Lack of snow means a slow start to Utah’s ski season

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Utah is now a few weeks into the ski season, and resorts still haven't been able to open all of their lifts and runs because of a lack of snow.

Resorts like Brighton haven't had a lot of help from Mother Nature, and they said it's been a bit of a slow start to the season for them.

On Wednesday, many skiers and snowboarders said it was their first time hitting the slopes this winter.

For some of them, mid-December isn't usually when they start their ski season.

"I usually go on Thanksgiving," said snowboarder Chelsey Shuman.

She and her friend Trisha Munns said they've been holding off because of the conditions. Shuman said she bought a season pass to Snowbasin, but hasn't even gone yet.

"Not enough snow there yet," Shuman said.

Munns echoed, "It's all over Utah right now."

Every resort in the area has a less-than-half percentage rate of runs open on the mountain.

Snowbasin opened 8 percent of their terrain, with 9 of 107 runs and 4 of 11 lifts.

Park City sits at 3 percent, with 13 of 348 runs open and 11 of 41 lifts.

5 percent of Snowbird's terrain is open, with 10 of 189 runs in service and 3 of 11 lifts.

Up the canyon from Snowbird, Alta's 12 of 116 runs make for 10 percent. They're operating 4 of 7 lifts.

Solitude has been able to open 19 of 77 runs, or 24 percent. Four of 8 lifts are open.

Brighton's opened 31 percent of their terrain, with 21 of 66 runs and 5 out of 7 lifts.

"We're not used to it being so low at this time of year," said Jared Winkler, Brighton Resort Marketing Director.

In many areas of the resort, it's easy to spot exposed rock and grass where several feet of snow usually sits.

"We were shocked," Munns said, of what they saw on their first day out. "Up at the top, I've never seen that much exposure this early on in the season."

Some skiers like Curtis Thompson said they have to be extra careful.

"I like to tree ski some, but there's stumps and posts and stuff. You just can't," he said.

Winkler explained that Brighton crews have been working around the clock to make their own snow, which he said they don't usually have to do.

"I don't think that they've stopped since October," he said.

But, he indicated, the runs they do have open are still in better-than-expected condition and he said business is great.

"We are investing in making sure that it's still good for everybody," he said.

On Wednesday, crews spent the day prepping the Milly Express lift for a planned Friday opening. It's one of two lifts that they haven't yet gotten up and running.

"Sno-Cats are out there, the manmade snow is being made, and then that's getting pushed around," Winkler said.

He said they're one big snow storm away from being able to open the entire resort. Until they do, Winkler said they're offering discount lift tickets because of the limited terrain.

Even with a shortage of the fresh powder Utah is known for, skiers and snowboarders said they're still having a great time on the slopes.

"It was still a really good, solid first day," Shuman said.

Mother Nature even decided to surprise them at the end of the day, with a little gift in the form of a dusting of white flakes.

"I'm so excited!" Shuman exclaimed.

"Hopefully it keeps on coming," Munns said.

"Praying for snow," Thompson said. "I always tell everybody, 'Too much snow is just enough.'"