Fresh powder a real Christmas present | VailDaily.com

Fresh powder a real Christmas present

Currently, Vail and Beaver Creek are seeing a warm, dry weather pattern, but meteorologist Joel Gratz, of OpenSnow.com, sees cooler, stormier weather coming to the valley around March 10, give or take a few days.
Zach Mahone | Beaver Creek Resort | Zach Mahone, Beaver Creek Resort

This week’s weather

Dec. 23: A 30 percent chance of snow, high of 19.

Dec. 24: Mostly sunny, high of 28.

Dec. 25: A 40 percent chance of snow, high of 31.

Dec. 26: A slight chance of snow, high of 19.

EAGLE COUNTY — Whether you were skiing or driving Monday, the day’s weather could be summed up in a word: Ridiculous. More than a foot of snow will do that.

“Ridiculous” is how Mike Van Valkenburg, of Troy’s Ski Shop, in Vail described Monday’s conditions on Vail Mountain. “People are really excited,” he added. “The people I’ve talked to say it’s been great.”

Van Valkenburg said a lot of Troy’s Christmas customers are already in Vail, and those people are finding great conditions. But the guests already in the valley had to be happy they’d already arrived.

At the Antlers Lodge in Vail, general manager Rob LeVine said about 25 families were expected to check in Sunday. Three of those families didn’t make it on Sunday, but were able to arrive Monday.

Treacherous Traveling

The people traveling Monday found challenging conditions. People who stayed in Eagle and Gypsum found easy driving, but that changed not far east of Eagle, with Vail Mountain recording a foot of new snow Monday morning. Interstate 70 road conditions worsened with the trip over Vail Pass and the Eisenhower/Johnson Tunnels.

In addition to numerous accidents in the valley, the Colorado Department of Transportation twice closed I-70 over Vail Pass Monday for avalanche control work. And high winds and heavy snow forced state officials to close the westbound lanes of the interstate at Georgetown late Monday afternoon. Loveland Pass was also closed due to poor weather and road conditions.

West Vail Shell is a AAA-approved towing service. Monday afternoon, Darin Tucholke, of West Vail Shell, said the station’s tow trucks had been called out at least 30 times already for AAA calls and about that many times on non-AAA calls.

“We’ve had a lot of wrecks and a lot of calls for assistance,” Tucholke said. “It’s been tough, but the weather will clear by Wednesday and we’ll be fine.”

Aside from service calls, Tucholke said he’s seeing more people traveling right now, perhaps taking advantage of the lowest gas prices in about six years. AAA Colorado reports that Vail gas prices Monday averaged $2.77 per gallon, down 83 cents from the price a year ago.

Can’t Stop Power Hounds

“People are loving that,” Tucholke said.

While the driving could be difficult, LeVine said that doesn’t usually stop true powder hounds from coming in. The Antlers has fielded several calls, and made a few reservations for the usually not-quite-full few days just before Christmas. And, of course, people are still calling about days that were fully booked weeks ago. Still, the snow fires the hearts of enthusiasts.

“I think people who really want to come are going to make it up here one way or another,” LeVine said.

While driving was difficult Sunday and Monday — with difficult turning to impossible from time to time — the National Weather Service forecast for the rest of the week will be better news for travelers. Snow is expected to decrease Tuesday, with sunny skies predicted Wednesday. There’s a chance of snow Christmas Day. Light snow is predicted for Dec. 28. That should make travel a bit easier. And, even with the Christmas crowds, there will probably be a few powder stashes for the next several days, at least — unless the predicted small storms turn into whoppers.

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, smiller@vaildaily.com and@scottnmiller.