
Brian Head - A few more inches will mean Brian Head will open for the weekend, says Rene Meyer.Summer work centered around run improvements. "We did a lot of clearing and widening," he said. "We also added a coin-operated ski race course and NASTAR racing." An adult day pass went from $21 to $22 this season.
Blue Mountain - The area near Monticello in Southern Utah got less than two inches out of the Monday storm. Plans are to open its single Pama-lift sometime before Christmas. Plans are also in the mill to have a chairlift built there within a couple of years. An adult day pass is $10.
Brighton - Once again, Brighton holds bragging rights as the first Utah area to open. This time, however, dual thanks must go to nature and snow guns. This past summer Brighton put in a whole new system, says Mike Doyle, area co-manager, "that will cover over 50 acres, most of it on Majestic." In places, he adds, there is between 5 and 6 feet of snow. Here, too, crews spent a good part of the summer grooming runs, concentrating on the Snake Creek area,which was opened just four years ago. An adult day pass is $11 weekdays and $17 weekends and holiday. This is up from $10 and $14, respectively.
Deer Valley - A lot of work went into clearing and grooming runs this past summer. A day pass will be $35, up from $33, and a holiday pass will be $39.
Elk Meadows/Mount Holly - The scheduled opening date is Nov. 23. If Thursday's storm pans out, however, the joint areas could open earlier. Among the summer tasks completed were the cutting of a new expert run and expansion of its ski rentals and day-lodge. Another good year like last (it was one of only three showing gains) and, says Nancy Newberg, marketing director, owners are looking seriously at expanding facilities. A day pass stayed at $19.
Nordic Valley - This is one of two areas under new ownership this year. New general manager Pat Hogge says plans are to open Friday,if the scheduled storm shows up. Besides painting lift towers, crews also cut two new runs and added new lights to night skiing runs. The resort will operate nights-only Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday. A day pass is $12.50.
Powder Mountain - This northern Utah area missed being the first to open by hours. It opened for night skiing on Wednesday, and will continue to open for night skiing on the Sundown Lift from 4:30 to 10 p.m. Besides cutting in three new runs in the Hidden Lake area, the resort put in a "half-pipe" for snowboarders near the Timberline Lift. An adult day pass went from $16 to $17 this season.
Park City - The major addition to this area was the $1.5 million in snowmaking improvements, to include 55,000 feet of new pipe, an air system that will double the previous air capacity, a new booster pump station, additional hoses, snowmaking guns and hydrants . . . "That will double our old snowmaking capacity. Or, we can now make twice as much snow in the same amount of time," says Mark Menlove, communications director. The area is getting ready to hold America's Opening, the opening of the men's and women's pro ski circuit. It will begin Thanksgiving Day and go through Sunday. It will feature, for their pro ski debut, the Mahre brothers. An adult day pass this year went from $30 to $32.
ParkWest - This is the second area under new ownership. Most of the work here went into remodeling buildings and planning new programs. According to area manager Doug Harmon, extensive work was put into remodeling the buildings and the kitchen areas. Also added was a "Kids Central" program, a one-stop ski day for children, season lockers and reserved parking. ParkWest will also be involved with snowboard programs this winter. Scheduled opening is Dec. 8. An adult day pass stayed at $24 this season.
Snowbasin - Planned opening day here is Wednesday. It will take, says Barbara McConvill, "one more good storm." Over the summer, crews removed a lot of rock, filled in holes and removed tree stumps so the area could open with a lighter covering. In January, Snowbasin will host, as part of the Utah Winter Games, the first sanctioned downhill event in Utah. A day pass here will be $19.
Snowbird - The target opening day is Tuesday or Wednesday, again depending on Thursday's storm. According to Kent Hoopingarner, general manger, summer work was concentrated on village projects, revegetation of ski slopes, replacing chair cables and trail grooming. An all-area chair lift pass went from $24 to $25, and a tram pass from $30 to $32.
Solitude - This area has the distinction of having the only new lift in the state. Over the summer it put in a lift that connects its lower and upper areas. The lift, called "Link," will also serve a beginner's ski area, "which is something we have needed at Solitude," notes Mike Goar, vice president of mountain operations. It will also service a teaching area. Plans are to open two lifts on Friday. Goar says the ski area is looking pretty good, but could still use a little more snow. A day pass went from $10 on weekdays and $14 on weekends and holidays, to $13 and $17, respectively.
Sundance - Target opening day here is Dec. 15th. "But," says area manager Brent Beck, "if we get snow we could push it up." Over the summer restrooms were added to the summit restaurant, and cats smoothed, groomed and widened runs. An adult day pass went from $20 to $22.