High winds close lifts and roads, delay holiday skiers
Nearly everything went on wind hold on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, including state Route 224.
Park City Mountain reported gusts in excess of 70 mph Monday morning. Silverlode’s top terminal clocked 72 mph at 9 a.m., spokesperson Sara Huey says.
Deer Valley Resort’s wind peaked at 79 mph just before 9 a.m. at Empire, according to resort spokesperson Christine Spinkston. Gusts took down a few trees around the resort and runs weren’t opened until everything passed safety inspections.
For skiers themselves, the winds made things difficult long before they ever reached the mountain on the holiday.
U-DOT’s Cooper Crystal, the Utah Department of Transportation’s maintenance area supervisor for Park City, says there were snow drifts 2 to 3 feet deep across roads like state Route 224.
The Utah Highway Patrol had to intermittently close state Route 224 at Meadows Drive to let UDOT plows through, and troopers reported at least one slide off.
UDOT also activated traction laws in Old Town Park City, something normally reserved for mountain passes.
“[The traction law] is really uncommon in town,” Crystal said. “Today, the wind was blowing pretty hard, and we just couldn't keep up with it.”
Common in the Cottonwood canyons, the law gets triggered when Mother Nature outpaces the plows. It requires traction devices like chains, snow tires or all-wheel drive on all vehicles.
It took skier Hilary McCrary almost 2 hours to get to Deer Valley from Salt Lake City Monday morning.
“Basically once we hit Kimball Junction, it was car-to-car traffic—pretty severe winds sweeping snow across the road,” she said.
When she and her fellow skiers arrived at the mountain, Deer Valley was still on wind hold. Lifts at Snow Park, Flagstaff Mountain and Empire opened shortly before 11 a.m.
Park City Mountain opened Payday and Sunrise shortly after 9 a.m. But skiing at Canyons Village was limited with the Orange Bubble Express and Red Pine Gondola on delay.
Even with the delays, McCrary said she still preferred Park City over heading up Big or Little Cottonwood Canyon. The winds subsided later in the day.
“Now it's beautiful,” she said. “It's perfect ski conditions, with a great powdery base, so it's wonderful to be up here. No regrets.”
UDOT’s plows will be on the roads as long as snow and wind gusts remain an issue. Crystal says crews are planning ahead for more accumulation late Jan. 16 and Jan. 17.