Slopes still have more snow than normal |

Slopes still have more snow than normal

Matt Zalaznick

Opening day was hailed by even veteran Vail Mountain skiers as one of the best ever. That heady optimism surged even higher when the entire mountain was opened by Thanksgiving – the earliest ever – allowing skiers and snowboarders to ride Blue Sky Basin before heading home for turkey and stuffing.

And the new year began with monster powder followed by a Jan. 2 that reportedly saw the most skiers ever on Vail Mountain in a single day. But skiers and snowboarders are apparently ready for some big storms. Many who rode Vail Mountain Saturday said the snow Saturday wasn’t as good as the snow earlier in the season.

“The snow’s OK. It’s a little crusty underneath,” said Denver skier Mike Lund. “It’s not quite as good as it was earlier in the year.”

Total snowfall so far this ski season also remains significantly higher than normal – 28 percent higher, in fact. As of Saturday, 40 more inches of snow had fallen on Vail Mountain than what typically falls by Jan. 11 in an average ski season.

Despite the slight deterioration, Lund, an investment banker, says he’d still rather be on the slopes than in the office.

“You get to let loose,” Lund said. “You show up when you want and go home when you want.”

Other Front Rangers, like Boulder’s Justin Keaner and Andrea Browning, said the trip to Vail is still worth it.

“There’s not a lot of powder but it’s still soft,” Keaner said. “It’s was snowing up top Saturday so Sunday should be another good one.”

“It was the best day I’ve had this ski season.” Browning added. “This is exactly what I want to do on the weekends.”

Steve Peck, a Denver skier, said spirits are high on the slopes.

“The snow is good, the people are good, the animals are good and it’s not too crowded,” Peck said. “I take life one turn at a time. I’m like the Kobe Bryant of skiing – I take all my turns without any help.”

Kobe Bryant, for those who couldn’t care less about basketball, is a star player for the Los Angeles Lakers.

We’re not making any promises – repeat, there are no guarantees in our untrained forecast – but, according to the National Weather Service, no major snowstorms are expected to hit the mountains this week, though there is a chance of snow showers and rather modest accumulations every day through next weekend.

That, of course, doesn’t mean there’s absolutely no chance of heavy snow – or a heat wave, for that matter.

“The weather will be unstable, but it doesn’t look like enough for significant snowfall,” meteorologist John Kyle said Saturday.

Despite the winter bounty on Vail Mountain, Kyle said, snowfall this winter in Colorado has so far been slightly below average. The snow pack – the amount of snow that will melt in the spring run-off – in the mountains surrounding the valley is only 88 percent of normal, he says.

The outlook through March is for normal snowfall and slightly warmer than normal temperatures; neither of which conditions will rescue Colorado from its drought, he said.

“Thus far, we’ve been slightly below normal with snow pack,” Kyle said. “It’d be nice to exceed normal snow to at least put a dent in the drought we’re currently experiencing.”

But droughts were not a hot topic among skiers and snowboarders on Vail Mountain Saturday, most of whom, like the investment banker, agreed skiing was a lot better than being at work.

“That goes without saying,” said Brett Kinzler, of Eagle-Vail, adding the slopes are due for some heavy snow.

“The snow’s pretty good, but not the best,” Kinzler said. “There’s still a great base and it’s been a good year as far as I’m concerned.”

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