Utah resorts race to take advantage as storm produces strong mountain snow figures



Estimated read time: 5-6 minutes

BRIGHTON — A trio of resorts in Utah's Cottonwood Canyons are ready to open earlier than originally projected as a result of the most recent winter storm.

Brighton Resort officials announced Wednesday that the resort will have three of its lifts up and running this weekend. The Majestic, Explorer and Snake Creek lifts will run every day from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. beginning on Friday.

Jared Winkler, the resort's marketing director, said the resort has received more than 60 inches of snow since Oct. 22, including close to 2 feet already this week. A little more is expected before the resort opens.

Brighton was one of a few Utah resorts that had not officially announced an opening date entering this week, though Winkler estimates that 50 to 200 snowboarders and skiers had already come to the area every day since the snow began falling weeks ago. The resort plans to open night skiing on Dec. 12.

Meanwhile, Solitude Mountain Resort, which had already moved up its opening date from Nov. 18 to Friday, announced Wednesday that it will now open Thursday afternoon, allowing Solitude season pass and Ikon Pass holders to use the resort's chairlift beginning at 2 p.m.

On Thursday, Snowbird Resort revealed that it will move its opening day from Nov. 30 to Nov. 18. The decision comes after the resort received more than 2 1/2 feet of snow from this week's storms. Resort officials add they've received over 7 feet of snow since October, creating a 67-inch base at the resort.

Dave Fields, the resort's president and general manager, said teams are "working hard" to get the resort ready for snowboarders and skiers, though one of its recently installed tram cabins won't be ready until after opening day.

"I haven't seen early-season snowfall like this in years and we plan to take advantage of it," he said.

Other Utah resorts were hit big with this week's storm, said KSL meteorologist Matt Johnson. As of 6 a.m. Thursday:

  • Alta Ski Area had received 32 inches — 44 to 46 inches when including a storm over the past weekend
  • Brian Head Resort received 20 inches
  • Park City Mountain Resort received 26 inches
  • Powder Mountain Resort received 20 inches
  • Snowbasin Resort received 18 inches

Big precipitation numbers

The snow is also packing a lot of water in and around the mountains. The National Weather Service reports that its Alta-Collins location, which received over 2 feet of snow by 5 a.m. on Wednesday, already had 3.7 inches of water within the snow.

As of Wednesday morning, the weather service's Lone Peak-Timpanogos Cave location led all Utah sites with over 4 inches of precipitation. Many valleys along the Wasatch Front have also received more than an inch of rain from the storm. Southern Utah locations also won big, with more than 2.5 inches of precipitation by Cedar City and Enterprise in Iron and Washington counties.

Utah's statewide snowpack jumped to an average of 3.3 inches, 2.4 inches ahead of where it was at the start of November, according to National Resources Conservation Service data collected at 9 a.m. Wednesday. The figure is 441% of normal for this point in the season, which began on Oct. 1, and slightly over one-fifth of Utah's average annual collection with 145 days left before the normal collection peak.

Mountain precipitation levels are currently at 145% of the normal for this point in the water year. The mountain snowpack and snowmelt cycle account for about 95% of the state's water supply.

All of it is providing much-needed precipitation in what has otherwise been a mostly dry calendar year. The National Centers for Environmental Information updated its climate data on Tuesday, which show Utah remained on pace for its 14th-driest calendar year since 1895 at the end of October. The strong start to November is a welcomed relief, especially as more than half of the state remains in at least extreme drought at the start of the week, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

Given these deficits, Candice Hasenyager, the director of the Utah Division of Water Resources, said the strong start to the water year is welcomed but cautions that Utah still has a long way to go to recover from ongoing drought conditions.

"People tend to think one good storm will pull us out of drought but it actually takes many storms over the entire winter to reach average," she said, in a statement Thursday. "With several years of drought behind us, it will likely take several years to recover."

Johnson said there will be some lingering precipitation Thursday that will primarily stay in the mountains before the storm clears out. The weather service tweeted that showers will dwindle by late Thursday morning.

"After that, expect fairly cool and dry conditions, with a chance for isolated mountain showers on Sunday and Tuesday as two minor disturbances swing through," the agency added.

Considerable avalanche danger

Higher avalanche danger is the downside of the wet, heavy snow.

The Utah Avalanche Center listed the Wasatch Mountains as having considerable avalanche danger Thursday after listing the danger as high on Wednesday.

The agency reported that a solo skier got caught up in an avalanche at Park City Mountain Resort Wednesday morning; however, the skier was able to escape any injuries. The agency estimated that the avalanche was 2 feet deep, 40 feet wide and 150 feet in length; the skier reported the avalanche to the center after it occurred.

It was one of over a dozen avalanches reported to the center since Sunday.

Mark Staples, the director of the Utah Avalanche Center, told KSL that the danger is expected to drop "in a couple of days" but anyone heading out in the mountains now should be careful.

"When we have people getting caught in avalanches, that's a nice, clear, definitive warning sign from Mother Nature for the rest of us," he said, adding that it's important for people to report new slides to the center to help forecasters know the exact danger in the mountains.

Most recent Utah weather stories

Related topics

Utah weatherUtah droughtUtah travel and tourismUtahOutdoors
Carter Williams is an award-winning reporter who covers general news, outdoors, history and sports for KSL.com. He previously worked for the Deseret News. He is a Utah transplant by the way of Rochester, New York.

SIGN UP FOR THE KSL.COM NEWSLETTER

Catch up on the top news and features from KSL.com, sent weekly.
By subscribing, you acknowledge and agree to KSL.com's Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

KSL Weather Forecast