Utah's winter has finally kicked in. Perhaps last season's weaksauce snow turnout was Mother Nature's way of putting us in our place. One can only hope that with this past week of storms, we're back to “normal”. At least it sounds that way on Facebook.
FB is to the ski industry what the movies were to the military. There's no quicker/better way to get the stoke rolling and to get everyone to 'enlist'. There's that brief, pure storm and Whammo! hundreds of posts and reposts:
“Received 10 inches of snow today”, “The Bird Gets the First 'Dump' of the Year!”, “Got some fresh stuff today! Who is heading up?”, “Bring it on”, “The white stuff is coming!”, “Yippee!!!!”
December is bringing cold temps and more snow than we ever saw last Christmas. Social media photos of skiers blasting through knee-deep plus erupt faster than zits on a teenager. “Snow in the forecast,” is all it takes to rile the natives.
Utah gets snow and Facebook lights up like Disneyland's Main Street before a parade. Welcome to, as one prosaic poster wrote, Ski Season Foreplay.
Utah's 14 resorts are now all open for business and one to two feet of snow is expected by Wednesday. Plus, the evening chill is enough to keep the guns cranked. Most of the resorts are touting 'increased snowmaking' as their greatest improvements for 2013; a result of the barren slopes of 2012.
Only Deer Valley and Snowbird threw down the gauntlet this past summer, spending millions on perceivable upgrades. I gotta say it's about time for both of the two new high-speed quad lifts that debut this season.
The “old” Deer Crest lift. Photo courtesy of skilifts.org.
Deer Valley has replaced the excruciatingly slow Deer Crest lift on, you guessed it, Deer Crest. The new “Mountaineer Express” will carry 1200 skiers/hour much to the chagrin I'm sure of ski instructors who often took clients there to kill time. Look for that scenic side ofn the lower mountain to see huge upticks in skier traffic on its eight groomed runs. I've had my eye on the line under the lift ever since they opened Deer Crest but I've yet to see it open. Maybe now with popularity will come access.
DV invested more than $8 million over the summer (Snow Park Lodge was renovated and the Empire Lodge deck remodeled as well) but it'll be Snowbird's upgrade that makes all the difference in the Wasatch this year. The new Doppelmayr High Speed Little Cloud Express will zip riders to Hidden Peak in half the time. I foresee more skier traffice this year for the mere fact that you won't have to wait an hour in the tram line to get fresh tracks on a powder day anymore (fingers crossed). Ride Peruvian, cruise into Mineral Basin, ride Mineral Express and drop over to LC for sweet laps in the bowl or, if the Tunnel isn't yet open and you feel like parking in Gad Valley, ride Gadzoom and go straight to LC.
If reports are correct, the new Little Cloud lift is a hit. Skiers claimed it felt like the mountain was empty on the lift's opening weekend. Now if only, UDOT (Utah Dept. of Transportation) could figure out how to make the drive up Little Cottonwood Canyon feel empty we'd really be in business.
Ba-Bye old Little Cloud!
P.S. The SkiLink proposal to join Canyons and Solitude resorts is still trotting along. Salt Lake County Councilman Michael Jensen and Canyons Resort Managing Director Mike Goar spoke to the U.S. House of Representatives Natural Resources Committee Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands on December 2, 2012. Many in the ski industry think adding this kind of resort-to-resort access will be a game changer.