Big snow brings big smiles to Vail Valley |

Big snow brings big smiles to Vail Valley

Skier Dave Velasco floats through up to a foot of fresh powder on Spider trail at Beaver Creek on Wednesday.
Zach Mahone, Beaver Creek Resort | Special to the Daily |

How much?

Here’s a look at snow reports from up and down the Vail Valley:

• Eagle County Regional Airport: 10 to 12 inches.

• Vail Nordic Center: 12 inches.

• Vail Mountain: five inches (reported before 5 a.m. Wednesday)

• Beaver Creek: five inches (reported before 5 a.m.)

EAGLE COUNTY — As he was leaving Tuesday’s town council meeting at about 9 p.m., Vail Mayor Andy Daly looked at the relatively scant snow in the parking lot and pronounced it “disappointing.” Sunrise brought much better news.

A major storm moving through the Rockies brought a significant amount of snow from one end to the other of the Vail Valley. The Vail Nordic Center reported about a foot of new snow by mid-afternoon Wednesday. About the same amount fell in Gypsum, usually the low-snow end of the valley.

That new snow prompted powder-day happy dances at both Vail and Beaver Creek.

Paul Milloy, who has been coming to Vail since the season it opened, was skiing Beaver Creek on Wednesday and was clearly thrilled with the fresh snow.

“Great conditions — felt like 10 inches out there,” Milloy said, adding the snow was “the type of chop powder where I wish I had my snowboard.”

Milloy’s wife, Marianne, a former ski instructor, said the couple gave up snowboarding and went back to skis when they turned 70.

Vail resident Andrew Worth was on the first chairlift up the mountain Wednesday, and rode until he tired himself out at about 11 a.m.

“These powder days make you remember why it’s nice to be in good shape,” Worth said. “When I was coming across Eagle’s Nest Ridge I thought ‘I need to eat less bacon.’ I’m still gonna ride till the end of the day, though.

“The town really comes alive when there’s snow like this,” Worth added. “They say there’s no friends on powder days, but I don’t think that’s true. Everyone’s so friendly; everyone’s in a good mood.”

Buzz Schleper has been skiing Vail roughly forever, and Wednesday was his kind of day.

“It’s been snowing all day, and it’s yummy,” Schleper said Wednesday afternoon. “We really needed it and (the snow) is packing out real nice.”

Increased avalanche danger

While people skiing the resorts had fine conditions, backcountry skiers should use more caution than usual. The Colorado Avalanche Information Center on Wednesday issued an avalanche warning through noon Dec. 5. According to the center’s website, avalanche danger would be “high” above timberline and “considerable” below that level. The center also advised backcountry users to avoid any slopes greater than 30 degrees, stating that a significant load of new snow on the existing snowpack would make both natural and human-caused slides more likely.

Of course, days when the mountains are yummy can leave a bitter aftertaste in the valley in the form of accidents, delayed flights and other inconveniences. And there were plenty of minor accidents throughout the day, keeping towing companies, cops and dispatch centers busy. Still, none of the valley’s communities Wednesday declared an “accident alert,” in which the weather is so bad and police are so busy that motorists involved in minor accidents are asked to exchange information, then file a police report within the next day or two.

The Eagle County School District held regular classes Wednesday — districts in Aspen and Garfield County did not — but the district did cancel all after-school activities.

The big snowfall in Gypsum rallied the runway-clearing crews before 5 a.m. at the Eagle County Regional Airport.

“We’ve been fighting the battle ever since,” county aviation director Greg Phillips said Wednesday afternoon. Despite the snow, the runway remained open through the day.

Somewhat unusually for this time of year and particularly unusual given the last two winters, this is the second time in less than three weeks that the airport crews have been called out to move big bunches of snow.

“We’ve definitely topped anything we had last winter,” Phillips said.

Vail Daily staff writer John LaConte contributed to this story.

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