By Sam Araki
It”s feast or famine for Utah area mountains.
As many BYU students broke for the Thanksgiving holidays, the warm month of November was void of precipitation, and the bare mountains surrounding campus were a bitter symbol to antsy skiers and snowboarders.
In an incredible turn of events, Thanksgiving in Utah was a time for turkey, family, football and a sudden barrage of winter storms.
Since Thanksgiving Day, Utah”s mountains have been blanketed with two to five feet of snow, according to skiutah.com.
Resorts including Park City, The Canyons, Snowbird and Brighton kicked their seasons off over the weekend, to the delight of impatient patrons.
Park City opened Saturday as skiers and snowboarders packed the few runs that were open.
“I”m really happy that they”ve finally opened,” said Cory Stonehocker, 22, an economics major from Chicago.
He said he hoped the resorts would open sooner, but was content with the raw conditions.
“It”s alright,” Stonehocker said, as he tightened his snowboard boots. “It”s sort of icy, and it”s snowing so it”s hard to see.”
The falling snow was accompanied by a cutting wind that made conditions less than ideal. Skiers and snowboarders stood patiently in line, under the diligent hum of snowmaking machines.
While many winter sports enthusiasts nervously clamored for snow to fall, and resorts to open, it was the resorts that took everything in stride.
“It”s not too far from normal,” said Bonnie Crail, vice president of marketing for Park City. “We get most of the heavy snow at the end of the month anyway.”
Park City usually targets mid-November as an opening date, and this year it”s only a week later than expected, she said.
This year Thanksgiving was a week earlier, and so people had a skewed interpretation of when resorts should open, Crail said.
Similarly, next door at Deer Valley, they were not concerned with the lingering warm weather.
“This is pretty normal,” said Scott Cote, Hardware Goods Manager of Jan”s Mountain Outfitters at Deer Valley. “Deer Valley usually targets the first Saturday in December to open, and this year it”s Dec. 8th.”
Cote has been at Deer Valley for 24 years, and opening before Thanksgiving is not as important as some may make it out to be, he said.
“We aren”t even officially open, but we”re here to set-up today, and we thought we”d leave the doors open so people could come in and buy things if they wanted to,” Cote said.
Walking along Main Street in Park City on Saturday was an exercise in patience, as snow fell and the sidewalks bustled with people. Restaurants were busy as people ducked in to avoid the sudden cold and snowfall.
It was business as usual for sporting goods stores in Salt Lake City.
The Sports Den at Foothill Village was teeming with anxious people in search of clothing and equipment, while many customers filed back into the store to return their rentals.
“When it snows it turns people”s mindset into winter things,” said Mark Gardner, owner of the Sports Den. “It takes a catalyst to change the mindset, and snow does that for people in Utah.”
There might have been a false notion regarding the lack of snow, but Gardner said while last year might have been an aberration, this year is pretty much normal, and sales while down from last year, it has improved from two years ago.
This past season was a blessing of sorts for winter sports, and Gardner realizes that.
“When you have years like that, you have to take those years, and say ”thank you,” and move on,” he said.