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Late-season snowstorm takes aim at Vail, Beaver Creek

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April 9, 2019, 10:50 am
The author enjoys a killer powder at Vail earlier this season (Dan Davis photo).

Snow-Pocalypse, Snow-Mageddon, Snow Bomb Cyclone, choose your term. It’s supposedly coming again to a ski valley near you starting Wednesday, which is good news if you live in the Vail Valley and you’re still into skiing powder. Which, why wouldn’t you be?

The O Zone by David O. Williams
The O. Zone

Some locals don’t have the option at places like Park City (see sign vandals) and destination resorts like Telluride, where it apparently just doesn’t pay to keep the lifts churning past the first week of April. Vail, of course, given its reliance on Latin American skiers, will never close before Easter Sunday (April 21 this year). Beaver Creek shuts down on Sunday, April 14.

I’ve written extensively in the past about the need for the ski industry to shift from heavily promoting skiing in the fall (October and November openings) and instead just try to open by Thanksgiving. Then maintain the flexibility, if possible, to stay open longer in the spring when it’s warmer and some tourists might enjoy the slopes a little more.

Of course, that could be harder and harder to do with climate change shortening ski seasons on both ends, but it certainly would have been possible for more resorts this season. As bad as last season was, some of the best conditions were in mid-April, long after most people had mothballed their skis and broken out the golf bags.

What made chuckle most about all the grumbling in places like Park City (just spent closing weekend there), Big Sky and Aspen where I’ve traveled this winter is the fact that we’ve been dealing with season-pass and locals crowding on powder days dating back more than a decade now. Welcome, Ikon-ites to the “riff-raff” era and cheap ski-pass democratization. Park City is now Epic while neighboring Deer Valley is talking crowd management after going Ikon.

Besides the inherent NIMBYism of wealthy ski town residents who thought they’d forever maintain their private resorts (on public lands in Colorado), it underscores just how little ski terrain has been added in the past 30 years. Since I moved to Vail in 1991, Colorado’s populations has increased more than 50 percent, but there’s very little new ski terrain added.

That’s really what’s going on. And just check out the down-valley traffic jams after a powder at Vail. Locals make up most of the people tracking up all of that great snow on many days. I’m perhaps the worst offender. I’m approaching 40 days of alpine skiing this season (plus 45 Nordic) and virtually every one of those days was a “4-or-more-out-the-door” powder day.

Regardless, what’s in the works for Wednesday? Looks like it could be another one of those days, according to meteorologist Joel Gratz of Opensnow.com:

“Tuesday will be the last warm day for a while. Snow will start early Wednesday morning and should continue through Thursday afternoon,” Gratz wrote Tuesday. “The majority of mountains will see 5-10 inches, though 12-18 inches is possible for some favored mountains, with the best powder on Thursday morning. Friday should be dry for part of the day, then we’ll see light snow for the southern and eastern mountains from later Friday through Saturday. Sunday and Monday will be dry, then look for more snow between April 16-18.”

Again, sounds like another strong finish to the season. Enjoy.

Here’s a press release from the Colorado Department of Transportation on Wednesday’s storm:

Tough Driving Conditions expected from Upcoming Storm  

DENVER – The Colorado Department of Transportation is preparing for a potent snowstorm that is expected to impact travel in the Denver area, the northern Front Range and Eastern Plains beginning later tomorrow morning or early afternoon.

“Road conditions are expected to change rapidly between tomorrow morning’s commute and Wednesday evening,” said CDOT Executive Director Shoshana Lew.  “A normal drive in the morning is forecast to transition to blizzard conditions in many areas through the afternoon and the night. And then travel on Thursday morning is expected to be tough when it comes to visibility due to blowing snow.”  

Lew added, “We can’t rest easy because it’s spring time. Drivers need to be careful, even if it appears that snow isn’t sticking. Wind conditions are expected to be intense, which can create visibility issues. During Work Zone Awareness Week in particular, we remind you to be careful of work zones and stay out of the way while plow drivers are doing their jobs to keep you safe. Drive like you work here.”  

CDOT will continue to monitor conditions and distribute the most current information regarding conditions and closures.  Depending on the severity of the weather, some highways may close, such as I-25 Monument Hill and I-70 in the Eastern Plains, while the storm is hitting the state as a proactive measure to maintain safety for the traveling public.  Motorists are urged to avoid or limit travel during the height of the storm.

BE SAFE – KNOW BEFORE YOU GO

Reduce the likelihood of closures and conditions impacting your day by planning ahead. Before you go, check cotrip.org for up-to-date information on road closures and conditions, CDOT’s ONLY official road condition source.  CDOT continues to provide options for getting travel alert information to motorists. CDOT added Twitter “Travel Alerts” to our desktop Facebook page.

CCDOT populates the phone 511 system with current closures and conditions, in addition to providing information to local media. CDOT has a statewide system of electronic signs on many highways to get real-time information to drivers. Please do NOT use a mobile device while operating a vehicle.

STAY INFORMED:

●       Road conditions and travel information: www.COtrip.org

●       Sign up for project or travel alerts: bit.ly/COalerts

●       See scheduled lane closures: codot.gov/travel/scheduled-lane-closures.html

●       Connect with us on social media: Twitter @coloradodot and Facebook facebook.com/coloradodot

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David O. Williams

Managing Editor at RealVail
David O. Williams is an award-winning freelance reporter based in the Vail Valley of Colorado, writing on health care, immigration, politics, the environment, energy, public lands, outdoor recreation and sports. His work has appeared in 5280 Magazine, American Way Magazine (American Airlines), the Anchorage Daily News (Alaska), Aspen Daily News, the Aspen Times, Beaver Creek Magazine, the Chicago Tribune, the Colorado Independent, Colorado Politics (formerly the Colorado Statesman), Colorado Public News, the Colorado Springs Gazette, the Colorado Independent (formerly Colorado Confidential), the Colorado Springs Independent, the Colorado Statesman (now Colorado Politics), the Daily Trail (Vail), the Denver Daily News, the Denver Post, the Durango Herald, the Eagle Valley Enterprise, the Eastside Journal (Bellevue, Washington), ESPN.com, the Glenwood Springs Post-Independent, the Greeley Tribune, the Huffington Post, the King County Journal (Seattle, Washington), KUNC.org (northern Colorado), LA Weekly, the London Daily Mirror, the Montgomery Journal (Maryland), The New York Times, the Parent’s Handbook, Peaks Magazine (now Epic Life), People Magazine, Powder Magazine, the Pueblo Chieftain, PT Magazine, Rocky Mountain Golf Magazine, the Rocky Mountain News, Atlantic Media's RouteFifty.com (formerly Government Executive State and Local), SKI Magazine, Ski Area Management, SKIING Magazine, the Summit Daily News, United Hemispheres (United Airlines), Vail/Beaver Creek Magazine, Vail en Español, Vail Valley Magazine, the Vail Daily, the Vail Trail and Westword (Denver). Williams is also the founder, publisher and editor of RealVail.com and RockyMountainPost.com.

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