While skiers were out golfing, cutting lawns and looking for a swimming pool to cool down in last summer, ski resort staff were, among other things, setting towers, removing debris from ski runs and ordering very expensive snow-grooming equipment.
All of which ended up costing millions of dollars and yet, in many cases, will likely go unnoticed by skiers.
So, what can skiers expect to find when they visit their favorite resort for the first time this season? Here's a look:
ALTA Summer work focused on clearing and improving slope conditions for smoother runs.
BEAVER MOUNTAIN The big push was last year when the resort added two new lifts. This year it concentrated on adding a few of the finishing touches. Like, for example, adjustments were made at the base of Marge's triple lift to make loading, especially for newer skiers, easier. The resort also spent a lot of time and money on improving parking. And, to continue improvements to the on-hill experience, it purchased a new snowcat.
BRIAN HEAD The big news here is the addition of two new triple, fixed-grip lifts and a bridge. A bridge? This will be a vital connection linking what has been in the past two separate ski areas Navajo and Giant Step. Skiers will be able to ski over the bridge, which spans the highway, to get to the base lifts of the two areas. The new lifts also opened up roughly 35 acres of new terrain. Planning for the bridge and lifts has been in the works for nearly a decade.
The resort, with perfect timing, also expanded its snowmaking.
BRIGHTON The big news here is the new Milly Express high-speed quad lift that replaces both the old Millicent lift, built in 1974, and the Evergreen lift, built in 1968. The resort also expanded its terrain park, which now goes from My-O-My all the way down Majestic Face.
THE CANYONS When the DreamCatcher lift was put in last season, it opened up 200-plus acres of new terrain. This past summer it was fine-tuned and opened up for gladed skiing. Also, two new runs were opened to the south of the lift line. A new terrain park manager has also given its parks a new look.
The resort also replaced the chairs on the Shortcut lift, put in new restroom facilities in the Tombstone area, bought three new grooming machines, one of them being a winch, to expand grooming. It also put in a new control room for its snowmaking.
DEER VALLEY More than $9 million was spent over the summer in improvements, which included the new Lady Morgan Express high-speed, detachable chairlift. Since 1990, the resort has spent more than $115 million in improvements, which is one reason it is constantly at the top of the "favorite resort" list for skiers.
Along with the lift, located in the Empire Canyon area, the resort also opened nine new runs, which added more than 200 acres of new skiable terrain. Roughly 65 of those acres have been left open to gladed or tree skiing.
The resort also installed a GPS system that will allow staff to determine snow depth on any part of the mountain to aid grooming and snowmaking.
And it purchased 51 new snow guns to expand its already large snowmaking system.
PARK CITY MOUNTAIN RESORT The resort invested more than $5 million this past summer in upgrades, which include new terrain, a new redesigned trail map, expanded snowmaking and environmental initiatives.
Skiers will notice dramatic chances in the landscape between Single Jack and Sunnyside runs. The new area will be called Motherlode Meadows. Staff also created a new run off McConkey's lift for intermediate skiers.
It also acquired 26 new low-energy tower guns and fan guns to increase snowmaking capabilities. And it purchased a new winch cat, a high-end snowcat, that will enable staff to groom more of the resort's signature runs.
POWDER MOUNTAIN Those skiers who enjoy terrain parks will find something new the Lumberjack Terrain Park. Along with the regular terrain park, this one will be located nearby and will feature trees, tree stumps and branches for skiers and snowboarders to conquer. The resort also expanded its lodge services, including its kitchen area. In the past, about the only line skiers ever had to stand it was the lunch line, and hopefully the expansion will now eliminate that line.
SNOWBASIN Hungry and thirsty skiers will be pleased to know that the resort has built a coffee bar at the base of the Strawberry Gondola, which will serve hot drinks, pastries and snacks. In the past, skiers have had to ski a distance to one of the two lodges for refreshments. Last year, because of snow conditions, it was not able to put as much emphasis on its new backcountry program, which involved guided ski experiences in controlled out-of-bounds areas, as it would have liked. If conditions allow this year, it will expand that program.
SNOWBIRD Last year it was the skier tunnel. This year the resort has set aside its Baby Thunder lift for family skiing and instruction. The area, which is mainly made up of gently flowing slopes, will be open to slow skiing only and learning. Along with that, the resort will step up grooming in the area.
Resort staff also spent the summer improving snowmaking in Peruvian Gulch, which will make it possible to make snow top-to-bottom at the resort. Also, work crews cut and groomed an area known as Middle Men's Downhill to make it more intermediate friendly
SOLITUDE This will be the 50th anniversary for the resort. A number of special activities will be held over the season. As far as improvements, it added a new snowcat to support its objective of offering more and improved slope conditions. It also added a couple of new tower guns to expand snowmaking and did some on-mountain manicuring to improved access to popular areas.
SUNDANCE New snow guns were placed on the hill and have made a great difference this winter in overall coverage. The resort also did work on Grizzly Bowl, which will make it possible to groom for better skiing and give the resort to place for its new Enhanced Race Program.
WOLF MOUNTAIN Over the summer, the resort installed a new triple, fixed-grip chairlift, bringing the total number of lifts to three. This is the first new lift added since the resort first opened.
This will allow the resort to focus more on learning and the family experience. This included adding new staff members with extensive experience in teaching both young and old.
The resort also doubled the number of features in its terrain park, which can now be directly accessed from the new lift.Once again, a lot of money and time was spent this past summer to improve conditions for skiers in the upcoming season.
Ski areas opening
Thanks to the ability to mix air and water, six of Utah's 13 ski areas are open and two more will open Friday.
A little snow on Tuesday mixed with a few light storms in early November and now lots of manmade snow. Brighton, The Canyons, Park City Mountain Resort, Snowbasin, Solitude and Wolf Mountain are open.
Friday, Alta and Snowbird will open lifts. Brian Head will open on Saturday. Sundance announced it will open Dec. 7.
Beaver Mountain and Powder Mountain will open when they receive sufficient snow.
Looking at the forecast, Monica Traphagan, meteorologist with the U.S. Weather Service, said the storm on Tuesday brought in cold temperatures and very little snow in the mountains. A second storm forecast to hit today was also not expected to leave much snow.
Both of the weather patterns appear to be "starved" for moisture.
"The best chance for good accumulations will be Saturday. It looks like this storm may connect with sub-tropical moisture. The weekend looks like the best chance for a good storm," she noted."We've been in a drier-type weather pattern and just have not had the ingredients for a good storm."
E-mail: [email protected]