Big snowstorm sets up Vail Mountain’s final week

Weekend storm brings 10 inches of new snow, snarls traffic

Nico Milchev, 6, of Eagle, plans on skiing Vail Mountain on Closing Day. The local student also skied at Beaver Creek’s closing day on April 17.
John LaConte/Vail Daily

A weekend snowstorm snarled travel for motorists on I-70, but also brought plentiful snow to the Vail area for the ski resort’s final week of operation for the 2021-22 season.

I-70 eastbound was closed for more than 9 hours on Saturday on Vail Pass as blizzard conditions hammered mountain passes on the Western Slope.

Westbound I-70 on Vail Pass was closed for about 5 hours as numerous vehicles were reported spun out on I-70, Highway 6 and Highway 91 in the Vail Pass area. U.S. Highway 6 over Loveland Pass was closed most of Saturday, as well.

On Sunday morning, skiers in Vail awoke to 6 inches of fresh snow on the slopes.

The 6 inches recorded on Sunday combined with the fresh 4 inches of snow recorded on Saturday to add another 10 inches to Vail Mountain’s total for the season, which was a cumulative 259 inches as of Sunday. Vail Mountain claims 350 cumulative inches as an average season.

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More snow continued to fall throughout the day on Sunday, and precipitation remains in the forecast.

A winter weather advisory remains in effect for the Vail area through Monday morning. Traffic remained slow on I-70 on Sunday, with the trip from Denver to Vail taking about 4 hours.

A view of backed up traffic on I-70 westbound on Sunday. Not all recreationalists headed to the mountains over the weekend were seeking the fresh snow on the ski slopes.
John LaConte/Vail Daily

For Sunday night and Monday morning “snow is expected above 9,000 feet, with total snow accumulations of 4 to 8 inches,” for the mountains in the Gore Range, the National Weather Service is reporting. “Travel could be very difficult.”

For Vail Mountain’s final week of operation, skiers are looking at about 60 percent of the resort’s total terrain offering, with most of the front side of the mountain open, along with Sun Up and Sun Down bowls. Game Creek Bowl closed on April 17; China Bowl and Blue Sky Basin closed on April 10.

The May 1 close will create Vail’s longest season of operation in the resort’s history after opening on Nov. 12 this year, according to resort officials.

Vail Mountain’s lease with the U.S. Forest Service says the mountain can continue to operate chairlifts on the front side of the mountain throughout the spring for skiers and snowboarders, if conditions hold.

On the back side of the mountain, however, a wildlife closure goes into effect on May 6, lasting through July 1. All lifts must stop running on the back side of Vail Mountain by May 6.

“The area is closed for the protection of elk during calving season,” according to the Forest Service.

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