Colorado skiers still making turns | VailDaily.com
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Colorado skiers still making turns

Bob Berwyn
Summit County Correspondent
Vail, CO Colorado

SUMMIT COUNTY, Colorado ” It ain’t over ’til it’s over.

That’s what diehard skiers are saying this year, milking every last drop of pleasure from a winter that just won’t seem to end. A storm late last week dropped about eight inches of snow on Arapahoe Basin, and the skiing surface was refreshed yet again with another eight inches this week.

A-Basin skiers and boarders are reporting some of the best skiing of the season high on the East Wall, where winter-like snow lingers in the steepest notches and chutes. The relatively dense spring snow settles more quickly than mid-winter powder, and this is prime-time for the hike-to terrain.

“It was sweet,” said Owen Collins said. “The drop-in was a little intense … kind of rocky, but this snow is unreal.”

A-Basin, the last ski area open in Colorado, is reporting a 59-inch base, with snow conditions changing from powder to spring.

The snow surface can change hour to hour, depending on elevation, angle and what direction the slope faces. It can even change from turn to turn on the same run, with the east-facing side of a gully warming to spring corn early in the morning, while the western aspect remains frozen solid until after lunch.

Backcountry skiers are talking about big lines on big peaks, with solid top-to-bottom coverage on favorites like Buffalo Mountain and Quandary Peak. But the steady stream of storms has also extended the potential for backcountry avalanches.

Some skiers or snowboarders may have had a close call Sunday when a big slide strained through a wide chute on Red Mountain, above Silverthorne. Lower Blue resident Rick Warren captured a photo of the Red Mountain slide, and pointed out how tracks are visible above and below the slide, suggesting that the skiers may have triggered the avalanche from above, and then skied down beside the path.

The most recent storms have enlarged cornices along ridge tops, with the risk of cornice collapse increasing as the weather starts to warm up. An rapid spike in temperatures would likely result in a significant cycle of wet snow avalanches.

Avalanche accidents this time of year are far from unprecedented. On May 18, 2005, a snowboarder was injured when he was caught in a small slide in a Buffalo Mountain couloir.

The snow can be bomber at 10 a.m. but baked into a Slurpee-like glop by 1 p.m. Avalanche experts and guides suggest an early sunrise start for peak baggers, with the goal of getting out of avalanche terrain by midday.


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