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Snow expected all week

Matt Zalaznick

That’s what mountain weather-guessers say with a string of storms rumbling in off the Pacific Ocean today that could dump up to a foot of snow on Vail and Beaver Creek mountains by quittin’ time Friday.

Even though some bare spots are peeking through the snow and some pitches are getting a little slick, local skiers and snowboarders say they’re still thrilled with early-season conditions on both mountains.

“I’ve been here nine years and it’s the best I’ve ever seen it,” says Joel B. Sharp, a ski tuner at the Vail Mountain Adventure Center. “I’ve talked to people who have been here 30 years and they say it’s the best they’ve ever seen it.”

Sharp suggests heading into Vail Mountain’s Back Bowls and Blue Sky Basin – that’s if you like making turns in fresh snow.

“The back is just incredible –unless you’re someone who doesn’t like a lot of snow,” Sharp says. “The back’s just amazing.”

So what’s the forecast?

“Snow,” says Joe Ramey, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Grand Junction.

Spotty snowfall most of Tuesday was expected to turn heavier after dark and continue until Thursday. But more snow is on the way between today and Christmas Eve, Ramey says.

“Right now, it looks like some pretty good accumulations tonight and good accumulations over the weekend and we can’t rule out Monday or Tuesday,” Ramey says.

Good news for Vail is that the weather should shift from the southwest to the west. When snow is flowing from the southwest, the storms are frequently blocked by the San Juan Mountains around Telluride and Durango, and Vail ends up on the short-end of snow totals.

Vail does better when storms barrel in either from the west or northwest, Ramey says.

“We should get a little break late Thursday into Friday morning, but then we’re right back into it,” Ramey says.

The snow is forecast to start falling again Friday or Saturday – which means we’re finally settling into some unsettled winter weather here in the valley, Ramey says.

“It looks like for the next week we’ll finally be in a good unsettled snow pattern, though it’s hard to pick out the details,” Ramey says.

The season, of course, started with heavy snowfalls in mid-November that allowed Vail Mountain to open a week ahead of schedule and open Blue Sky Basin earlier than ever. In fact, Vail Mountain was able to open almost all

of its terrain earlier than any season in its 40-year history.

Both mountains have remained in pretty good shape since Thanksgiving due to a few lighter snowfalls, including a surprise dump last week that gave skiers yet another day of waist-deep powder.

Five inches had fallen on Beaver Creek’s slopes by Tuesday evening, says John Garnsey, the mountain’s chief operating officer.

“I think that for December the mountain is skiing’s fabulous,” Garnsey says. “We need the snow that’s coming, but for this time of year, we rarely have this much terrain open with this much natural snow.”

There couldn’t be a better forecast for this time of year than a string of snowstorms, he says.

“We’re obviously excited about the possibility of a lot of snow right before the holidays,” he says.

Sharp says an added bonus until the big Christmas tourist surge is that smaller early-season crowds have made one of the continent’s largest ski hills seem even bigger and more wide open.

“It’s definitely a treat,” he says. “I feel like I’ve been waiting nine years for this season.”

Matt Zalaznick can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 606, or via e-mail at mzalaznick@vaildaily.com.


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