Slopes shut down Sunday |

Slopes shut down Sunday

Matt Zalaznick

Sunday is closing day at the Vail and Beaver Creek ski resorts. So unless you can drag yourself and your skis or snowboard to the slopes at Loveland, which closes May 5, or to Arapahoe Basin, which hasn’t announced a closing date but could stay open until July 4, ski season’s pretty much over.

Snowfall at Vail and Beaver Creek this season was below average. But the slopes held up well throughout the season, said Bill Jensen, chief operating officer of Vail Mountain.

“Vail had exceptional snow quantities in December and after December, below average snow and we ended up season below average,” Jensen said. “The one thing that was advantageous in Vail was the temperatures were significantly below average and preserved the snow we did have all the way through the month of March.”

As of Tuesday, 258.5 inches of snow had fallen on Vail Mountain, compared to the season average of 324 inches.

Outer Mongolia Bowl has already closed. But Vail Mountain is trying to keep as much terrain open as possible, including Blue Sky Basin, Jensen said.

“Blue Sky will remain open. The Back Bowls will remain open. Snow permitting, obviously,” he said. “Our Snowcats will keep pushing the snow around and try to connect the dots.”

Beaver Creek shut down Arrowhead and Bachelor Gulch on schedule April 7, but officials will try to keep the rest of resort open until the last skiers make their way down the slopes Sunday afternoon.

“It’s still maintaining the warm temperatures, but so far the mountain’s still in good shape and skiing and riding really well,” said John Garnsey, chief operating officer of Beaver Creek. “I think we’ll be fine until Sunday.”

As of Tuesday, 264 inches of snow had fallen on Beaver Creek’s slopes.

“I think the snow was good. I’m sure the records will show we had average snow fall, but it seemed the snow came at all the perfect times,” Garnsey said. “We never felt we’re in a position to be worrying about snow until very end.”

An increase in grooming – especially on harder and steeper black runs – was popular with skiers and snowboarders, Garnsey and Jensen said.

“We got fabulous feedback from guests, property owners and other locals about the new grooming initiative,” Garnsey said. “They liked the idea that they could experience double-diamonds in a groomed state. We also experimented with grooming half a run and leaving it half bumped up and half groomed.”

Beaver Creek will expand grooming next season, Garnsey said.

On Vail Mountain, groomers this season made the Back Bowls more accessible to less expert skiers, Jensen said.

“We upped our grooming and we groomed some terrain in the Back Bowls, which helped preserve snow,” Jensen said. “We got such positive feedback that we will obviously continue the increased commitment to grooming that we started this year.”

Carpooling incentives also reduced the number of cars on Vail’s Frontage Road by 41 percent on busy days this season comparable to busy days last ski season, Jensen.

With several large brown, bare spots mucking up the slopes, riding down from the top of the mountain on a chairlift won’t just be the easiest way down these last few days of ski season.

A scenic ride down the gondola, Vista Bahn or Golden Peak may be much more relaxing than sliding through the slop on the lower slopes.

“The option of downloading is there, and we encourage people to consider it,” Jensen said.

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