OGDEN -- A year ago, water managers saw snowpacks 150 percent of normal burying Utah's mountains and were worrying themselves sick about what the spring runoff would be like. This year, there's a lot less to worry about.
As of Friday, the snowpack of the Weber River drainage basin had 52 percent of a normal year's snowpack. You could say an entire year's worth of snow that had fallen last year, up to this date, didn't fall this year.
Tage Flint, executive director of the Weber Basin Water Conservancy District, said he cannot remember ever seeing the weather take such a drastic turn in one year.
Last year, his concern was preventing flooding. This year, he wonders if there will be enough water to even drain down to his reservoirs, let alone anywhere else.
Glen Merrill, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service, said this winter is on track to be the driest on record since 1928.
The worst winter until now was 1976, he said, and "that was the winter that convinced the ski resorts they needed to install snowmaking machinery."
Snowbasin, Powder Mountain and Wolf Mountain all have only 22-inch base snowpacks. Powder Mountain has three lifts operating for day skiing and one for night skiing. Snowbasin has six lifts operating and 41 open runs with 15 groomed runs.
Snowbasin had extensive snowmaking equipment installed for the 2002 Olympic Games, but unseasonably warm weather has made it hard to use even that.
Temperatures must be 28 degrees or lower for the snowmaking to work.
Temperatures Friday got up to 50, although lows tonight and Sunday should be as low as 13.
Flint said the water district is in relatively good shape despite the lack of snow.
His reservoirs, overall, are at 78 percent of capacity, an unusually high level because of last year's heavy runoff.
When full, his reservoirs hold two years' supply of water.
Earlier this year, Flint was worried that he had so much water in the reservoirs that he might have to start doing heavy releases in January to make room for 2012 runoff.
At this point, he said, he's only letting go the water needed to generate electricity.
"The good news is that about 75 to 80 percent of our snowfall is after this date in most years," he said, "so we still have hope that it will rebound some."
Flint said his worry this year is that there will be so little snow that moisture levels in the soil will also be low.
That's critical to the spring runoff, he said. If the soil is dry, melting snow just soaks into the ground.
Merrill could offer no assurance that snow levels will rebound. Forecasts are for a slight chance of some snow this weekend and clear for a week after that.
Merrill said the problem is that the jet stream, which carries weather around the globe, has split, half going north of Utah and half going south of Utah.
That means Alaska and Arizona are getting smacked, "and we're just getting missed," Merrill said.
"This year, the north branch of the jet has been pounding into southern Alaska and has gradually worked south into British Columbia over the last few weeks," even hitting the Pacific Northwest and northern Rocky Mountain states of Montana and Idaho.
He said Lake Tahoe has been missed worse than Utah. Ski resorts there only have man-made snow on their runs, he said, while "at least ours have between 20 and 30 inches" of real snow.
While this winter season is on track to be the driest since 1928, Merrill said he hasn't checked records to see if the difference between last year and this year also sets some sort of "most drastic change" record.
"Some say that's kind of the trend we're going to in the future," he said.
"The way I like to look at it is, what's an average? You get an average by having some high years and some low years and everything averages out."
Flint said 1976's extremely dry year was why the Weber Basin Water Conservancy District and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation installed pumps near Willard Bay so fresh water stored there could be pumped to other areas in case of drought.
The last time the district pumped water from Willard Bay, the cost was at least $1,000 a day.