Storm expected to roll in late Sunday
After some dry weather Friday and today, a storm could barrel into the valley on Sunday afternoon, piling up snow in the Back Bowls and on local driveways until New Year’s Eve, the weather guessers say.
Forecasters say they don’t have a lock on how strong the storm will be. But whether it’s a few inches or a foot, skiers and snowboarders say, the snow on the slopes won’t be harmed by a fresh layer.
“I think the snow’s pretty good, but not amazing,” said Castle Rock skier Glen Summers on his way up the Vista Bahn Express in snow flurries. “Seems like we got a lot of snow in November, and December has been pretty dry. Now maybe it’s coming back.”
Joe Ramey, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Grand Junction, said he’s not predicting how many inches of snow will fall Sunday, but a substantial storm is on its way.
“We’re in the storm track,” Ramey said. “On Sunday, another system approaches and brings what looks like a good chance of snow with significant accumulations.”
The bad news is ski-pass restrictions for mountain employees, their families members and locals with Merchant Passes, which began Thursday, stay in place until Tuesday. Colorado and Value passes are also restricted.
“We anticipate skiers numbers that, without restrictions, would put us in violation of our agreements with the town of Vail and the U.S. Forest Service about limiting our on-hill capacity to 20,000,” said Bill Jensen, chief operating officer of Vail Mountain.
During the Christmas holidays, between 16,000 and 18,000 skiers and snowboarders hit the slopes on an average day, he said.
“If restrictions were not in place, we would blow through 20,000,” Jensen said.
Which means if Sunday’s storm turns out to be a monster, there will be more than a few ski- and snowboard-laden caravans headed out of the valley and over Vail Pass to Cooper Mountain and Loveland. Of course, you could head the other direction to Sunlight, Aspen of Powderhorn.
Summers reinforced what seems to be a pretty strong local sentiment – skiing in fresh powder is a lot better than riding icy, frozen crud.
“When you get fresh snow, you can just cruise down the mountain. It’s easy for the beginners and more fun for the advanced skiers,” Summers says. “Fresh snow is kind of like skiing down butter. When it’s icy, it’s kind of nerve-wracking.”
Ramey said the mountains have slipped into a snowier weather pattern after a few dry weeks in early-December.
“The Pacific Ocean is sending in periodic storms,” he said.
Total snowfall for the season on Vail Mountain remains far above normal.
Meteorologists are still predicting normal snowfall this winter.
“I’m not good enough to ski in ice,” said Erin Field, a skier from Baltimore, on her way up Vail Mountain. “This is a big difference coming from the East Coast. We’ve got small mountains.”
“So far the skiing’s been pretty good,” added her husband, Donnie. “I wish a couple of inches would fall each night so we’d have more snow, but I can’t complain.”
Matt Zalaznick can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 606, or via e-mail at email@example.com.