DIAMOND LAKE — In 28 years working at Diamond Lake Resort, John Jonesburg has never seen it so bad.
Normally this time of year, visitors flock to the area to enjoy thick, fluffy snow just right for skiing, snowmobiling, snow tubing or just a good old-fashioned snowball fight.
This year is different.
The lack of snow has forced the resort to shut down some of its operations and lay off more than half of its winter staff. Most of the staff members have been at Diamond Lake for multiple seasons, and Jonesburg said the resort plans to hire them back on if it gets enough snow to operate.
“We need a lot of snow to get things open again,” said Jonesburg, marketing and events coordinator for Diamond Lake. He said pansies are already blooming where the snow needs to be.
The resort was able to keep its snow tubing hill open through the holiday season by hauling truck loads of snow to the hill every morning. When that stopped being cost effective, the resort closed the tubing hill after New Year’s weekend, and hasn’t opened since.
Cat skiing at Mount Bailey remains closed, and snowmobiling from the snow-less lake level is nonexistent. Those wanting to ride snowmobiles can still do so by pulling them on a trailer to the Three Lakes Snow Park at Mount Bailey where snow can be found.
“I think this is the worst I’ve seen,” Jonesburg said. Though Diamond Lake itself was frozen over the holiday season, it has since thawed, meaning no ice fishing any time soon.
“Depending on what this next storm does, we’re contemplating putting boats into the water,” Jonesburg said. “It feels like spring up here.” He said putting charter boats back in the water could allow the resort to bring some of the staff members back to work.
But help could be on the way as soon as Thursday.
According to the National Weather Service, rain is predicted to turn to snow by Thursday afternoon, with the snow trend remaining through next Monday. Highs are expected to be around 32 degrees.
But Jonesburg said it will take more than just a couple of inches here or there to salvage this season.
Despite the current lack of snow-related activities, the resort remains open for guests. They can hike trails they would otherwise ski across, and go fishing without having to drill a hole through the ice. Even so, Jonesburg said, few people are visiting.
Compared to a usual year, Jonesburg estimated the amount of visitors, revenue and business in general is down about 60 percent this year.
With no sign of snow Wednesday morning, Diamond Lake is behind its 30-year average of 9.6 inches of snowpack as of Jan. 17, according to the Northwest River Forecast Center. It was last year at this time that Diamond Lake had 14.4 inches of snow pack, 152 percent of normal. This year, the Rogue-Umpqua region is 50 percent below normal snow levels.
Dick Dolgonas, a member of Edelweiss Ski Club, said the club normally makes its first ski trips in December or January, but this season looks pretty ugly so far.
“I think there may be some storms coming in, but right now it’s pretty terrible,” Dolgonas said. “We’re waiting and hoping.” The group usually visits the Diamond Lake area regularly, but it’s unsure of whether there will be enough snow in time to put on its annual Community Ski Day event planned for early February.
Dolgonas said the club will likely get to ski this season at Crater Lake National Park, which reported a snow depth of 33 inches Tuesday, more than 41 percent below the average snowfall for mid-January of 80 inches.
“We’ll have to wait to see if these will turn into big winter storms,” Jonesburg said. “Mother Nature’s going to have to tell us what we can do.”