Summerhaven hanging onto hope for snow during a dry winter season

Each flake is more precious as spring gets closer

SUMMERHAVEN, Ariz. - Colin O'Brien, Rebecca Root, and their dog Lilly were part of a modest stream of visitors that trickled into Summerhaven Monday, President’s Day.

“We were holding out hope there might be a little bit up here but not disappointed,” O’Brien said.

The "it" that is missing is snow. This winter has not been kind to snow-loving people in Summerhaven, like Graham Davies, who operates Ski Valley.

“Optimistic, but probably realistic,” Davies said about the snow chances on Mount Lemmon.

It has been a season of “what if” on Mount Lemmon. Last week, the area received nearly 10 inches of rain, which might have been feet of snow had the weather cooperated.

Ski Valley does not make artificial snow, this week its runs are bare and yellow as one storm after another this season has turned into a bust.

Despite the dry conditions, Davies says business has not been miserable. “Even a little bit of snow is fun for people to come up and see the snow and hang out and eat in the restaurant,” he said.

Still, he hopes to avoid a second rough year for skiing. Last year, despite numerous bountiful storms, the main lift wasn't operational because wind knocked trees onto the lift toward the top of the mountain.

“We've cleaned up that mess and we're ready to go so hopefully mother nature will cooperate. But you never know,” he said.

As a dry winter in the mountain west continues, each potential snowflake becomes more valuable. Ski Valley, the lower 48’s southern-most ski lift, only needs a 16-inch snow base to operate.

“It doesn't take much for us to open up, so we're always hopeful,” Davies said.

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