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White Pine Touring opens Saturday amid lack of parking

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White Pine Touring
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White Pine's cross country skiing trail map. The 5km and 3km loops will be open Saturday.

Similar to local resorts, the White Pine Touring Nordic ski center is getting an early start to the season, and is scrambling to address a parking shortage as cross country skiing explodes in popularity.

White Pine is scheduled to open Saturday, Nov. 19, thanks to cold temperatures and a solid snowpack.

“On Saturday we will have the 3k, the 5k, and the Armstrong rolled and open," said Richard Hodges, the director of Nordic operations for White Pine.

"The snow depth won’t allow classic tracks to be everywhere. But it will be open, and the skiing will be pretty good, looking at the weather forecast.”

FULL INTERVIEW: White Pine Touring Nordic Center to open Nov. 19

People will have to take off their skis to cross the road to get from the 3k track to the Armstrong loop, which is about 2 km long and contains more advanced terrain.

Hodges said they’re waiting for Mother Nature to bring another storm so they can open the trail by the McPolin Barn. He asked people to not walk on the ski tracks, and recommended Round Valley as an alternative.

Like other businesses throughout the country, White Pine has dealt with supply chain delays the past several years. Two years ago they struggled to get shipments of skis, and last year saw a pole shortage. Hodges said inventory is in much better shape this season.

As a result of the pandemic, more people are recreating outside. It explains the 10% increase in Utah skier days last winter, along with record-setting crowds at Utah’s five national parks.

Hodges said Nordic skiing is no exception.

“Since the pandemic, cross country skiing nationally is the fastest growing winter activity, according to the Cross Country Ski Areas Association," he said.

"Industry analysis of the top ten of 12 categories last year of growth in sales of equipment were cross country and snowshoeing. So it’s growing quite significantly. At White Pine we’ve seen nearly double the business of skier days over the last two years.”

He said it’s wonderful, but also requires balance with the community.

Thaynes Canyon Dr. has been used for overflow parking at the Nordic center for over 30 years. However, the city government recently discovered that parking there is technically illegal according to the land management code.

White Pine and city staff are currently working on an agreement that will allow them to use the overflow area for business operations, while limiting some impacts to the neighborhood.

There is no sidewalk on Thaynes Canyon Dr., and residents have complained about a lack of safety when overflow parking begins to fill up.

Legal parking is limited to a small surface lot and garage, which also serves Hotel Park City and Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse. It has roughly 191 striped spots.

Park City Trails and Open Space Manager Heinrich Deters said they hope to get a plan for the city council to approve by early December. Until then, parking on Thaynes is not allowed and will result in tickets.

Hodges said it’s crucial to reach a compromise as soon as possible.

“From my perspective, it’s very important to have that parking, and we’re working on a solution that can serve all of our communities," he said.

"We’re trying to come up with a solid, consistent, enforceable, sustainable solution.”

The city council also expects to see a parking study of Thaynes Canyon Dr. in the coming weeks, which could help shape long-term solutions.

Along with cross country skiing, White Pine offers equipment for snowshoeing, fat tire biking, and getting into the backcountry. People can learn more at whitepinetouring.com

Parker Malatesta covers Park City for KPCW. Before coming to NPR, he spent one year as a general assignment reporter for TownLift in Park City. He previously was the news editor at The News Record, the student paper at the University of Cincinnati. He loves running, reading, and urban planning.