VAIL — Clear skies have returned to the valley, creating classic Colorado conditions on the mountains — soft snow and plenty of sunshine.
And for a storm that wasn’t expected to leave much snow, the 27 inches of new fluff Vail Mountain measured during the past week was a welcome surprise to visitors to the valley.
As of Christmas Day, Vail had received 107 inches of snow so far this season, about a third of the resort’s average in the first month of operation this season. The mid-mountain base is holding steady at 38 inches, the best holiday season base we’ve seen in several years.
For Debbie Powell, of Fort Worth, Texas, it was her third trip to Vail in the past 12 months. She said the conditions have gotten better each time she’s visited.
“We came last winter, last spring and now again this winter,” Powell said, her hand shielding her face from the abundant sunshine while riding Vail’s Mountaintop Express chairlift. “I can’t believe how beautiful it was for Christmas.”
Powell, a skier, was spending time with her daughter, 17-year-old Jordan, a snowboarder. She said in addition to spending time in Vail and Beaver Creek, they’re going to head to Boulder.
“I want Jordan to see CU,” she said. “She’s been getting into snowboarding more and more over these last few trips to Vail; I’m hoping she considers CU for college so she can continue snowboarding while she’s in school.”
For those less familiar with the area, the abundant snow was a welcome challenge.
Mark Newman was enjoying his first trip to the Rocky Mountains during the Christmas holiday. The Washington, D.C., resident snowboarded at Vail and Copper Mountain while he was in town.
“The snow here is so much different than I’m used to,” he said while riding Vail’s Gondola One. “It’s a lot of fun. But I think I need some more practice in the powder.”
Janis Vanags, of Latvia, was drawn to town by more than just the snow.
“We have snow in Latvia, just no mountains like this,” he said. “This is something made by God, not by man. These mountains are the bones of God, and these streams are his veins. We’re a part of this whole universe, on days like this you can see the moon and the sun, the mountains and the streams, and it puts you in tune with the universe.”
Vanags said he was traveling from state to state across the mountains of the U.S. and had been to Mt. Bachelor in Oregon, Sun Valley in Idaho, Park City in Utah and Aspen, Beaver Creek and Vail in Colorado.
He said the snow in Colorado was the best of the places he visited.
“Regarding snow, I like a challenge, that’s why I’m out here,” he said. “When I ski, I push very hard, too much sometimes. Last night I was so tired, woke up this morning, I didn’t want to wake up but then you get moving and you’re out there again. I’m going to go up probably again, but then I’ll be extremely tired.”
At the Vail Welcome Center, workers said guests have been pouring in from out of town, looking for ways to enjoy the snow. On Wednesday, the Hulme family from Philadelphia received a Christmas present from community host Ann Antonius as part of the town’s Random Acts of Kindness outreach program.
“She gave us a voucher for free parking for the day,” Steve Hulme said.
All the early season snowfall has had backcountry skiers active, as well.
But the Colorado Avalanche Information Center was reporting that avalanche danger in backcountry areas near Vail was considerable on Thursday, with several slides reported on Wednesday.
“Moderate to strong west and northwest winds since Monday resulted in active wind loading that built new wind slabs 1 to 4 feet thick,” the Colorado Avalanche Information Center reported, adding that the slabs are deeper toward the west side of our area. “Observers reported numerous natural and triggered slides on Wednesday primarily on aspects facing toward the east side of the compass.”
The Avalanche Information Center said human-triggered slides remain possible to probable for our area on Thursday.
“Look for drifted snow with a pillow-like appearance and shooting cracks as you approach steeper terrain. ... Avoid traveling on or under steep wind-loaded slopes until they have time to stabilize.”
“We have snow in Latvia, just no mountains like this. This is something made by God, not by man.”
Visitor from Latvia