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SEE: Live updates from Vail’s 2019 opener

Opening day is here in Vail, and the Vail Daily will be out here all day capturing the action! If you’d like to have your photos featured, use the #VailLive hashtag on Instagram, and refresh this page for updates.

For a list of events happening this weekend, check out Tricia’s weekend picks.

Alterra buying Sugarbush in Vermont, bringing its resort count up to 15

WARREN, Vt. (AP) — Alterra Mountain Company in Denver says it has entered an agreement to buy Sugarbush Resort in Vermont.

The purchase would increase Alterra Mountain’s total year-round mountain destinations to 15 in six states and three Canadian provinces.

Alterra’s chief executive officer said Wednesday that it’s excited to expand in the Northeast. It also owns Stratton Mountain in Vermont.

The company says Sugarbush president Win Smith will remain in that role and will oversee daily operations and plans for future capital improvements.

Officials say the sale is expected to close in the first quarter of 2020.

Terms of the transaction have not been disclosed.

Among the Alterra Resorts are Steamboat and Winter Park in Colorado; Tremblant in Quebec; and Deer Valley Resort and Solitude Mountain Resort in Utah.

Vail Christian football readies for Dayspring

In theory, Vail Christian football is the favorite by seed when it travels to face Dayspring Christian in Greeley on Saturday at 1 p.m. during the state quarterfinals.

History says otherwise.

Whatever one calls the Saints’ league — Central, North or Northwest — whenever Vail Christian runs into the Plains League, things generally don’t end well.

Jamison Lee and Vail Christian are looking to reverse the history against a Plains League opponent, Dayspring Christian, this weekend.
Mort Mulliken | Daily file photo

Between the old crossover games and the state playoffs, the Saints are 1-6 against the Plains League, the preeminent conference in 8-man football, in the postseason.

The happy-happy-joy-joy moment in that 1-6 record was beating Merino, 38-34, back in 2014 at Phelan Field in EagleVail. The unfortunate coda to the story is Dayspring Christian beat the Saints the next week, 42-0, in Greeley.

That, boys and girls, was why Ethan Kuhns, Class of 2018, who was back home from Grand Canyon University in Arizona, jumped into the postgame huddle after the Saints beat Dove Creek, 66-30, last week during Round 1 to tell the team they were playing Dayspring.

Kuhns, a freshman on that 2014 team, was ready to suit up himself. Can we get Sug Ellsworth, Class of 2015, back from Creighton?

Never mind.

The Eagles

Think we’re joking about the Plains Conference being the SEC of Colorado 8-man?  The last six state champions are from the Plains, including four straight from Sedgewick County, this year’s No. 1 seed. Look back and 10 of the last 12 — with Hoehne (Arkansas Valley) as the only interloper — state champs are from this league.

This is not to say that Vail Christian should spend Saturday afternoon cowering on the bus.

The common-opponents numbers are comparable. Byers plays in the Plains and Dayspring defeated the Bulldogs, 54-15, while the Saints blanked them, 66-0.

Both squads took care of Front Range Christian  — the Saints won, 48-12, and the Eagles, 40-0. Vail Christian beat Rangely, 34-22, and Dayspring beat those Panthers, 52-0.

Dayspring passes more than the average 8-man team, so look for quarterback Christian Still. Senior Caden Bonnell is his favorite target with 42 catches for 522 yards.

Bonnell leads the Eagles with 90 carries for 879 yards. On the ground, also look for Still to call his own number as well as handing it to Garrett Krehbiel and Wyatt Eichman.

Around the state

The winner of Saturday’s game takes on the winner of Sedgewick County-Merino. Were Vail Christian to win this week, the Saints would host the semifinals.

Merino edged West Grand, 14-8, last weekend.

On the other side of the bracket, Pikes Peak Christian faces Sanford and Mancos plays Fowler.

Eagle Valley and Battle Mountain finally produce a classic

As seems usual in my sports-fan existence, I root for the team that comes tantalizingly close to being good, only to fall to pieces.

With the exception of the apocalyptic success earlier this decade, the San Francisco Giants are that team, good enough to tease you, but always breaking your heart.

The San Francisco 49ers did that to me Monday night, giving up 21 points off three turnovers in a 27-24 loss to Seattle in overtime.

