VAIL - By 10:05 a.m. the morning of Feb. 22, both public parking lots were full in Vail and cars were beginning to spill over onto the Frontage Road.
Vail Mountain's official report said there were 9 inches new snow in the last 24 hours the morning of Feb. 23 and 21 inches in the last seven days.
"Ten a.m. is a little earlier than we're used to seeing the lots fill on a Friday," said Kevin Berga, parking supervisor for the town of Vail. "On Saturday, they didn't fill till 10:25 a.m., which is unusual that Saturday would take longer to fill than Friday."
By the end of the ski day on Feb. 22, 372 cars had spilled over from the lots and were parked along the Frontage Road.
Destia Day came in from Denver to ski Vail on Feb. 22. She got to the Lionshead lot at 8 a.m. and said it was dead.
"We drove right in and parked on the bottom level," she said. "There was no one there. We rode a bit and came back to move the car, and people were stalking like vultures, waiting to take the spot."
On Feb. 23, Berga said he and the town of Vail were preparing for 700 cars to spill over from the lots.
"We only got 492, so everything went really smooth," he said.
Berga said the sign in the roundabout, directing people to the Lionshead lot once the Vail lot was full, played a key role in keeping things from getting too congested.
"It used to be people would start heading back east and realize the Vail lot was full, so then they'd try to make a U-turn or turn around by Solaris," Berga said. "It was always a real mess. Now people see that sign in the roundabout and they just head west. It's much smoother."
By 8:30 a.m. the morning of Feb. 23, a large crowd had accumulated at the Eagle Bahn Gondola and Chair 8 in Lionshead, making for a different early day experience than Day found on Feb. 22. The Eagle Bahn began taking people up a few minutes earlier than usual in an attempt to balance out the crowds.
But the lines weren't just limited to the chairlifts. On the evening of Feb. 23, supermarkets in Vail were packed with people, with a 10-minute wait for self-checkout and longer for person-to-person checkout.
Buzz Schleper from Buzz's Boards in Vail said there's no question the snow is bringing the crowds.
"This year has been incredible in terms of crowds," he said. "We've been steadily busy since Christmas, and not just on weekends."
The main indicator, in Schleper's mind, that it's the snow that's been bringing the crowds?
"We've had tons of people coming in wanting to rent powder skis," he said.
More snow is in the forecast for Monday night and Tuesday, the National Weather Service reports.