Vail Mountain closes early Sunday as post-Christmas blizzard blasts High Country |

Vail Mountain closes early Sunday as post-Christmas blizzard blasts High Country

Windy conditions prompted an early shutdown of the ski resort’s lifts

Vail Mountain’s Eagle Bahn Gondola (Lift. No. 19) was closed early on Sunday due to high winds. A low-pressure system combined with a cold front brought high winds to the mountain Sunday afternoon.
John LaConte / Vail Daily

VAIL — Chris Zec arrived to the mountain late in the afternoon on Sunday, allowing the falling snow to stack up a bit after an early morning drive that went smoother than Interstate 70 often allows on his trip from Denver.

Zec got to the condo he rented in East Vail before the blizzard arrived, so he missed the traffic and the 9 a.m. closure of Vail Pass, which slowed the commute, but he hit some good conditions on the mountain.

Unfortunately, he would only be allowed a short ski window on Sunday, as all lifts were closed on the mountain by around 2:45 p.m.

Vail usually runs lifts until 3:30 p.m. this time of year if weather allows, but the weather was not allowing it on Sunday.

Avanti Exprett (Lift No. 2) was the first to close, shutting down at around 1:15 p.m.

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The Little Eagle (Lift No. 15) and the Eagle’s Nest beginner area shut down next, followed by Game Creek Bowl and the Cascade chair.

Chair 26 is not yet running for the season.

Zec said he was hopeful that Vail’s famous Back Bowls will open to skiers and snowboarders while he’s in town this week.

“So far, so good,” he said as the blizzard was rolling in, remarking that he was happy to see that much of the terrain on the front side of the mountain is now open.

A skier enjoys the newly opened terrain on the expert face of the Bwana run under the Eagle Bahn Gondola on Sunday. Much of Vail’s front side is now open, including some of the later-to-open runs like Bwana.
John LaConte/Vail Daily

Battling traffic

Zec said after growing up in the British Columbia area of Canada, where the commute to his ski hill was 45 minutes by car, he has a difficult time battling the traffic on I-70.

Now living in Denver, he “won’t do it unless I have somewhere to stay,” he said.

In an effort to beat the traffic on Sunday, “We came in at 3 o’clock (a.m.),” he said.

Zec beat traffic and closures by making the commute during odd hours; the Vail Pass section of I-70 closed at 9 a.m. Sunday and again at 4 p.m.

Drivers navigate snow Sunday on Interstate 70 in Vail. The highway saw several closures as blowing snow conditions made travel difficult.
John LaConte/Vail Daily

“It caused a ruckus all over western Colorado,“ said meteorologist Erin Walter with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction on Sunday. ”Near whiteout conditions, blowing snow, high snowfall rates and deteriorating road conditions.“

Walter said northwest Colorado was the hardest hit portion of the state.

“It was a mix of a cold front moving through with strong winds already aloft,” she said. “This was a little bit stronger than the last storm in terms of winds overhead.”

Skiers brave blizzard conditions at Vail Mountain on Sunday.
John LaConte/Vail Daily

Walter said a persistent low-pressure system over the Northwestern United States has been pulling in moisture from the Pacific Ocean to create the snowy conditions.

“It’s been an every other day event,” Walter said.

And that pattern will continue in the days to come, she added.

“We’ll still see snow falling along the over the higher terrain through tomorrow morning,” Walter said on Sunday. “And then we have a very brief lull, a break in precipitation, and then after that on Monday evening we have another system rolling through.”

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