Aprés at McHenry's Beach at Deer Valley. Photo by Dan Campbell/Ski Utah

Every year, the same question is asked: Where has the ski season gone? And every year the answer is the same: Too quickly. It’s April and it hardly seems like it snowed. Well, as a matter of fact it didn’t. Not much anyway.

What a contrast in winters—last year Alta and Snowbird received more than 700 total inches of snow when counting ended. By April 1 of last year, Alta had recorded 576.5 total inches. As of last Sunday, April 1, Alta had counted nearly 340 total inches.

It’s not uncommon to have a lean snow year once in awhile. On April 1, 2005, total snowfall at Alta was 630 inches, it was 574 inches in 2006, it was 356 in 2007 and it was back up to 613 in 2008.

What this lean year means is it’s unlikely any of Utah’s 12 resorts still open will extend running lifts past their announced closing dates.

Two areas have already closed—Wolf Mountain and Beaver Mountain.

Two will close this weekend—Powder Mountain and Sundance.

The big rush will happen on April 15, when seven resorts close. That will leave three resorts to handle late-season skiers and snowboarders, for a few weeks anyway, and then it’s all up to Snowbird.

Snowbird's tram plaza. Photo provided by Snowbird Ski & Summer Resort

As is now tradition, Snowbird will be the last to close.

Typically, it’s not a matter of the snow disappearing, it’s more that skiers disappear. As the weather turns warmer, individual interests move from winter to spring—golf, gardening, biking, hiking and so on. It’s very unlikely Snowbird will match last year’s closing date, which was July 4.

“At this point we’re not sure when we’ll close,’’ said Dave Fields, vice president of operations at Snowbird. “It’s all in Mother Nature’s hands. Skiing and snowboarding are still very good. It’s interesting, though, when you compare last year with this year, conditions are very different.’’
How good is skiing?

Resorts still have a firm base and all lifts and runs are open. Alta has a base of more than 100 inches after Sunday’s snow. Compare that with Colorado resorts, like Vail, with bases in the 30s.

Spring skiing and snowboarding is a good time to be on the slopes. It’s warmer, the snow is typically good in the early hours and crowds begin to dwindle.

There were some things worth noting about the 2011-12 season and not just the low snow fall. It was Brighton’s 75th season of hauling skiers, and later snowboarders, and Snowbird’s 40th season.

Spring skiing at Solitude. Photo provided by Solitude Mountain Resort

The subject of linking resorts, in this case Canyons and Solitude, took on a more serious tone, which drew in the Utah Legislature.

Last month a group of skiers actually skied all 14 resorts in a 24-hour period. The idea that it was possible originated in January of 2005 when four skiers set tracks on 11 of what were then 13 resorts in less than 12 hours.

This is a testament to resort accessibility here in Utah. Nowhere else in the world is such a feat possible. No where in the world can a skier or snowboarder, or a group, ski or ride on 14 independent resorts, and mountains, in so short a time.

For those planning to ski or board before closing dates, there’s a good routine to follow, which is to start early, before the snow softens, starting with the eastern-facing slopes and then following the sun as it hits more west-facing slopes.
And, if the snow becomes too soft to enjoy, retreat to the lodge or sun deck for a cool drink in the warm afternoon sun.

Announced closing dates:

Alta—April 15 (opening Friday thru Sunday only through April 29)
Beaver Mountain—Closed
Brighton—April 22
Brian Head—April 15
Canyons—April 15
Deer Valley—April 15
Eagle Point—April 15
Park City Mountain Resort—April 15
Powder Mountain—April 8
Snowbasin—April 15
Solitude—April 15
Sundance—April 8
Wolf Mountain—Closed