SALT LAKE CITY -- A year ago, snow was falling in Utah at about twice the average rate and resorts were packed with crowds of tourists reveling in the white stuff.
Now the state's snowpack is at about 50 percent of average, and one resort without snowmaking capability hasn't even opened for the season.
"We had three to four times more snow last year at this time, but that said, it's still very, very early," said Randy Julander, supervisor for the Utah Snow Survey. "Anything is still a possibility."
At this time last year, Julander said, snowpack in most areas of the state was up to 210 percent of normal.
Instead of deep bases of up to 60 inches more typical for this time of year, the mid-mountain level at Utah resorts is just 17 to 32 inches.
"We are definitely hanging in there," said Steve Pastorino, director of public relations at Canyons Resort in Park City.
The lack of snow hasn't hurt business -- yet. The resort is near capacity for the holiday week, he said, and zip-line tours and horse-drawn sleigh rides have given visitors options other than skiing.
"The biggest negative is if it drags on into January and February," Pastorino said.
At Canyons, just 10 of 19 lifts are operating with 38 of 182 trails open.
In the mountains outside of Beaver, Eagle Point Resort has been struggling to open because of the lack of snowfall and inability to make its own powder.
Utah's other 13 resorts are all open, but with limited skiable terrain.
Brighton in Big Cottonwood Canyon near Salt Lake City has the deepest base in the state at 32 inches.
At Snowbasin Resort, about 50 miles north, the base is only 27 inches, but with one of the largest snowmaking systems in the western U.S., the resort has kept trail coverage "pretty much par for the course," said Jason Dyer, the resort's marketing manager.
Things weren't looking better heading into the New Year's holiday weekend, with temperatures for Northern Utah forecast in the upper 40s today.
Northern Nevada's Tahoe Basin and the Sierra also are suffering this season with snowpack at only about 10 percent of normal.
If weather patterns continue through Saturday, officials say, it will be the first time since 1883 that nearby Reno hasn't had any precipitation for the entire month of December.
Ski resorts across the Tahoe Basin have had to rely on their own snowmaking abilities to get through what is typically a busy holiday season.
Farther south in New Mexico, a steady stream of December storms has given resorts some of the best early conditions in the country. Most resorts there recently reported a 40-plus-inch base.
Even Las Vegas Ski & Snowboard Resort on Mount Charleston, about 30 miles northwest of Las Vegas, has a 40-inch base -- deeper than every resort in Utah.
Resort President Kevin Stickelman said this season's winter has made it "the luckiest resort in the country this year."
The season is shaping up to be one of the resort's best in the last decade, he said.
Julander said a strong La Nina pattern is to blame for the extremely wet weather and above-average snowfall in the Rockies and Sierra Nevada last winter and early spring, as well as for drought that hit New Mexico, Arizona and eastern Colorado, leading to massive wildfires.
Julander said with the La Nina pattern in effect, weather will likely shift this winter to drier conditions in the Southwest and more precipitation in the Northwest.
"It's one of those oddball things. In any given year, anything can happen."
He said even with limited snowfall so far, Utah's reservoir storage remains at 85 percent of capacity because of snow from last year.
"Obviously, we would like to see 100 percent snowpack, but if there's any year we could afford a below-average snowpack, this is the year."