No early closure for Vail, Beaver Creek
Vail Mountain will stay open for skiing until its scheduled close date of April 18 – brown spots and all.
Unseasonably warm and dry weather may be prompting rumors that Eagle County’s ski areas will close early, but in reality there’s enough snow to keep Vail and Beaver Creek ski areas open until their respective scheduled closing dates, say Vail Resorts officials.
Vail and Beaver Creek each received 5 inches of new snow Wednesday night. But the string of dry, 60-degree days leading up to that have taken a toll.
Beaver Creek mountain officials have closed some runs in Bachelor Gulch, Arrowhead and the main Beaver Creek mountain ski areas. About 93 percent of the mountain’s 146 trails are still open, said spokeswoman Christina Schleicher. Beaver Creek is scheduled to close April 11.
There are several dirt patches on the lower part of Vail Mountain, visible from the mountain’s base. Skiers and snowboarders, many of whom are tourists on spring break, are avoiding the bottom and front part of the mountain, where the snow is thinner and the temperatures are warmer.
“The first day was better, but the snow has been melting a lot,” said Pierce Boisclair, a 15-year-old high school student from Washington, D.C. Boisclair and his classmates were in Vail for a 10-day ski vacation.
“The bowls are fine and Blue Sky Basin is still pretty good, too,” Boisclair said. “It’s pretty skiing here, it’s just the snow isn’t that great on the front.”
Despite the warm weather and slushier conditions, the group said they are still glad they choose to go on a ski vacation.
“It’s real muddy on the front, but the back is nice,” said classmate Joe Kiernan, also 15.
Kiernan said certain catwalks – flatter trails that allow skiers to connect with other runs – are so slushy they are difficult to maneuver.
Skiers and snowboarders do have the option of riding a lift down to get off the mountain instead of skiing, said Jen Brown, Vail Mountain spokeswoman.
“They can do that all winter, that’s not just unique to the spring,” she said. “There are definitely times where we have recommended it in spring conditions and we let people know that’s available.”
Skiers seem to understand how to make spring-like skiing conditions work for them, said Brian McCartney, vice president of mountain operations at Vail. More people are heading to the back, where the early morning sun warms up and then softens snow that has frozen over night. Those who enjoy skiing the front of Vail Mountain wait until afternoon, when the sun has moved over to that side.
In the meantime, ski patrollers are periodically closing runs to keep terrain and snow conditions smooth.
“(The snow) gets kind of rutted and piled up and then that will freeze and stay that way,” he said. “Instead, you let it smooth out, which it will do naturally, then you ski it for a while. Then it is gourmet carpet skiing.”
Closing off terrain is usually a technique used in mid-April, right before the ski season is about to end. “No question, the weather pattern has been funky,” McCartney said.
Staff writer Tamara Miller can be reached via e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 949-0555 ext. 607.
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