Utah ski resorts benefit from first major snowfall

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Last week’s snow did a lot for local ski resorts, but Sundance Mountain Resort decided to continue to hold off on its original opening day and is hoping to be up and ready by Dec. 18. (Nefi Trevino)

Local ski resorts are finding a sense of relief and a newfound hope for snow after last week’s snowstorms.

Alison Palmintere, director of communications for Ski Utah, said is aware there is a lot of worry regarding another dry season, but says that it is still too early to tell.

“I think everyone’s pretty hopeful this year. Early season conditions don’t mean that there won’t be any snow for the season. Almost 20 years ago we didn’t see an inch then we ended up having amazing record-breaking conditions. It’s just a matter of waiting,” Palmintere said. 

Prior to the snowfall on Dec. 7, Alta Ski Resort marketing director Brandon Ott said he wasn’t worried about the lack of snow this season. Alta opened back up on Nov. 24 and is one of few resorts that has received more snow. 

“It’s all about aspect and elevation for us. Our resort is north facing, so any snow we get usually stays. It’s all credited to our fortuitous geographic location,” Ott said. 

The amount of snow Alta has is attributed to the moisture that fell in October. Before the snow cycles on Dec. 7, they already had 65 out of 119 runs open. The snow came just in time, seeing that their base areas were starting to get a bit thinner, Ott said. 

“We got 28 inches from that storm cycle and we’re expecting another foot and a half coming ahead of the holidays. We’ve got a good solid base formed of about 44 inches with 78 runs open now,” Ott said. 

According to Ott, this time of the year the temperature is in the constant 20 degrees Fahrenheit range at night, which means if they want to they can leave the snow cannons running every night in order to keep those precious base layers of snow from melting.

Brighton Ski Resort marketing director Jared Winkler said that there can never be enough snow. 

“No matter the season, we could always use more snow. We had a little bit to help us get a good start so we’re happy about the snow that we finally got coming in now,” Winkler said. 

Brighton opened the Monday before Thanksgiving with three of their normal six lifts open, but are now looking to open a few more.

There are more than a dozen snow cannons in operation at Brighton along with a few more scattered around other parts of their mountains. If the snow begins to melt again they still have a good backup plan, Winkler said.

“Luckily, we have a higher elevation that lets us keep a good amount of the snow. We make snow every time we can,” Winkler said.

Brain Head Resort is another resort that opened up before Thanksgiving Day. But in contrast to Brighton, Brain Head was forced to rely on their snow cannons a lot more. 

Mary Ann Mudge is the principal of events and marketing at Brian Head and she described the relief that came with last week’s snowfall. 

“We got about 15 more inches this weekend and that helped us get a few more runs open. We’re expecting about a foot to 17 inches in the next few days, so that’ll be really good for us,” Mudge said. 

According to Mudge, Brian Head started making snow about three weeks before opening on Thanksgiving eve and only had two lifts running with just a few runs open. 

The closest ski resort to Provo is Sundance Mountain Resort which has recently made various changes in preparation for the season.

Olivia Hakes is a second-year lift operator at Sundance. She said Sundance received 16 inches with the first storm and so the resort is looking “pretty good.” She is optimistic the resort will get more snow in the next few days with oncoming snowstorms.

Sundance was originally set to be open Dec. 10, but they changed to the 18. Hakes said there is a new high-speed lift and a reservoir that can hold up to 90 million gallons of water to help make snow. 

Snowmaking will allow Sundance to keep the main runs open, but it ultimately cannot solely rely on it to spread the snow out to all of the trails.

“Prior to last week’s snow, it was looking to be a very dry season but we’re just glad we finally got some so now it’s just a matter of letting the snow guns run every night till we’re ready to open,” Hakes said. 

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