Olympic venues in snow-starved Rockies start opening slopes after Thanksgiving snowfall

Saturday, November 24th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) _ After a warm start to the ski season, the flakes are piling up in the snow-starved Rockies and resorts are opening their slopes in relief and in anticipation of the upcoming the Winter Olympics.

Utah's Park City resort, a key venue in the games, planned to open Saturday after a heavy Thanksgiving snowfall. The state's slopes, bare before Thanksgiving, have received as much as 3 feet of snow since Thursday, and more is expected over the weekend.

``We still don't have an opening date,'' said Kevin Stauffer, guest services manager at Snowbasin, which got a foot of snow. ``But the snow gods and colder temperatures mean our snowmaking is fired up.''

An unusually warm November had left Park City and other Utah and Colorado resorts with brown, barren slopes _ and left Olympic organizers with growing anxiety as the opening of the 2002 Olympic Games.

The snowfall was also a welcome sight in Colorado, where warm weather forced World Cup officials to cancel or reschedule ski races earlier this week. Aspen, which lost some World Cup events to Copper Mountain due to a lack of snow, received about 10 inches of snow on Friday.

Vail opened on Thanksgiving and hoped to have more runs open over the next few days, said spokeswoman Kelly Ladyga.

``We're just ecstatic. More snow means we have very happy guests,'' she said.

Snow also fell at Idaho's Sun Valley resort, where warm weather had forced officials to put off a Thanksgiving opening. Up to 6 inches fell in northern Idaho and more was possible over the weekend.

In Utah, the snowfall was giving the snowplows their first heavy workout of the season.

Complicating the plow work were motorists who were slow to reacquire their winter driving skills, said Utah Highway Patrol dispatcher Rob Telford.

``We've got all kinds of traffic problems, accidents pretty much all over the valley,'' he said.