Blue Sky Basin opens Friday |

Blue Sky Basin opens Friday

Alex Miller
Skier Joe Smith is all smiles as he makes some powder turns down Head Wall in Vail's Back Bowls Tuesday November 29th, 2005. The terrain will open to the public on Wednesday the 30th.

EAGLE COUNTY ” While local resorts continue to issue breathless reports about record-setting early season conditions, those who keep an eye on water and snowpack levels are also pleased.

With snowpack for Vail Mountain at 143 percent of average as of Monday, Mike Bauer, water conservation specialist at Eagle River Water and Sanitation District, said we’re off to a “darn good start.”

At the Copper Mountain gauging site, the level is at 197 percent of average and the one at Fremont Pass, between Copper Mountain and Leadville, is at 218 percent.

“This is a really good start, but a lot depends on what happens from the middle of March until the end of June,” Bauer said, referring to the drought season of 01-02 when snowpack levels, which were trending just below average, dropped precipitously.

Even if that were to happen next spring, though, Bauer said the high totals now afford some leeway.

“If we have some kind of big melt-off, it might just mean it’d end up being closer to average,” he said. “The prognosis at this point is excellent.”

In a press release Monday, Vail Mountain said it’s set a new record for snowfall, logging the most ever to-date in its 43-year history. The resort has recorded snowfall about 5 feet above average for this time of year, with about 141 inches so far this season.

Vail already has several of its bowls open, including China Bowl, which opened Sunday along with the Orient Express chairlift. Blue Sky Basin is set to open Friday, for a total of 4,600 acres of open terrain.

Things are not as rosy in the southern part of the state, though. While snowpack for the entire Colorado River Basin stood at 128 percent of average as of Dec. 1, the Upper Rio Grande Basin was only at 23 percent of average, and the San Juan, San Miguel and Dolores basins were at 28 percent of average. Even the normally snowbound Wolf Creek area was at only 23 percent.

Alex Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14625, or

Vail Daily, Vail, Colorado

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