Snow blankets West, creates buzz |

Snow blankets West, creates buzz

Lauren Glendenning
Vail, CO Colorado
Daily file photo | Dominique Taylor

VAIL, Colorado – Local National Weather Service forecaster Joe Ramey said Vail was somewhat cheated during the latest storm to pass through the region, but he said Thursday and Friday are looking good in terms of snowfall and colder temperatures.

Unseasonably warm temperatures mean moisture down low fell in the form of rain, with rain falling as high as 9,000 feet, Ramey said.

The recent storm was also a southwesterly flow storm – a pattern that typically doesn’t bode well for the Vail and Aspen areas, he said.

“That’s about to change (today) when we’ll finally get the cold front associated with all this moisture,” Ramey said. “We’ll get more dry snow instead of this heavy, wet ‘Sierra cement.'”

Ski resorts across the West have been blessed with snow this year, and while the recent storm may have been kinder to resorts in Utah and the Lake Tahoe region, Vail has plenty to brag about.

Snow has been plentiful at Vail since Thanksgiving, and the resort has logged 169 inches of snow to date, which includes snow that came during the fall before the ski resort was open.

Vail Mountain spokeswoman Liz Biebl said snow conditions “have been great by all accounts.”

While it’s a La Nina weather pattern this winter, the latest storm wasn’t typical of La Nina at all, Ramey said.

Crested Butte was one of the luckiest resorts in Colorado as a result of the recent storm, with as much as 8 feet of snow recorded in that area throughout the last week.

The warmer temperatures haven’t been all that great for the ski industry, but Ramey said it is good news for water levels.

“The snowpack will be quite dense, and it really helps us for next spring as we’re drinking, flushing and irrigating,” he said.

The snow level is expected to drop to somewhere between 6,500 feet and 7,500 feet Thursday morning, with snow expected to fall into Friday. Ramey said 8 to 14 inches are expected for Vail.

Recent storms are playing a role in the buzz being generated about the ski season in the West. Ralf Garrison, director of the Mountain Travel Research Project, which tracks industry trends, said all of the guests in town for the holidays will essentially become social marketing tools for resorts like Vail and Beaver Creek.

“They will Facebook and Tweet and all of that will help create a buzz for the second season,” Garrison said.

The “second season” is the second wave of business in a ski season, which comes in the spring. This year’s so-called second season is much longer because of a late Easter this year.

Garrison said the perception of snow is really what creates a buzz, and that Vail is “right in there” with other Western resorts in terms of perception.

“Competitively, Vail isn’t bad,” Garrison said.

And because snow started falling fairly early in Colorado, media headlines have “certainly helped pique interest not only in Colorado but around the country,” said Troy Hawks, spokesman for the National Ski Areas Association.

Michael Berry, president of the National Ski Areas Association, said the snow buzz around the West has been great.

“In general the West is in great shape,” Berry said.

Berry said the heavy snow that has pounded the Lake Tahoe area and Mammoth, Calif., could be perceived as too much of a good thing, but he said he hoped it would clear for the holidays.

In Utah, a storm brought 40 inches of snow to many of the state’s resorts, with an average snow total to date at about 200 inches, according to

Garrison said national media reports showing the massive snowstorms across the West are going to be good news for the long term, even if short-term effects could scare people into thinking they won’t be able to get to where they’re planning to go based on the weather.

“I would expect that (attention) to show up positively in longer term reservations,” Garrison said.

Community Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or

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