EAGLE COUNTY — After a two-day storm that left feet of new snow in the Vail Valley, there’s more snow in the forecast this week. And people are noticing and booking rooms.
The National Weather Service’s seven-day forecast for Vail has snow in the forecast three of the next five days. Meteorologist Joel Gratz, of www.OpenSnow.com, believes the totals could add up to between 10 and 20 inches by the end of this week. Don’t expect the greater estimate — that rarely happens. Still, more snow on top of the big powder dump from the past week will be welcome.
From a snowfall perspective, Gratz said the snow measurement site on Vail Mountain is running ahead of the 30-year average for Feb. 3 for the first time since drought first hit the high country in the second half of 2011. And, Gratz said, the current snowpack is almost even with the measurements taken in the massive snow season of 2010-11.
As of Feb. 3, the snowpack was high enough that the valley could go without snow until roughly Valentine’s Day and still remain above historical averages.
But there’s more snow on the way. As opposed to the past week’s giant storm, the snow expected this week is more in line with the valley’s traditional weather patterns — a few inches a day over several days, adding up to a foot or so by the time the weather patterns shift.
That shift could come as late as the first part of next week, Gratz said.
All the snow has come at a great time, for a handful of reasons.
“To ensure a good spring, season, it needs to snow in the spring, or we need to have a good snowpack going into (the season),” Gratz said. “Right now, there’s great snow on the ground, with temperatures low enough to keep it around for a while.”
At Troy’s Ski Shop in Vail, Lance Rose agreed that the current snow should “give us an easy glide into spring.”
“It’s looking great right now,” Rose added. “Our clients are very happy.”
A BOOST FOR THE ECONOMY
The local economy should be in a good mood, too. After a busy weekend, bookings at Vail On Sale, the Vail Valley Partnership’s website for last-minute bookings — defined as travel 21 days or less after making a reservation.
Partnership President Chris Romer said Vail On Sale has been “very busy” since the first forecasts hit this past week, saying the Thursday and Friday storm would be a big one.
Just the page views are up double-digit percentages from last season, Romer said. More important, the “conversion rate” — people who come to the website, then book rooms — has doubled from the same period last season.
Those reservations are coming in what’s traditionally a somewhat “soft” period for tourism, between the Martin Luther King holiday weekend and the three-day Presidents Day weekend. Past the Presidents Day weekend, reservations generally range between “strong” and sold out through the end of March.
People who come to ski during the weeks between the holidays represent business that can mean the difference between a good and great season, Romer said.
The additional snow does have its disadvantages, though, primarily in the backcountry. New snow on top of old snow is often unstable. Add in wind, and backcountry conditions can become dangerous.
The Colorado Avalanche Information Center website’s forecast page issued a “special advisory” for avalanche conditions through Feb. 3. The page also called for “considerable” avalanche danger above and near treeline in Vail and Summit counties through this evening. That forecast comes with an ominous reminder:
“Around one-half of all fatal accidents occur at ‘considerable’ danger.”