Snowstorm boosts Vail’s upcoming Opening Day |

Snowstorm boosts Vail’s upcoming Opening Day

Thanks to abundant early-season snowfall, Vail Mountain will open Friday with 566 acres of skiable terrain, accessible from both Vail Village and Lionshead.
Andrew Taylor | Special to the Daily |

Opening Friday

Here’s a look at the lifts at Vail Mountain opening Nov. 20:

• Gondola One.

• Avanti Express (Chair 2).

• Wildwood Express (Chair 3).

• Mountain Top Express (Chair 4)

• Born Free Express (Chair 8).

• Little Eagle (Chair 15).

• Eagle Bahn Gondola.

This story has corrected a couple of facts regarding the Vail Nordic Center.

EAGLE COUNTY — Vail Mountain’s Opening Day looks like it’s going to be a good one — at least for those who take care of themselves on the roads.

Another big snowstorm rolled through the Vail Valley on Monday, leaving several inches of snow, with more predicted to fall in the next few days. That snow contributed to accidents up and down the valley throughout the day.

As of mid-afternoon Monday, the snow stakes at Vail and Beaver Creek, which are cleared every morning, were showing new snowfall of 2 and 3 inches of new snow, respectively.

By mid-afternoon Monday, downvalley locations were reporting slightly more snow to the west of Vail and Beaver Creek. Eagle saw 4 inches or more on grassy areas Monday afternoon, and a National Weather Service reporting station just north of Wolcott reported 3 inches before 9 a.m. Monday.

New snow over the past week to 10 days has helped build the early-season base at Vail Mountain, which opens Friday. Vail Resorts announced Monday that the season would begin with 566 acres of skiable terrain accessed from both Vail Village and Lionshead Village.

Vail Village, Lionshead lifts to open

A press release from Vail Resorts announced that the company will open the new Avanti Express six-place chairlift Friday. That lift is expected to increase uphill capacity by 30 percent.

“These last cycles of storms have set us up nicely for opening day and to be able to open more terrain than anticipated,” Vail Resorts Executive Vice President and Vail Mountain Chief Operating Officer Chris Jarnot wrote in the release. “With snow in the forecast for the remainder of the week, we will continue to evaluate terrain and open additional terrain as we are able.”

The Grand Junction office of the National Weather Service on Monday updated its forecast for the next several days, and the snowfall news is positive.

Forecaster Ellen Heffernan said that while big snowfall is expected to ease through the week, a flow of cold, moist air from the northwest is expected to cross the northwestern corner of Colorado.

“That’s a favorable flow for snow showers from Aspen to the north.” Heffernan said, adding that the snow shouldn’t be heavy. Instead, there’s a likelihood of showers continuing into the weekend.

Those showers usually don’t present too much of a problem for travelers, Heffernan said. Colorado Department of Transportation crews can usually keep up with snow showers, with the exception of some heavier periods, Heffernan said.

Roadways slick, slushy

On Monday, snowplow drivers were very busy with sometimes-heavy snowfall. Transportation officials closed Interstate 70 over Vail Pass and the approaches to the Eisenhower-Johnson Memorial Tunnels a handful of times Monday. Officials also invoked the state’s chain law for trucks more than once. Those officials also activated Code 15 alerts a couple of times during the day. Those alerts require all passenger vehicles to have either snow tires, chains, traction devices such as Auto Socks or all-wheel-drive. The driver of any vehicle that causes a lane closure when that rule is in effect faces stiff fines.

Department spokeswoman Amy Ford said in an email that officials use a combination of weather and rode conditions as a way to determine when to issue the equipment alerts. An increasing number of department vehicles also have friction sensors. “Those literally help us assess the ‘slick’,” Ford wrote.

With snowplows out working Monday, Ford issued an evergreen reminder to motorists: “The safest place to be on the road during a snowstorm is behind our vehicles,” she wrote. “They are working hard to clear a path for you and even if it takes a bit longer, please give them the space they need to work.”

Aside from the driver’s seat of a snowplow, one of the other busiest places in the valley was at local tire shops.

At Vail Discount Tire Factory in Eagle-Vail, manager Farrow Hitt said the shop’s business has been just about non-stop for the past couple of weeks.

“We’ve had people leave their cars overnight to have tires put on the next day,” Hitt said.

While people may have waited to get tires for their vehicles, other residents have jumped on their first opportunities to get out and about on the snow.

The Vail Nordic Center — the Vail Golf Club’s winter alter ego — has been open for several days now. While the facility’s retail store is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, it is apparently one of the few open in the state right now.

In an email, Jessie Klehfoth, the marketing and communications director for the Vail Recreation District, which gooms and maintains the trails at the Nordic center, wrote that skiers over the weekend had come from the Front Range, Steamboat Springs and Durango. That, she added, is with the Nordic center still open only for skate skiing.

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, and @scottnmiller.

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