By Michael Meru
Utah”s skiers should be celebrating this year as an unusual amount of snow has opened several resorts and is pushing up several openings.
Salt Lake City area ski resorts have received between 40 and 60 inches of snow since Oct. 30 — almost 10 times as much snow as last year at this time.
“It is normal for Utah to have snow in early October,” said Krista Rowles, public relations coordinator for Park City Mountain Resort. “However, it is not normal to have such a substantial amount of snow, and 10 days straight is just unheard of.”
Not only is Utah hoping for a better year of snow, but resorts are also doing all they can to improve the guest riding experience.
All of the eight resorts located within an hour of Provo have made many improvements and variations to draw riders of all ability levels to their mountains.
“If I had to choose, I would choose to ride at Brighton because it gets the best and most snow,” said Ryan Haws, a BYU student from Thousand Oaks, Calif.
Brighton Resort offers a newly expanded run that goes from the top of the Crest lift to the bottom of the mountain that is all terrain parks. The three interconnected parks make it possible for riders to ride more than three dozen jibs and rails and many hips, tabletops and kickers, all the way down the mountain.
Brighton”s three interconnected terrain parks were voted Best Snowboard Run by Salt Lake City locals in the City Weekly Reader”s choice awards.
“As far as terrain, I would rather go to The Canyons because of the backcountry,” Haws said. “But as far as good snow, Brighton is my call.”
The Canyons Resort will move its terrain park from the lower level Red Hawk lift to higher on the mountain, where it can receive more snow. The new park will be located off the Snow Canyon Express lift and it will have more than 30 features, including jibs, rails, kickers and boxes.
The Canyons offers 3,500 acres of ski terrain located over eight mountains and are all accessible from within the resort.
The Canyons also boasts some of the best “in-house” backcountry, with three mountains accessible by hiking off of the Ninety-nine 90 lift.
“I”ve heard that Park City has the best terrain park,” Haws said. “They have the most kickers and extensive park. I”ve heard they have some pretty some pretty crazy rails also.”
Park City Mountain Resort is celebrating its 40 anniversary this year. The resort has purchased a new Super Dragon to cut the Olympic-quality Eagle Superpipe that was used during the Salt Lake City Winter Games.
“It”s only our eighth time in our 40th year history that we have opened up before Thanksgiving,” Rowles said. “We have had four feet of snow fall since Oct. 30. We started blowing snow Oct. 24 and 25 and then it warmed up. Then bam, Oct. 30 it started snowing and it didn”t stop until last week.”
Park City”s super park is designed and run every year by some of the world”s top pros, including snowboarders J.P. Walker and Jeremy Jones, who both claim Salt Lake City as their homes, and the World Superpipe Championships winner, Tanner Hall.
“Snowbird is my favorite because it has the tram that takes you super high up real fast,” said Tom Bell, a BYU student from Sacramento, Calif.
“There is a lot of territory on the front and backside of the mountain. It gets lots of snow and it had a sweet park last year.”
During the past summer, the Snowbird crew expanded the resort”s ability to make snow, to add to the 500-inche average of snow the resort receives each year. The snowmaking capabilities will benefit the ever-expanding terrain park that will have more rails, mailboxes, tabletops and jumps than last season.
“Snowbird was awesome; the park was a ton of fun,” said Steve Malfatto, a BYU student and Snowbird season pass holder. “They”ve got a high-speed quad on the backside that gets tons of snow, so you can do 40 runs a day in fresh snow.”
Alta, which is located next to Snowbird, is also one of the world”s premier destinations for skiers. Alta is exclusive in that it does not allow snowboarders to ride within the resort.
Over the past eight months Alta has remodeled the Cub”s Den in order to help young riders get on the slopes faster. The Alta crew plans on building a new quad chair next summer that will replace the Collins and Germania lifts and take riders from the bottom to the top of the mountain in just one lift.
Closer to BYU, Sundance has catered to Provo students since its founding by Robert Redford in 1969.
“I like Sundance because it was cheap and super close and it was never crowded even when we got snow,” Malfatto said.
Sundance resort, which is located just miles away from BYU in the Provo Canyon, offers a “small by design” 475 acres of terrain. The terrain offers beginner to advanced terrain designed for every ability level.
One of the resorts that specifically caters to Utah families is the Solitude Resort.
Solitude Resort has a new “family-friendly” terrain park that is perfect for every class of rider. The majority of the structures are made solely of snow, and there are no steel structures.
Solitude is next to Brighton Ski Resort in the Big Cottonwood Canyon, and has eight chair lifts available.
The third resort located in Park City is the Deer Valley Resort.
Deer Valley has four mountains and 19 lifts and plans on opening on Dec. 6.
Deer Valley has put $6 million into improving its mountain for the 2003-04 season, which includes an expansion at the Snow Park Lodge and the addition of new shopping areas. Snowmaking was also upgraded at the resort and will be more prevalent this season.
With all of the improvements made to the eight local resorts, it is now up to Mother Nature to provide the much-needed snowfall.
“There is a climate prediction center and their scientific data gives vague ideas of where we will get precipitation,” said Chris Pearson, creative director at Ski Utah. “They say that as of now, it should be a normal season, but what does that mean? I don”t know, but we should be doing better.”
RESORT OPENING DATES
Brighton — Nov. 6
Snowbird, Solitude, Park City — Nov. 14
Alta — Nov. 20
The Canyons — Nov. 28
Deer Valley, Sundance — Early December