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West Sees Changes with Mild Winter


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Denver, CO Jan. 19 (AP by Katherine Vogt)–It’s been raining in Aspen. Bears haven’t been able to sleep in California. And skiers are going mountain-biking and horseback-riding instead.

It has been an unseasonably warm and dry winter across much of the West so far, worrying ski resorts and other businesses that depend on snow.

In the ski resort town of Aspen, Colo., it rained this week _ only the second January rain in the 7,930-foot-high town since 1950. In Park City, Utah, ski resort runs are covered in wet, heavy snow instead of the typical calf-deep powder.

The Lake Tahoe area along the Nevada-California line got up to 2 feet of snow last weekend, helping some ski resorts finally reach or approach full operation.

Michael Berry, president of the National Ski Areas Association, said it is too soon to write off the season. Poor conditions “could fall into a distant memory if it snows in the last two-thirds of the season,” he said.

There is no consensus among forecasters on how long the mild weather may last.

The delayed winter has interrupted hibernation patterns for black bears in Nevada. The bears typically ease toward hibernation between Thanksgiving and Christmas. But with above-normal temperatures and scant snow, the bruins have continued roaming mountains and neighborhoods in search of food.

As of early January, 15 bears tracked by Nevada state biologists were still active.

The lack of moisture has some cattle ranchers fearing it could lead to poor feed this spring.

In contrast, resorts in the Northwest have piles of snow. On Monday, crowds at Schweitzer Mountain Resort near Sandpoint, Idaho, enjoyed 100 inches of snow on top of the mountain _ the deepest snowpack on a list of 66 resorts in Colorado, California, Utah and Idaho.

The warm and dry weather has been a mixed blessing in the Colorado resort town of Durango. The city set a record Sunday with a high temperature of 56 degrees, which forced an ice skating rink to close and the Purgatory Resort to halt snowmaking operations.

But “it’s been great for us,” said Kim Baird at Southfork Outfitters, which operates outdoor excursions. “We’ve been doing lots of horseback rides because people can’t ski.”

The sparkling, blue skies and temperatures in the 50s at the Pack Creek Campground near Moab, Utah, caused some spirits to soar on Wednesday.

“It’s great. Come on down,” said campground owner Ron Regehr. “We’ve doubled our population. We’ve gone from two to four.”

Copyright © 2000 The Associated Press