Just when it appeared there would be an entire season without any winter recreation, the unexpected happened.
"The deepest snow I measured was about 25 inches Saturday evening," said Anna Mae Deming, Payson's National Weather Service observer. While the snow was a welcome relief to a drought-plagued forest, Deming said the accumulation of the past few days was in no way a record-breaker.
"The storm of 1967 --now that was a record," Deming said. "We got 77 inches of snow on the ground at one time. This doesn't compare in any way to that storm, but it sure was needed."
Brenda Grier, operator of the Forest Lakes Touring Center, agreed with Deming's sentiment. Grier's cross country ski-rental operation on the Mogollon Rim 40 miles east of Payson has been closed the entire season.
"But now we got about 41 inches over the weekend," she said. The storm not only dumped a snowdrift on her doorstep, it also dumped business in her lap.
"We now have the Rim Run opened and groomed," Grier said. The Rim Run is a 6.5-mile round-trip trail that takes skiers on a cross-country trek to the Mogollon Rim and back. While temperatures rose slightly Monday, Grier said the storm expected Tuesday or Wednesday should prime skiing conditions toward the end of the week.
"We'll definitely be skiing this weekend," she said.
Over in Tonto Village, Steven Kamp said his community was also buried, which closed down Highway 260 for about 24 hours Friday. Tonto Village is located on the Control Road about four miles west of Kohl's Ranch.
"Our power went out from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. Saturday, and we lost our water Sunday from noon until about 2 or 3 p.m.," Kamp said. He said a number of large branches broke under the weight of the snow, and a tree fell on one house, whose roof mostly managed to bear up.
North of Payson, in the snow-covered hamlet of Pine, Vicki Ross said she and her family stayed snuggled indoors all weekend.
"We sat, we cooked and we ate," she said. She estimates that roughly 2 1/2 feet of snow fell on her yard.
"But, we also have a metal roof and the snow slides off it," she said, "so we have probably 4 1/2-foot drifts in our yard."
Ross said Pine was without power for about six hours Friday night, as wet snow brought down power lines.
"We have a couple of trees down in the back of our house," she said. "The snow was so wet, there are trees all over that are just leaning over to the ground."
Up the road in Strawberry, broker Rose Harper of MVP Realty said the storm left about 38 inches on her community.
While the electricity flickered on and off for a time, Harper said as far as she knew, there were no outages in Strawberry.
"During the heaviest part of the storm, I think the cable went out for about an hour and a half, but that was about it," she said. "Now, we're looking forward to very fertile mud."
Harper said it was the neighborhood roads and driveways blocked by snowdrifts that kept most of the residents indoors.
This spring storm did not discriminate on what communities it covered, said Janet Hook of Gisela.
"We had about an inch and a half of snow, with a lot of limbs broken off trees," she said. Hook said that normally when the Rim country gets a good snowstorm, Gisela usually only gets a light dusting. This unusual occurrence left residents without power for 13 hours Friday, she said.
"A lot of people stayed in their homes," she said, "especially since the roads weren't cleared."
Town crews work overtime
In Payson, transportation administrator Bob Olsson said his crews worked overtime making sure neighborhood streets stayed clear.
"They came in very early Saturday morning and cleared out the snow," Olsson said. "Normally, we would have waited for a working day to clear the roads, but we decided to get on top of it."
That work may have gone a long way toward reducing the number of snow-related accidents around town.
Sgt. Todd Bramlet of the Payson Police Department said other than a car running into a pole late Friday afternoon --an accident he said may or may not have been caused by the snow --there were very few problems on Payson streets.
The Payson Fire Department also reported a relatively quiet weekend, as far as medical emergencies were concerned.
"Mainly, we just did a lot of snow removal from people's roofs," said secretary Carol Longacre. Firefighters also took oxygen to those who were running short, dropped off prescription medications to those who couldn't get out, and even helped one resident to and from a dialysis treatment.
Chief Nursing Officer Karen Amen said Payson Regional Medical Center's emergency room was not abnormally busy over the weekend.
"Friday, we saw 22 patients in the emergency room, and the bulk of those were seen in late morning or the early afternoon," Amen said.
Other than those, she said the ER was relatively quiet, "if you can ever consider an ER quiet," she said. In fact, she said, the snow probably kept most people in the safety of their homes.
While the snow melts all around the Rim country, the National Weather Service advises to keep your winter jackets out a little longer. Forecasters are predicting a cooling trend to hit northern Gila County around mid-week, with a chance of snow likely for Wednesday.