5 feet of snow headed for SW Colo. peaks? | VailDaily.com

5 feet of snow headed for SW Colo. peaks?

George Merritt
Associated Press
Vail, CO Colorado

Grateful ski-resort operators eagerly awaited a storm rolling toward snow-starved southwest Colorado on Friday that was expected to dump up to 5 feet in the high mountains.

“This is exactly the kind of storm we’ve been hoping for,” said Loryn Kasten of Purgatory at Durango Mountain Resort, about 230 miles southwest of Denver.

The National Weather Service issued a blizzard warning for parts of the San Juan Mountains, predicting snow depths of 1 to 3 feet above 8,500 feet, and up to 5 feet on some southwest-facing slopes.

Forecasters said gusts could hit 70 mph in the high country.

Other parts of western Colorado were under a winter storm warning, with rain forecast at lower elevations and up to 3 feet of snow in the mountains.

Purgatory resort in Durango hasn’t had enough snow to open this season, but the storm ” which began to drop flakes Friday afternoon ” could change that.

“If we do get something like the 3 feet that is predicted, we’re hoping we can get our lifts going Sunday morning,” she said.

At Carver Brewing Co. in Durango, Mike Hurst was eager to finish his shift at the brew pub and get ready for a perfectly timed day off Saturday.

“It’s looking like a big one,” he said. “It’s so dry out here that when we get this much moisture, you know it is going to be huge.”

Todd Brodbeck, who runs the El Diablo snow cat skiing service out of Silverton, said he expected his phone to “ring off the hook” Saturday.

“I’ve seen this kind of storm turn into phenomenal storms with epic conditions,” he said.

Only in Beaver Creek, where downhill skiers gathered for the World Cup, did the storm dampen the mood. Officials lowered the start of the downhill race because of high winds on the upper part of the course.

Crested Butte ski resort, which had five of its 16 lifts open, was expecting at least 5 inches and perhaps much more.

“This would be a gift from heaven,” resort spokeswoman April Prout said.

Even the snowplow drivers were excited for some winter action.

“Those areas of the state had a pretty light winter last year, so even our crews are looking forward to this,” said Stacey Stegman, a spokeswoman for the state Transportation Department.

“They enjoy their jobs and the more time they can find themselves in the plow the better.”

The brunt of the storm was expected to hit Friday night.

Up to seven inches of snow was expected in the northern Colorado mountains. Freezing rain was expected in Colorado Springs and most of the eastern third of the state by early Saturday.

The forecast for Denver and other cities along the eastern foot of the Rockies called for snow showers or up to three inches of snow.

Little snow has fallen across most of the state this season. Accumulations in the southwest quadrant ranged from 19 percent to 28 percent of the 30-year average, and the statewide average was 37 percent.

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