Vail still waiting for heavy snow |

Vail still waiting for heavy snow

VAIL ” Jim Cooper is trying to rile up the snow gods.

He’s playing golf. He’s waxing his car. Any summerlike activity that could provoke their wintry wrath.

With Vail Mountain opening Friday, little snow has fallen over the last couple of weeks, and there isn’t much snow in the forecast for the rest of the week. It drizzled in Vail on Monday morning.

“It’s definitely a little nerve-wracking,” said Cooper, who works at Double Diamond Ski Shop in Lionshead.

But, Cooper said, little early-season snow is no indicator of a subpar snow season at Vail, which averages 348 inches a year.

“I’ve always seen it pan out later,” he said.

Vail Mountain officials are expecting Friday’s opening to be only Born Free, the trail above Lionshead, on manmade snow. That’s the standard minimal opening for Vail.

For the last two years, Vail has seen wider openings thanks to good early snow. The last Born Free-only opening was 2004.

Beaver Creek, set to open Nov. 21, is making snow on the Latigo and Haymeadow runs, said spokeswoman Christina Schleicher.

Vail might get a few light showers through Friday, said Ellen Heffernan of the National Weather Service’s Grand Junction office.

“It doesn’t look promising,” she said.

A dry pattern is hanging over Vail, a scenario that will likely persist into late November, Heffernan said.

Klaus Wolter, a Boulder-based climatologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration who studies snow in Colorado, said he’s predicting below-average snow for Vail. He’s not buying a season pass, he said.

“I even passed on the four pack,” he said.

A strong La Nina pattern has emerged, but the storms are staying north of Vail or fizzling out before they get here, Wolter said. Ninety percent of average snow totals might be a lot to ask for, he said.

“This is going to be winter of low expectations,” he said. “Count your blessings, whatever you get.”

He’s hoping he’s wrong, said Wolter, a skier.

Then there’s the Farmer’s Almanac. It says the Intermountain West will have slightly below-normal precipitation.

“The most widespread snowstorms will occur in mid-November, mid-December, mid-January, and mid- and late March,” it says.

The Vail Psychic, aka Michelle Marks, who has a store on Gore Creek Drive in Vail, was in a seminar in California on Monday and could not be reached for her snow predictions.

Jen Brown, spokeswoman for Vail Mountain, said the resort takes a look at some different long-range forecasts. They’ve even gone the nonscientific route to attract snow.

“We have done snow dances, prayed to the snow gods,” she said. “There is a voodoo doll floating around here ” all in good fun.”

Russ Shay, owner of Surefoot shop in Vail Village, said he’s not worried about the amount of snow that’s fallen.

“That’s the nature of the beast,” he said.

The resort can make enough snow for opening, and that’ll be enough to get people excited. And the amount of snow on opening day doesn’t portend how the rest of the season will go, he said.

“It’s going to be an awesome winter,” he said.

Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 748-2929 or

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