And this outlook on sporting matters brings us to last weekend’s Eagle Valley-Battle Mountain football game, a thrilling 22-15 Devils’ win.

I feel for Battle Mountain losing, but this does not make Eagle Valley the Seattle Seahawks, or, perish the thought, the Los Angeles Dodgers.

What a game on Friday night.

Ain’t it great …

• Let’s first start with the fact that it was, in fact, thrilling. Having been here since the fall of 1997, this game is usually a lopsided affair, usually in Eagle Valley’s favor. Before Friday, Eagle Valley was clinging to a 14-6 lead in the series with two of the Huskies’ wins coming in 1997.

Battle Mountain and Eagle Valley played a nonconference game in Week 1, and both had open dates the same weekend when Glenwood Springs and Basalt dropped to JV that season, so the two schools played again.

The true count was really 16-6 because the two teams played scrimmages in 2001 and 2002, and keeping score in scrimmages is against the rules – Eagle Valley won both by a score of 50-something-to-the-token-lone-final-drive-touchdown.

So first off, how cool was it to see the rivalry game come down to Eagle Valley needing a 97-yard drive to overcome a 15-14 deficit? (I suppose very cool for Eagle Valley fans, and not so much for Battle Mountain partisans.) 

Given the lack of offense in the first 43 or so minutes, did anyone outside of that huddle think the Devils could go 97 yards? You’re lying.

• Eagle Valley had been trying to get the ball to Matt Lee without success for most of the game, including a pitch play that met with little success.

And then two long passes, including the game-winner. Good throw by Will Geiman. Great effort by Lee to make it to the end zone.

• Speaking of Geiman, the kid’s a sophomore. (By the way, you’re all kids to me now.) In the fine tradition of me, I made him a year older in a previous article. I seem to do this with Devils’ quarterbacks. Jesse Moser was a senior in his junior year, according to me, and he finally graduated last spring.

Back to Geiman, while it’s tough starting as a sophomore, it’s going to be nice the next two years,

With the caveat that everyone on both teams needs to hit the weight room — like right now — Eagle Valley is returning most of the nucleus of this 5-5 team.

Get to work now.

An anecdote

I’m in the Battle Mountain shared football/soccer locker room on Tuesday to interview coach David Cope after the local 11 had just beaten Montrose. I see Huskies football coach Jim Schuppler and jokingly — again, jokingly — ask him if he has the flip play in for the Eagle Valley game.

He smiles and says, “Yes.”

You can call “Shoop” a lot of things, but a liar he ain’t. I never thought the Huskies would do that twice.

Anthony Sanchez

Yes, the Battle Mountain junior had the fumble that set up Eagle Valley’s game-winning drive. Hey, Anthony — You. Did. Not. Lose. The. Game.

In a one-score game over 48 minutes, there were 1,000 different turning points. Blaming you makes about as much sense at blaming Kiah Gongaware for breaking his collarbone a few weeks ago and not being able to play against Eagle Valley. It’s not like he wanted to get hurt, and you certainly didn’t want to fumble.

Anthony, you are a huge part of this team, having started since the beginning of your sophomore year. Lean on your teammates to get through this and use it to make you stronger. You’re going to be a senior next fall and one of the leaders of this team and you’re going to grow from this into a better player and person.

Thursday fundraiser in Vail will reveal the story behind River Radamus’ new look

VAIL – River Radamus is feeling blue, and he’ll tell you all about it on Thursday.

The U.S. Ski Team is hosting one of its most exclusive fundraisers in Vail on Thursday at 6:30 p.m.; the event will take place at Yama Sushi and a suggested donation of $500 or more should get you in the doors.

The team is about $150,000 short of being fully funded for the season, which is not bad considering they have a packed schedule this year on several continents – 44 men’s events at 22 venues and 41 women’s events at 21 venues.

Vail ski racer Kyle Negomir is set to compete in his first full season on the circuit as a member of the U.S. Ski Team’s B Team. By winning the North America Cup overall title last season, Negomir earned invites to every World Cup event this season.

“It’s all new to me, but there’s also a lot of events that will be new to everyone this year,” Negomir said. “There’s a speed event in China and a tech event in Japan. All sorts of cool places.”

