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Utah ready for early ski season

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Fresh snow lets Courtney Lund board as well as hike in Little Cottonwood Canyon.

Fresh snow lets Courtney Lund board as well as hike in Little Cottonwood Canyon.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret Morning News

Funny what a little snow will do. Resorts are packing, grooming and, in some cases, planning early openings.

Brighton will begin putting skiers on its slopes Friday, which is one of its earliest openings on record.

Other Utah resorts also are reporting that they could be opening early.

Brighton will be among the first North American resorts to open and will send a signal across the globe that Utah is, indeed, getting early snow.

Also open are Vail and Loveland in Colorado, and Mammoth Mountain in California.

"This will be the first time in 21 years that Utah has had a ski area open this early," reported Kip Pitou, president of Ski Utah. "It's a great boost to Utah skiing and the ski industry in general."

Official opening dates posted prior to the storm were:

Alta — Nov. 18.

Brian Head — Nov. 13

The Canyons — Nov. 19

Deer Valley — Dec. 4

Park City Mountain Resort — Nov. 13

Powder Mountain — mid-November

Snowbasin — Nov. 25

Snowbird — Nov. 20

Solitude — Nov. 19

Sundance — Dec. 11

Brighton and Beaver Mountain had no official date posted.

On Wednesday, Brighton was reporting about 36 inches of snow midmountain and as much as 58 inches in the higher elevations.

Connie Marshall, director of public relations at Alta, said the resort has a midmountain snow depth of 54 inches and has received 75 inches of snow from passing storms. The resort is holding with its Nov. 18 opening.

Down the canyon, at Snowbird, marketing director Dave Fields said there is 3 to 6 feet of snow on the ski runs.

"With the snow we have now, and expect to get tonight, in all probability we'll move up our opening date. If we do, it will be the earliest we've opened."

Down south, Craig McCarthy, director of marketing at Brian Head, said the resort has a base of 42 inches, and "we've got groomers out packing snow. This will make a nice base, because the snow was heavy and wet."

Despite the snowfall, the resort is holding with its Nov. 13 opening.

The current wet weather in Utah is expected to continue through the weekend, with a slight warming trend expected early next month.

Pete Wilensky, lead forecaster for the National Weather Service's Salt Lake office, said the storm that hit last week, which started piling up snow, would be considered "exceptional had it come anytime during the year. It's nice it came now and put down heavy amounts of snow.

"It was one of the largest storms we've seen waterwise. We had accumulations of anywhere from 2 to 10 inches."

It came in with a mild air mass, which can hold heavier amounts of moisture, as opposed to a cold air mass, which holds less moisture. It was also a slow-moving storm, which helped account for the larger snow accumulations.

Long-range forecasts for the next three months are predicting slightly warmer temperatures with near normal precipitation.

"The fact we're getting big storms now, however, has no bearing on what to expect the rest of the winter," he warned. "Things could change rapidly, as we saw last year."

Last year, Utah received heavy snows from December through February but very little snow in March and April.

E-mail: grass@desnews.com