A few of us have been working for Park City for quite a long time; 15, 20, even 30+ years. Occasionally we sit around the office or the pub and talk of life "back in the day." You know, "back in the day before a chairlift was in McConkey's, the cornice was 20 feet high" or "back in the day there was so much snow, we used to ski down Main Street for lunch." Often the younger patrollers will sit and listen to our tales, and just as often they'll roll their eyes and walk out of the room. Well, so far this season is shaping up to be one of those "back in the day" years; as in "back in the day we could open the WHOLE mountain by Thanksgiving." Okay, that's a bit of an exaggeration as Turkey Day has past and the whole mountain isn't quite open, but it's not far off.
The last few years, we've been limited to a few runs on artificial snow well into December; those lovely yet lonely strips of white on hillsides of brown. This season, all was white weeks ago. In fact, snowfall for the month of November at Summit Patrol added up to 63 inches, well above our 36 year average of 47 inches (the last five years we barely topped 30). So far all this snow has (fortunately) not been our typical light, fluffy, Utah powder, but more Sierra-like. Not so good for powder skiing but PERFECT for laying down a stout base. Over this last weekend we opened the McConkey's area and the Pinion Ridge side of Jupiter Peak; the earliest date in recent memory. We have been working hard to keep up with all the openings and we're not done yet...
If you've been around the last couple days you've no doubt heard the explosives of snow safety work in Jupiter. Other than one rather impressive avalanche we pulled out of West Portuguese, overall the snowpack has been behaving. If all continues on track, we are scheduled to have Jupiter open Thursday morning. While it isn't "in your face" powder skiing (again, our dense snow), I can say conditions are pretty darned good. We spent the last two days working the Scott's side and coverage over there is great. Those of you who have been in McConkey's or the Peak over the last few days will most likely agree that the Upper Mountain looks better than it has in years at this pre-holiday point of the winter.
Before you all go charging out of the Jupiter gates though, I do need to get on my soapbox a bit. As good as things are, we still need to remember that early season conditions do exist up here. This is not the time to drop aggressive lines through steep trees or blindly huck every bump, rock, cliff, or cornice. We are not even two weeks into what we hope will be a long and snowy season; it would be a shame to end yours now with an injury. By all means enjoy this wonderful early snow, just take the time to step back and perhaps dial things down a bit.
Be careful and I hope to see you out there. Stay tuned for additional terrain openings expected for Saturday.
Originally from the Pocono’s of Pennsylvania, Travis found his way to Park City three years ago and is now our grooming manager. When not in snowcat you can find him skiing or snowmobiling in the Utah backcountry or enjoying the skiing here at Park City Mountain Resort.