Getting around won’t be cheap, but this year the ski team is better funded than in years past. U.S. Ski Team veteran Tommy Biesemeyer is helping to organize the event; he said while the $150,000 goal sounds steep, the team is feeling good about its situation this year.

“That’s what the ski team needs in order to fund the athletes on the A through C teams,” Biesemeyer said. “The D Team is also funded. They have a capped fee of $10,000, which is actually a huge improvement from my time on the team.”

‘Moving in the right direction’

Twelve years ago, when Biesemeyer was on the U.S. Ski Team’s D Team, the development team, the fee for him to compete was $30,000.

“Now that they’re just paying a fixed price of $10,000. … It’s moving in the right direction,” Biesemeyer said.

Biesemeyer said guests to Yama Sushi on Thursday will hear a few stories from his early days, as well as stories from some of the other veteran competitors on the team. Ted Ligety and Steven Nyman might be there, and Mikaela Shiffrin could show up, as well, Biesemeyer said. Shiffrin’s 2019 Alpine World Championships slalom suit, which she was wearing when she won the gold, will be up for auction, along with several other high-value items.

“It’s an opportunity to get to know each other and get an idea of who you’re supporting,” Biesemeyer said. “I think once you get to know us, hear our stories, the passion and determination is very clear, and it’s contagious, and I think people really feed off of that energy. And visa versa, the support from the ski community is huge. It makes this dream possible.”

Top destinations

Radamus said during his first full year of World Cup competition last season, he saw in the U.S. Ski Team a group of determined young men who took nothing for granted.

“This is their dream job,” Radamus said. “And they don’t take that lightly. … We go out there and work our butts off because we’re representing our nation and we’re representing everyone who supports us along the way.”

And getting there, to the bulk of the World Cup events, is just a little more difficult for Americans, something Radamus said he also saw first hand during his World Cup experience last season.

“If you’re in Europe, you’re a four-hour drive from basically every World Cup,” he said. “If you’re from the U.S., you have two events in North America and then you’re over in Europe.”

And when you’re in Europe, you’re really in Europe, visiting some of the nicest places imaginable.

“We’re in Val d’Isère, France; Kitzbuhel, Austria, and all these amazing places, and we’re really lucky, but it’s not cheap,” Radamus said. “We work really hard for it.”

Radamus said heading into this season, after all his time spent among the Euro-fashionistas abroad last year, he was ready to change up his look.

He said he’ll tell you all about it on Thursday.

The event takes place from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at Yama Sushi in Vail. For more information or to make a donation, visit one.bidpal.net/alpinefundraiser.

8,000 new foam blocks and other improvements highlight Woodward Barn opening at Copper Mountain

COPPER MOUNTAIN — Every time you jump into a foam pit at the Woodward Barn, you take a little piece of the pit home with you.

And after several long years of that, many of those cubes had seen enough, said Emily Terrell with Copper.

The Woodward Barn — Copper Mountain’s massive indoor freestyle training facility — reopened over the weekend with 8,000 new foam cubes and a welcome party on Saturday, offering free access to the many trampolines and park facilities that make the barn a legendary training ground for freeskiers, snowboarders, freestyle BMX riders, skateboarders and, yes, even Rollerbladers and scooter kids. All where present on Saturday for the barn’s annual season kickoff party, which took place both inside and outside the facility.

“I’ve worked this event for five years: This is definitely some of the nicest weather we’ve had,” Terrell said Saturday.

On Saturday, Nov. 9, the newly refreshed Woodward Copper Barn reopened with the Barn Bash annual celebration.
John LaConte | jlaconte@vaildaily.com

The barn, which was outfitted with a new roof and new birch spring floor over the offseason, was packed all day as kids 5 and older took to the trampolines for free intro sessions. A live DJ spun tunes, snowboards from Weston and Never Summer, facemasks and water bottles from Phunkshun recycled plastic and Burton stickers were given away as kids gathered to see “Joy,” the new snowboarding movie from Summit County local Red Gerard.

“Once again people were really stoked to be here for the annual welcome party,” Terrell said.

