What if?

Let's, for a minute, look back to that day in June 1991 when International Olympic Committee President Juan Antonio Samaranch awarded the 1998 Winter Olympics to Nagano, Japan.What if he had proclaimed Utah instead? What if athletes were coming to enjoy sweet honey on deep-fried scones and the Utah Jazz instead of sushi and sumo? What if fans were coming to ring cow bells at Deer Valley and Park City instead of blowing on plastic horns in Hakuba?

To start with, instead of gloomy weather and threats of snow, athletes and spectators would have arrived on Friday to a warm El Nino welcome . . . and would have enjoyed it right to the present.

While the reports on the opening day of competition told of foul weather in Japan, the weather in Utah was sunny and warm, with mountain temperatures in the 30s.

And then the stories and reports followed:

Sunday, Feb. 8

Nagano: Bad weather moved in on competitors in Japan. After four of six forerunners tested the downhill course, the men's event was postponed. It was the first of many delays and the beginning of a new Olympic game for the athletes - gin rummy.

Locally: Five to seven inches of new snow that fell overnight was packed and groomed for the arrival of skiers at Deer Valley (moguls) and Snowbasin (downhill).

Monday, Feb. 9

Nagano: More than 600 volunteers attacked the downhill course at Hakuba to try to remove more than two feet of new snow. More postponements; more gin rummy. Women's snowboard giant slalom with Utah's Sandra Van Ert was postponed. High winds cut lift access to the race courses.

Locally: Utah resorts received a little more than a foot of new snow. "A foot of new snow is really nothing we can't handle," says Tracy Zerrenner, communications director at Park City. "We've had this much snow before and gotten the World Cup events off."

Tuesday, Feb. 10

Nagano: More heavy snow and rain raised havoc with skiers and snowboarders. Van Ert was forced to race on what ski areas call "death cookies," a condition where the surface breaks up into chunks of ice. Utah skiers aren't familiar with it because they never see it.

Locally: Conditions in Utah were ideal - sunny, mountain temperatures in the 30s and valley temperatures in the 40s.

Wednesday, Feb. 11

Nagano: This was the first sunny day and the first opportunity alpine skiers had to medal. Picabo Street took advantage and won the gold.

Locally: Snow advisory forecast for the afternoon.

Thursday, Feb. 12

Nagano: Back to delays. Rain, snow, whipping winds and heavy fog pushed back the men's downhill - again. Video games replaced gin rummy as the most popular Olympic activity.

Locally: Utah resorts received six to seven inches of snow overnight. Temperatures were still balmy 30-plus.

Saturday, Feb. 14

Nagano: The event of the day was meteorology . . . Nagano had snow, rain, winds and lightning. The women's downhill was postponed. The men's 15K cross country was held, but snow and ice took their toll on skiers.

Locally: Utah resorts received an inch of new snow. The weather was cloudy, but good.

Monday, Feb. 16

Nagano: Finally, a scheduled alpine event was run on schedule - the men's GS. Street's downhill run was on a course she said she was happy to escape from with her life. Dark clouds also moved indoors over the ice dancing judges. Thunder and lightning, but no snow.

Locally: Big storm that was supposed to hit Utah resorts didn't. Deer Valley received only four inches.

Tuesday, Feb. 17

Nagano: More cancellation, more snow, more postponement, more video games.

Locally: Resorts received a trace of snow. It was cloudy, but temperatures were a comfortable 33 degrees.

Wednesday, Feb. 18, and Thursday, Feb. 19

Nagano: Finally, as the games begin to wind down, the weather improves. Bad weather to this point, however, has been blamed for everything from poor TV ratings to people staying indoors and away from the gift shops.

Locally: It drizzled a little on Wednesday, not enough to worry about, but Thursday was ideal. Morning sunshine brought out the cameras and skiers.

Until last Tuesday, only one alpine event had gone off on schedule. By comparison, it appears only one day, during the opening weekend, that would have been at all questionable in Utah. And even then, says Coleen Reardon, marketing director at Deer Valley, it was nothing the resort couldn't have solved with pack-and-groom. "We may have had to delay the start, but we wouldn't have had to postpone a race," she said.

Consensus among several former and retired ski-team racers: anytime they raced in Japan they expected delays and bad weather. It came with the schedule - or the reschedule, as they said.

Meanwhile back in Utah, it might have been a little cloudy and overcast, but there would never have been time for cards or video games on race day. Not in the middle of the Winter Olympics. Not when there were gold medals to be won - or lost.