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Under par: Golf courses opening ahead of schedule

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PARK CITY — “‘Challenging’ has been the word of the year.”

That's how Patrick Coffey, manager of the White Pine Nordic Center, describes this difficult winter season. For years, White Pine Touring, a Park City-based adventuring company, has been renting the Park City Golf Club course each winter to teach and practice cross-country skiing.

White Pine rented the course this season, too — at least for a while.

“It’s very unusual,” said Will Beroset, a six-year golf course employee. “Any other year, they’d still be skiing right now.”

After a winter of record-breaking temperatures, White Pine is packing up early.

“It’s been the most challenging winter I can remember,” Coffey said. “If it happens again next year, we’re going to have the two worst seasons of the century.”

Coffey described the season as an uphill battle, recounting the “literal tons” of snow moved by hand and machine to keep the track open. Nordic Center employees managed to prolong the season by two hard-earned weeks but were ultimately forced to close up shop three weeks earlier than planned.

And they’re not alone.

Ski operations across the state are fighting to make it to closing day. Two resorts have already surrendered: Eagle Point and Beaver Mountain are set to raise white flags this weekend. Park City Mountain Resort is among the most ambitious of Utah’s ski resorts, aiming for a typical late April closing.

“It’s always tough to predict, but that’s our plan right now,” said Andy Miller, the resort's communications director. “For the last few years, some of our biggest storms have been right at the beginning of April. Who knows what can happen between now and then?”

But as winter draws to an early close, new recreation opportunities are beginning to bloom.

According to Beroset, Park City Golf Club will be open for tee times within the next week or so — several weeks ahead of last season’s mid-April opening.

“It’s always up in the air when we’re going to open in the spring,” he said. “That’s a question every year.”

The Park City golf course will join a rapidly expanding list of open courses, including popular spots like Bonneville, Davis and Stone Bridge. Many of the courses have been accessible since January.

“I don’t know that we really even closed from last year,” said Monica Vigil of Nibley Park Golf Course in Salt Lake City. “It’s been amazing.”

Officially, Nibley Park closed for snow from Dec. 25 to Jan. 15, but the three-week closure is hardly memorable. After all, said Vigil, the course typically closes for up to three months.

February and March have been “unbelievably busy” months for Nibley Park, according to head professional Jeremy Green. He appreciates the winter business, he said, but worries about the course’s upcoming summer season.

“It’s a little bit scary,” he said. “There’s not a lot of snow. That was good for the extra revenue, but you’ve got to be a little concerned about water. Are we going to have any?”

Resorts, too, are adapting to fit this winter's bizarre weather. Park City Mountain Resort has seen record winter usage of its zip line and Alpine Coaster, which can only operate in clear conditions.

“Pretty much the only time the coaster isn’t running is when it’s snowing," Miller said. "We’ve had plenty of sunny days this year, so it’s been plenty taken advantage of.”

The mountain's full summer offerings will be available by Memorial Day weekend, the resort's standard summer debut.

Until then, skiers will continue to enjoy this winter's warm weather and sunny skies — and maybe a few rounds of golf, to boot.

Email: aoligschlaeger@deseretnews.com

Twitter: allisonoctober