Adaptive

Money was being raised Saturday for the High Fives Foundation, which focuses on preventing life-changing injuries and provides resources and hope if they do happen. The High Fives Foundation empowerment fund supported 92 athletes in 2018. Among them was Trevor Kennison, who made headlines earlier this year for riding Corbet’s Couloir in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, on his sit-ski during the Kings and Queens of Corbet’s competition in February. Kennison broke his back on Vail Pass in 2014 and told his story to listeners Saturday.

“I laid there buried in the snow from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.,” he said. “I’m lucky to be alive.”

Kennison now speaks out on behalf of the High Fives organization, which has disbursed more than $365,000 to athletes like him since Jan. 1, 2018, through grants and equipment including wheelchairs, adaptive bikes, standing frames, hand controls, waveskis, sit-skis, outriggers and more.

Kyle Negomir at Copper Mountain Opening Day Nov 8, 2019.
Curtis DeVore | Special to the Daily

Alpine

While freestyle was the focus on Saturday, the U.S. Ski Team’s Alpine squad has also been enjoying Copper Mountain for the last week or so.

U.S. Ski Team athlete Kyle Negomir, a Ski & Snowboard Club Vail alum, said the team started training Nov. 6 and has been loving the surface available at Copper.

“Having full speed training available this early in the season has been awesome,” Negomir said.

Golden Peak is targeting an Nov. 18 start for Alpine training, as well, said Jessie Vandenhouten with Vail Resorts.

The U.S. Alpine team heads to Vail for a fundraiser at Yama Sushi from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Thursday. Negomir said many Vail athletes should be in attendance including himself, River Radamus and Mikaela Shiffrin. For more information. visit one.bidpal.net/alpinefundraiser.

No. 4 Vail Christian advances to Round of 8 with win over Dove Creek, 66-30

GYPSUM — Coach Tim Pierson and the Vail Christian football team continued their pursuit of a perfect season with a 66-30 win against Dove Creek on Saturday in the Round of 16 for 8-man football.

Alumnus Ethan Kuhns quickly let the team know in its postgame huddle the score of its next opponent in the Round of 8 —Dayspring Christian over Rangely, 52-0.

“We just executed perfectly,” Saints senior quarterback Jamison Lee said about the matchup with the Bulldogs at Eagle Valley High School on Saturday. “If we found something that didn’t work, we switched it up and just stuck it to them. We’ve got Dayspring next week, and we’re ready for them.”

A coin toss has the No. 4 Saints traveling to Greeley next week to play No. 5 Dayspring.

“They’re a great team,” Pierson said of Dayspring. “Everybody here in the playoffs is great.”

‘Senior heavy’

Vail Christian continues its undefeated season with a victory against Dove Creek on Saturday.
Chris Dillmann | cdillmann@vaildaily.com

Against the Bulldogs, senior kicker Andrew Stojkovich sent the opening onside kick bouncing with Dove Creek unable to recover. Saints senior Hayden Sticksel recovered for the early momentum for Vail Christian.

It took Lee and the Saints offense two plays and 50 seconds to score on its opening drive, a 40-yard touchdown scamper by senior Simon Nowicki with less than a minute ticked off the game clock. Lee added the 2-point conversion on the ground.

Nowicki, Lee as well as seniors Chris Cappel and Micah Sharpe often required a pack of Bulldogs to be taken down throughout the game.

“We’re senior heavy,” Pierson said, “and it’s a good group.”

Dove Creek scored once it got the ball, looking to even the score, but an illegal man downfield penalty nullified the play, and the Bulldogs eventually turned the ball over on downs — thanks to three straight tackles at the line of scrimmage by Saints sophomore Vincent Nowicki.

Cappel took a 40-yard run to the house on the Saints second drive, but Vail Christian failed on its 2-point conversion, taking a 14-0 lead early in the first quarter. The Bulldogs would answer on their next possession, a 50-yard run by Bulldogs sophomore quarterback Chorbin Cressler followed by swinging gate 2-point conversion — moving all but three players to the left of the field and one down lineman. The Saints then went four and out, and the Bulldogs tied the game at 14 on Cressler’s second 50-yard touchdown run of the game.

“The defense played well,” Pierson said of the Saints. “They have a great young quarterback and he got us on a couple plays, but we kept after it and got a couple big stops at key times.”

