Snow expected to fall through Christmas |

Snow expected to fall through Christmas

Matt Zalaznick
Special to the Daily/National Oceanic and AtmospheAnother in a series of winter storms approaches Colorado. A forecaster with the National Weather Service predicts snow will fall in the High Country for "the foreseeable future."

Powder has been blanketing the slopes and, Avon skier Michael Moon says, blanketing the valley from the threats of terrorism, war-mongering, anti-Americanism and economic floundering going on out in the real world.

“It’s kind of hard to get bothered by stuff around here, it’s pretty chilly,” says Avon skier Michael Moon, as he prepared to hit the powder at Beaver Creek. “You have your bus pass and your ski pass, there’s not much else to worry about.”

Up to 10 inches of snow was forecast to bury the valley last night, setting the slopes up for the third serious powder day of the week. That’s about as many powder days as there were all last season and it’s not even Christmas yet.

“So far, so good,” Moon says of the snow surplus.

Skiers and snowboarders can ride another half-an-hour on the slopes when Vail Mountain opens at 8:30 a.m. today and for the rest of the season.

If you’re reading this article after having skied today and you’re already antsy to get back in the powder, forecasters expect the snow to keep falling through Christmas Day, though perhaps not as heavy as it did last night.

“There’s a chance of snow showers into the foreseeable future,” says Norvan Larson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction.

Snow showers –and generally cloudy, unsettled skies – are in the forecast today, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday.

“We should have showers here and there on Sunday and into the early part of the week,” Larson says.

Mountain managers say they’re thrilled with the amount of snow that’s on the slopes heading into the holidays.

Vail’s mid-mountain base is about as good as it’s ever been before Christmas –certainly better than the last few years, says Bill Jensen, chief operating officer of Vail Mountain.

“For those of us who’ve been around the last three or four years, we really can appreciate the kind of snow we’re working with going into Christmas,” Jensen says. “I think everybody’s really enjoying it and people seem to be in really good spirits because of it.”

As of Friday, 141 inches of snow had fallen on Vail Mountain this season. In average year, snowfall totals don’t reach 141 inches until Jan. 10, Jensen said.

The amount of snow that falls this winter is, of course, the amount of water we have this summer to drink, soak the landscape and put out wildfires.

Last summer’s worst-ever fire season was fueled by four straight dry winters that ended with paltry snowpacks, meaning there was little run-off from snow melting on the mountains and Colorado’s woods and wilderness areas were parched and ripe for ignition.

Rivers and streams also hit dangerously low levels, forcing water managers throughout the valley and the state to impose heavy restrictions on lawn-watering.

The mountains and western Colorado are still considered to be in a drought and snow hasn’t been as heavy in the rest of the state as it has been in Vail, Aspen and Summit County, says Mike Gillespie, a snow survey supervisor for the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

For instance, the snowpack on Vail Mountain is 99 percent of average while Copper Mountain is 26 percent above average. The snowpack on Independence Pass between Leadville and Aspen is 17 percent above average for this time of year, Gillespie says.

On the other hand, the snowpack at many of the river basins in southern Colorado remain below average this week, he says.

Last winter and summer were so dry than an average snowfall this winter won’t do much to make up the sweltering shortages, he said.

Soils are so dry that an estimated 15 percent of the snowpack may be soaked up before runoff starts this spring, Gillespie said.

Colorado’s reservoirs also require a wetter than usual winter to replenish reserves. But the snow season is only about a third finished, so it’s too early to assess the winter, Gillespie says.

“We’re still in bad shape,” he says.

Aspen Times reporter Scott Condon contributed to this report.

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