Big snowstorm thrills crowds visiting Vail
Vail parking structure filled — 9:30 a.m.
Lionshead parking structure filled — 11:15 a.m.
Number of cars on Frontage Road — 348
VAIL — The powder has been plentiful during what was expected to be somewhat of a dry January.
Nine inches were reported by Vail Mountain on Saturday morning delighted guests in town enjoying the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day holiday weekend. Some were at the end of a vacation, others were just starting.
In Lionshead, Ski Base owner Jay Lucas said there was a run on powder skis Saturday morning.
“It was crazy, how busy we were with people coming in wanting the fat boards,” he said.
Among Lucas’ customers were Rob Lewis and his son, 19-year-old Nate, just ending their vacation from Maryland.
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“The powder came just in time,” they said.
Lewis has been visiting Vail since the ‘80s.
“I picked a great week this year,” he said.
‘HIP DEEP IN PLACES’
Large crowds greeted guests arriving at 8:30 a.m., hoping to sneak on the lift quickly, but those crowds dispersed quickly as the Back Bowls and Blue Sky began to open.
Out early on Saturday, Rob Piasio pulled a double downhill — skiing and tubing. He enjoyed the powder in the morning and spent the afternoon tubing with his daughter, 12-year-old Emma.
“The snow in the morning was fantastic,” he said.
New Yorkers Chris Singleton and his son Sean were skiing to their limits on Saturday. Sean Singleton, 7, saw China Bowl for the first time.
“It was big,” he said.
Decked out in Broncos gear, locals Sean Bartlett and Laura McClanathan arrived at about 10 a.m., as Blue Sky was opening. They saw the crowds heading to the Back Bowls and decided to stay on the front side of the mountain all day.
“The longest we waited in line all day was only two or three minutes at Chair 2,” McClanathan said as the day was coming to a close. “The snow was hip deep in places.”
EL NINO PERSISTS
Growing up in Eagle County, Bartlett has seen a few snowy seasons in his day. He’s now a driver for craft beer distributor CR Goodman and said this year has been off to a great start for powder lovers.
“I’ve had to chain up the beer truck quite a few times this season,” he said.
Matthew Aleksa, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction, said warm waters around the Equator in December — otherwise known as El Nino conditions — usually mean January is going to be the driest month of the ski season in our area.
“With the systems we’ve had in January, it’s been one after another, so it’s been pretty active,” he said. “Six inches here, 6 inches there, coming in succession but adding up over time.
Aleksa said as of right now, we’re still in an El Nino weather pattern.
“But it’s starting to trend downward,” he said. “But as we head toward late spring and early summer of this year, we are starting to transition more toward neutral, which means that there’s no El Nino or La Nina, it’s right in the middle.
While El Nino favors mountains south of Vail, neutral and La Nina will often bring snow to the northwest part of the state.
This pattern that we’re in right now, the storms have been tracking across the north and favoring the northern mountains with each wave that’s moving in,” Aleksa said. “So that could be a sign that we’re kind of transitioning.”