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About Utah: Snow totals at ski resorts near record

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ALTA — Global warming notwithstanding, here it is the fourth week of April and Utah's oldest and proudest ski resort is sitting under 13 feet of snow.

For all those ski zealots who love to talk about the good old days ... that would be now.

As Alta's official snow-recording season slides to its annual April 30 close, the resort has received a grand total of 673 inches of the white stuff since the first of November, of which 155 hard, cold skiable inches still remain.

The 673 inches rank as the sixth biggest total snowfall since the resort starting keeping records back in the winter of 1980-81, and April still has 10 days to go.

A few more storms and 2007-08 could go over the 700-inch mark, something that's happened only twice in Alta's modern history — in 1981-82, when an all-time record total of 748 inches fell, and again in 1983-84, with 708.5 inches.

Whether 700 will be passed is anybody's guess. This is the weather we're talking about after all. Or, as Daniel "Howie" Howlett, Alta's assistant director of snow safety, put it: "Boy, if I could tell you for sure when it's going to snow I wouldn't have to be working here."

But given the kind of wet winter and spring it's been, don't rule it out.

"They do say it's supposed to be crummy all week," says Howie.

Of course "crummy" is a seasonal term, interchangeable with "fabulous" at the start of the season when ski resorts sit on their snow-making machines with their fingers crossed, hoping they'll never have to use them.

It seems hard to believe now, but remember last November when it looked as if there wouldn't be a ski season?

Most of the state's ski and snowboard resorts had to push back their scheduled Nov. 16 starting dates.

Solitude doggedly turned on two of its lifts anyway, over mostly bare ground.

At the time, resort spokesman Jay Burke optimistically suggested that "when we start off slower we tend to have a more consistent snow year."

Who knew he would be a prophet?

A week later, it started snowing, and snowing, and snowing.

"It's been a real good year," understates Alta's Howie. "And the snowpack is not only deep and strong but cool."

Last year, Alta, the Utah resort that traditionally gets the most snow, received just 401.5 inches, its second lowest total on record.

And this year, with just a little more "crummy" weather, could wind up being the second highest.

Whatever the case, Alta closed for the season yesterday anyway, right on schedule.

Only Snowbird, which always keeps its upper lifts running as long as possible, and Snowbasin remain open among Utah's resorts.

Snowbasin, with 133 inches on the ground, extended its season until this weekend for one reason: because it could.

"With all this snow, we decided to make it a 155-plus day season," said Snowbasin general manager Denzel Rowland. "Skiing is fantastic, and it keeps snowing. So why not?"

Flaunt it while you've got it. The good old days can't last forever.

Lee Benson's column runs Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Please send e-mail to benson@desnews.com and faxes to 801-237-2527.