Storm sparks winter passion
By the numbers
5: Inches of new snow reported at Vail.
6: Inches of new show reported at Beaver Creek.
Nov. 20: Opening day at Vail.
Nov. 25: Opening day at Beaver Creek.
EAGLE COUNTY — Early-season snow in a ski town generates buzz. The last several-inch whack of the white stuff finally put snow on the ground on the valley floor and turned up the heat on passion for the coming season.
In Vail, Buzz Schleper generally opens his ski shop, Buzz’s Boards, around mid-October. Most years, Schleper said the shop is pretty quiet in the few weeks before Vail Mountain opens. This year is different.
“The shop is super busy right now,” Schleper said. “We have a full staff working right now, and it’s all because of the early snow.”
That early snow was felt by valley commuters Wednesday. Eagle County’s alert system sent out numerous messages about accidents and occasional lane closures Wednesday morning.
Schleper, who generally forsakes summer in Vail for his home in Minnesota, said he and his youngest son, Hunter, didn’t get back to Eagle County until Tuesday evening after a bird-hunting trip that included a stop in western Nebraska.
“We were hunting in 60-degree weather (Tuesday) and got home to winter,” Schleper said.
When he did hit town, he found Vail firmly in the grip of ready-to-ski fever.
“I’ve seen people (hiking) up the mountain, and people are already going to A-Basin, Loveland and Keystone,” he said.
Coyote Cafe General Manager Buzz Busby said he’s seeing the same thing from his vantage point in Beaver Creek Village.
“Every day people are (hiking) up,” Busby said. “I’m seeing people with skis in the (parking garage). And (Tuesday) I saw people coming down with their skis after dark.”
Beyond the people heading up the hill, Busby said Beaver Creek has been humming with activity in the past week or so.
“The freshman class is showing up,” Busby said. “People are taking tours, training … things in the past week are really picking up.”
And, Busby said, the echo of snow guns has been heard throughout the village in the last week or so.
That passion for the coming season seems widespread thanks to early-season snow. Busby said he saw a recent picture of a long, long liftline at Keystone for its opening day.
“I’ve been here a long time,” Busby said. “I’ve been here when there’s nothing going on early. I think we’re going to have a big winter.”
Schleper echoed those comments, adding that the early snow is setting up to establish a good base at the resorts.
“Even if it does warm up, there’s snow cover on the runs,” Schleper said. “We’ve had 2 feet (of snow) up high — the ground’s cooled off, so the snow’s going to hold. Now we need to just get enough sun to clear off the roads.”
The forecast calls for just that over the next several days. The National Weather Service’s Grand Junction office is predicting sunny skies through Sunday in Vail, with highs in the 30s and 40s and lows in the teens — perfect weather for making snow. Clouds are predicted to return Monday and Tuesday, with a chance of snow in Vail.
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, firstname.lastname@example.org and @scottnmiller.