December 14, 2001 11:00 pm
SNOWY CHALLENGE: Skiers head to the summit for another breathtaking run. (Baker City Herald/MARK FURMAN).
SNOWY CHALLENGE: Skiers head to the summit for another breathtaking run. (Baker City Herald/MARK FURMAN).

By Mark Furman

For The Observer

How do you answer a question like, Is gravity working?

Sun rise this morning?

Think itll be dark tonight?

Is Anthony open yet?

A simple Yes doesnt adequately sum up having the late day sun at your back, rooster tails of powder casting long, shadowy arcs off your silhouette with each turn.

You bet! loses in the inflection that certain something about the taste of powder in your mouth.

I believe they opened last Friday is too chock full of plausible denial when you know the truth.

Hmmm ...

Its like March after a big dump! was the best assessment I heard Friday afternoon.

And if the reference is to last March, in particular, the comparison sticks.

Snow depth at Anthony Lakes last March, according to a snow survey taken March 1: 43 inches.

Snow depth at Anthony Lakes last Friday, according to the resort: 35 inches, with six inches of new.

This is the best early snow base Ive seen since Ive been here. This thing is bombproof, said Rick Pignone, in his fourth season as general manager at Anthony Lakes Mountain Resort.

The ski area opened a week later than last year, he noted, but more of the areas terrain was open.

Our hill coverage was really, really good for an opening weekend, Pignone said. One hundred percent of the hill was open.

A week later (today) Anthony is reporting a 38-inch base with three inches of new, with 54 inches mid-mountain. Pignone said the resort has been running groomers on the snow all week, packing it down and opening up groomed terrain.

We will probably have most of the groomed in operation for this week end, he said.

Dec. 7, 116 skiers were greeted with clear skies and a stunning view of the Wallowas. From the top of the ski lift, the Cascade volcano Mount Adams was barely visible to the northwest.

Skier numbers were comparable to last years opening day, Pignone said.

Winds that had been scouring snow off the top of the mountain Thanksgiving weekend had left mountaintop trees clouded in snow, towering ghosts in an alpine setting.

Small trees still poked out of the snow on the sides of some runs, but even the Rock Garden run under the lift was being skied to bits.

The resort advised skiers to be wary of early season conditions. Patches of exposed granite still threatened to carve a new gouge in some poorly placed ski base last weekend. But the groomed runs were clear and safe.

By Dec. 8, the crowd grew to 316, Pignone said. Lift lines remained nominal, at worst. Most of the time, you could load as fast as you could get to the bottom.

Pignone said the weekend offered fantastic training for resort staff in preparation for larger crowds.

And as for the question, Is Anthony open yet?

I answered queries the night of Dec. 7 with, Once in your life, you get to be part of something truly special ...