Tied 14-14 after the first quarter, the Saints would go on a 14-0 run to end the half, scoring on a Simon Nowicki 30-yard pass from Lee and Cappel’s second rushing touchdown.

Vincent Nowicki added an athletic interception in the second for Vail Christian, and senior Andrew Flynn also swatted some passes.

Simon Nowicki busted a 55-yard run on the opening drive of the second half for the Saints, capped by a 5-yard touchdown run on fourth down, making it 36-14. The Bulldogs answered right back in less than a minute on a beautiful fake high, handoff low by Cressler to Gauge Thompson, bringing Dove Creek within two scores in the third quarter, 36-22.

The Saints had an answer of their own, a 4-yard run by Sharpe, made possible by a costly offsides penalty by the Bulldogs on a Saints third down.

Leading 44-22 entering the fourth quarter, the Saints went up 50-22 on a 30-yard run by Lee followed by a four and out by the Bulldogs. Cappel’s third touchdown of the game, a 30-yard run on fourth-and-1, made the score 58-22 halfway through the fourth quarter.

“When we get our blocks, our offense is basically impossible to stop,” Cappel said.

Saints linemen Eddie Palacio, Slater O’Brien, and John Pavelich helped pave the way for the ground game — with Pavelich also scoring on a 2-point conversion late in the game.

Freshman quarterback Taylor Shull finished the fourth quarter, along with other up and coming Saints. Shull connected with Sticksel on a 45-yard touchdown pass on fourth-and-2, showing poise in the pocket facing a blitz and waiting for his receiver to create separation.

Sophomore Orion Adelman helped move the ball for the Saints in the fourth quarter, and junior Jedrzej Szabla also helped drain the clock.

Up next is Dayspring, in Greeley on Saturday at 1 p.m.

“We’re just blessed for the opportunity and ready for Dayspring,” Lee said.

Assistant editor Ross Leonhart can be reached at 970-748-2984 and rleonhart@vaildaily.com. Follow him on Instagram at colorado_livin_on_the_hill.

Lewis-Palmer knocks off No. 1 Battle Mountain soccer

EDWARDS — The clank of the crossbar will echo through the winter for No. 1-ranked Battle Mountain soccer.

Huskies soccer’s season came to a shocking and abrupt end with a 3-1 loss to No. 8 Lewis-Palmer in the state quarterfinals on an unseasonably warm Saturday in Edwards.

Ivan Solis and Battle Mountain soccer saw their season come to an end on Saturday with a 3-1 loss to Lewis-Palmer.
Mort Mulliken | Special to the Daily

Battle Mountain’s dream season ends at 16-1-1, while the victorious Rangers will take on Air Academy on Wednesday in the semifinals.

As senior superstar Dani Barajas said afterward, “We lost only one game this year.”

And with that single loss, the team is done for the season. After the final whistle, the squad walked arm in arm to thank the fans. There were tears, slumped shoulders and sullen looks, as expected, in the locker room as coach David Cope recognized each of his seniors without breaking down, always a tough task.

“I think when you set the bar as high as we do, you operate without a safety net.,” Cope said. “It becomes difficult because when you lose, it has that much more magnitude.  … This group is certainly good enough to go on. If we play this game tomorrow or play a seven-game series, you like your chances. But in a single-elimination knockout tournament, those are the kind of things that can happen.”

Get one, get two?

Down 2-0 at the half, Battle Mountain felt that if it could get on the board, the comeback would follow.

In the 69th minute, Barajas caught Rangers goalie Aiden McGonagle wandering too far out, and chipped his shot over him. The shot worked its way through the box and into the net, and Battle Mountain was in business.

Just minutes later, the Huskies had an indirect kick at the top of the box and Barajas cracked it off the crossbar.

Battle Mountain’s Quinn Mitchell shows his wheels against Lewis-Palmer.
Mort Mulliken | Special to the Daily

Trevino Twiss had two chances, one wide right and the other blocked, but the crossbar will be the woulda, coulda shoulda moment.

“If that would have went in, that would have changed the outcome of the game,” Barajas said. “It was unlucky.”

