High Country welcomes white stuff
For many people in the High Country, Wednesday was a day to break out the sweaters and wet-weather gear, ponder winterizing the car and even look forward to ski season just two months away.
About 4 inches of snow had fallen on top of Vail Mountain by midday, operations staff members said, making Game Creek Bowl look like a winter-wonderland from down in the Eagle River Valley. At Beaver Creek, which received a dusting of an inch or two, the slopes of Grouse Mountain appeared much as they did at the end of ski season.
Apparently, it was quite a shock to some people – considering the fall colors really hadn’t even begun to emerge in force among local aspen groves.
“It was outrageous. It started out as heavy rain, then it started stickin’ to the trees and the ground,” said Ty Cabrera of East Vail, who works in the pro shop at the Vail Racquet Club. “It was a major shock, like whoa! It was an awesome sight.”
In Lionshead, J.J. Mikels at Vail Bike Tech said some customers visited the shop looking to try on ski boots. Other diehards, however, insisted on renting bikes, despite the fact the upper slopes were covered in white.
“We’re pretty excited,” he said. “But we’re also realistic. It’s a freak roll-through and, really, nothing’s happening with skiing quite yet.”
Jen Brown, spokeswoman for Vail Mountain, said Wednesday’s snow won’t be included in the snowfall count for the coming season, as that isn’t tallied until October or December. It does add to the anticipation, however, at what’s again the No. 1 ski resort in North America, as rated by SKI magazine.
“It’s a great way to kick it off, and I think Mother Nature has shown empeccable timing, blessing us with white stuff just days after those ski rankings came out,” Brown said, adding that the mountain’s opening day is scheduled for Friday, Nov. 21.
At Beaver Creek, where opening day this year is scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 22, spokeswoman Christina Schleicher said the staff was “psyched.” Operations crews there are concentrating on getting the new Birds of Prey Express high-speed detachable quad lift installed, replacing the old, double-chair, fixed-grip Westfall Lift, she said.
In Summit County, ski resorts reported as much as 3 inches of snow. Another 2 to 5 inches was expected above 10,000 feet Wednesday night, and long-range forecasts are calling for sporadic snow showers through Saturday.
Elsewhere in the state, Colorado Ski Country USA reported Silverton Mountain cranked up a chair lift Wednesday morning for some employees to make some turns. Aspen Highlands, meanwhile, expected as much as another foot of snow Wednesday night. A crew of skiers there is expected to head up to the higher bowls today.
Bring on the colors
The aspens certainly should be getting the message, as more snow in the area – from 3 to 6 inches above 9,500 feet above sea level – was in the forecast for late Wednesday and early this morning, said Dan Cuevas, a technician with the National Weather Service at Grand Junction. Another 3 inches could fall by tonight, he said.
“This is a cold, slow-moving system out of the northwest. We had record rainfall in southeastern Utah and southwest Colorado – even a tornado touched down near Flagstaff (Ariz.),” Cuevas said, adding that 10 inches of snow fell in the San Juan mountains.
“But it’s not all that early for this kind of thing. And it’s been unseasonably warm late in the season,” Cuevas added. “But this is on the way out.”
Even so, Cuevas said there’s a 20 percent chance of thunderstorms on Friday, with mostly cloudy skies with chances of showers – maybe snow – through the weekend.
For the fall
The 90-day forecast, he said, is for above-normal temperatures and near-normal precipitation.
“We’re looking for some alleviation of drought conditions through the fall, continued improvement,” Cuevas said. “Hopefully, we’ll get some early snowpack up in the mountains.”
Road conditions, for the most part, were manageable, with wet and slushy conditions reported on Vail Pass in the late morning Wednesday. Bill Jewitt, a Vail resident and a member of the Town Council, said he drove over Vail Pass in the early afternoon looking at the High Country covered with snow.
“It was really pretty,” he said. “The Tenmile Range was gorgeous.”