“I just thought we saw a ton of class and kept battling to the end,” Cope said. “That’s what we pride ourselves in. That’s the name of our school and I thought once we got one, we would definitely have a chance for another one.  And we did and it hit the crossbar. It’s just amazing.”

Lewis-Palmer (15-3) got on the board with a well-executed set piece as Cole Mooney headed in a beautiful service from Tyler Prichard.

The Rangers’ Ethan Mann made it 2-0 late in the first half. After Barajas’crossbar, with everyone in Battle Mountain black pressing forward, Lewis-Palmer’s T.J. Wright finished it with 50 seconds left in regulation.

Looking back

With every other program at any school in the county, a 16-1-1 season is a spectacular one. During the team’s seniors’ four-year tenure, Battle Mountain boys’ soccer was 59-10-2.

The challenge of the next few days, weeks and months is figuring out how to balance what are rightly high standards while at the same time recognizing that one loss does not define a season.

“I think how we played on the field wasn’t reflected on the scoreboard,” senior defender Harrison Rubis said. “I just think we played well all the way.

“I’ll never forget any of these boys. I’ve been playing with them since elementary school.”

The team went out for pizza after the game, because as we all know, pizza is a panacea for the souls of teenagers.

“I just want to thank the boys, everything they did for me,” Barajas said. “I’m proud of being a part of this program. This is going to be successful, no matter what. Thank you for everything.”

Yet this will still sting for a while.

“We set a high standard, especially from July with the optional workouts to (Denver University) team camp to the preseason, and the boys played at such a high level,” Cope said.  “That’s what I’ll always remember from this season, that we got the No. 1 seed and we held it for three games. A lot of years, as we know, the No. 1 seed doesn’t win it. So does that mean we’ll shy away from it in the future? Hell no.”

Researchers take deep dive into March 2019’s intense avalanche cycle

The avalanche cycle that struck the Colorado mountains in March destroyed a mining structure that had survived since 1881, produced three slides among the most destructive ever recorded in the state, obliterated the sheriff’s house in Hinsdale County and blanketed roadways in places that had never been covered.

Colorado Avalanche Information Center researchers are just starting to get a grip on the magnitude of events from March 1 to 14.

“Nobody alive remembers anything like this happening,” Brian Lazar, deputy director of the avalanche center, said Wednesday night at a presentation at Cripple Creek Backcountry in Carbondale.

A standing-room-only crowd of about 100 crammed into the store to watch a slideshow featuring images that Lazar called “avalanche porn.”

CAIC recorded nearly 1,000 avalanches between March 1 and 14. In reality, at least five times that many actually occurred, Lazar said. CAIC uses satellite imagery for avalanche research. The satellites focus on areas where timber was knocked down. It indicated there were nearly 5,000 sites in the Colorado mountains last winter. Sometimes, CAIC is learning of massive slides from pictures provided of the carnage remaining this summer.

It wasn’t just the numbers but the sheer destructive force that made the March cycle so memorable.

The D-scale is an assessment of the destructive potential of avalanches. A D1 slide is relatively harmless. D3 can knock down timber. D4 can destroy a structure and alter a section of forest. D5 is the highest, with the force to alter the landscape and even destroy a small village.

CAIC has documented 87 avalanches at or above D4 during the two-week March cycle, Lazar said. To put that into perspective, there were 24 slides of that magnitude from 2010 to 2018 combined.

Two of the three biggest slides in March occurred in Pitkin County. The first occurred in Conundrum Creek Valley on March 9. The slide broke along 1 mile of the ridge south of Aspen Highlands, including the Five Fingers area. It dumped debris as deep as 200 feet in the creek.

“This was the biggest avalanche I’ve ever seen in the state of Colorado, probably the biggest avalanche I’ve ever seen in the lower 48 states,” Lazar said. “It wiped out thousands of trees.”

One house was spared only because a protective concrete wedge diverted snow, tree trunks and debris to avoid a direct hit. Lazar and other researchers used chainsaws to cut disks out of tree trunks left in the slide path to estimate of their age. That helps determine how long it has been since a slide of that magnitude struck the area.

“From some of the tree coring and some of the tree disking we’re doing, this particular event may be more in the order of one in 300 years,” Lazar said.

Another of the D5 slides occurred March 14 along a 2-mile ridge starting at Garrett Peak just outside of Snowmass Ski Area.

“You’ve often heard you can’t get D5 avalanches in Colorado,” Lazar said. “I’ve often said that myself because the terrain’s just not big enough.”

He predicted that after more information is assessed, additional slides from the cycle will be reclassified as D5, most likely some in Gothic and Lake City.

“So much went down in this (two-week) period, there’s no way I can capture it in one talk,” Lazar said at the start of his presentation.

In a nutshell, here’s what happened. Average to slightly above-average snowfall during the first half of the winter built a strong and stable snowpack throughout the Colorado mountains. March brought a series of exceptionally wet snowstorms.

“We got hammered for two weeks straight,” said Lazar, a resident of the Carbondale-area and a CAIC forecaster for the Aspen-Marble zone.

The Aspen zone was among the hardest hit. While many mountains received 4 to 6 feet of snow, Schofield Pass near Marble received 12 feet. The storms added at least 4 to 6 inches of snow water equivalent — the amount of water in the snowpack.

The snowpack couldn’t handle that amount of loading with wet, heavy snow. In addition, a lot of snow was built up since there hadn’t been a lot of slide activity earlier in the winter. As a result, the slides in March were huge.

“When things finally started failing, they went catastrophically,” Lazar said.

There are indications that wet storm periods might become more common.

“With climate change and that kind of stuff happening, we’re seeing 3- to 4-inch water storm events more frequently,” Lazar said.

CAIC’s research of the historically large and intense cycle is heading in several directions. For example, some of the largest and most destructive timber was carried to the toe of the slide path. Conventional wisdom had been that it settles out earlier. The pattern displayed in March might force reassessment of damage potential.

Also of interest is the somewhat random nature of slides. While many avalanche paths slid — some for the first time in decades and even more than 100 years — not all slopes did. Lazar showed a picture of a road sign saying “End of Avalanche Area” knocked over by an avalanche. That displays the uncertainty around big cycles, he said.

Of greatest concern to CAIC is how to warn people in isolated mountain areas about avalanche danger. As population grows, fewer people have telephone landlines so they aren’t accessible by reverse 911. The destruction of the Hinsdale County sheriff’s house, which was occupied by three people at the time, demonstrates a need for greater communication with people in endangered areas, Lazar said.

“Having gone down there, I can’t believe anyone lived through this thing,” he said.

The March storm cycle was destructive enough. Avalanches that month killed two people — one in the backcountry and another in an accident while clearing a roof. Ten structures were hit statewide. Gas and power lines were damaged. Highway 550 over Red Mountain Pass south of Ouray was closed for 18 days. Slides even closed Interstate 70 and Highway 91 near Copper Mountain. Ten people were trapped in vehicles on open highways throughout the state.

Once the snow stopped, avalanche conditions quickly returned to mostly stable for the remainder of winter and spring.

“We went from pretty stable to the world falling apart to pretty stable just like that,” said Lazar, who added that analysis of the intense two-week period will continue. “This is going to be years of research in the making.”

scondon@aspentimes.com

Avalanche defenseman Nikita Zadorov out indefinitely after taking puck to the face against Predators

A bounce-back Avalanche victory Thursday against the Predators was soured with the discovery that yet another player will be lost for significant time to injury.

Defenseman Nikita Zadorov took a puck to the face early in the second period on a Nashville power-play and immediately dropped to the ice. He was taken to the locker room and did not return.

“(Zadorov) got hit in the face with that shot and he’s gone to the doctor today,” coach Jared Bednar told reporters Friday after an optional morning skate. “I would say he’s out indefinitely. I don’t have all the details of his injury just yet. We’ll know more later today.”

Zadorov is the latest on a growing list of injured Avs that includes goalie Philipp Grubauer and forwards Gabe Landeskog, Mikko Rantanen and Colin Wilson. Colorado will recall a player from the AHL-affiliate Eagles before the team embarks on a five-game road trip next week, Bednar said.

Zadorov’s prolonged absence leaves a physicality void on Colorado’s back-end with his team-leading 28 hits in 15 games this season. The Avalanche host the Blue Jackets on Saturday night.

Read more via The Denver Post.