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Huge winter storm takes aim at state’s last open ski area: Arapahoe Basin

Independence Pass set to open May 22

May 9, 2014, 8:32 am
Arapahoe Basin still open

Conditions were incredible Sunday, May 4, at Arapahoe Basin, which plans to stay open until June 1 (David O. Williams photo).

In Colorado’s high country, May showers sometimes bring deep powder.

And there’s only one ski area still providing lift access to the goods: Arapahoe Basin in Summit County. The Basin plans to stay open until June 1, unless enough new snow falls in coming weeks to extend the ski season beyond that date. A-Basin has stayed open till July 4 in the past.

According to forecasters, a substantial amount of new snow will fall on A-Basin starting Saturday night and lasting into Monday.

“Total precipitation from Saturday night through Monday should be around 1-2 inches of liquid equivalent, so that could mean 10-20 inches of snow on the peaks, especially along the [Continental] Divide,” meteorologist Joel Gratz of Opensnow.com wrote Thursday.

“Monday might be a great time to enjoy powder turns at A-Basin as there will have been significant snow Sunday and Sunday night with more snow falling during the day on Monday.”

With Loveland closing on Sunday, A-Basin is now the only place in the state to get in-bounds turns. The 67-year-old resort has a base elevation of 10,780 feet and a summit elevation of 13,050 feet. June 1 is a very realistic closing date given the current 77-inch base, with five inches of new snow in the last two days and a lot more on the way.

“We could extend the season based on conditions, and part of that is seeing what this next storm does for us,” said A-Basin spokeswoman Adrienne Saia Isaac, adding the resort will keep as much skiable acreage open as possible. Ski patrol decides on a daily basis, basing decisions on snow conditions and weather.

“Much of our steeper terrain has been closed due to warm temperatures as of late, but we do reevaluate daily and there is a possibility that the steep terrain could re-open,” Saia Isaac said. “But, we’ll keep the season going as long as we can, and keep as much terrain open as possible for our guests. And, if the forecasts are right, this storm could really be big for our mountain.”

A-Basin chief operating officer and vice president Alan Henceroth blogged on Tuesday that A-Basin’s famed Pallavicini run and the North Glade gates closed on Monday due to warm temperatures that caused melting in the huge snowpack. Water in the snow adds weight and affects snow stability. Colder temperatures and fresh snow would improve that situation.

“This may not be for good,” Henceroth wrote of the closures. “In the coming days, we are forecasted to see a bit of snow and cooler temperatures. If conditions change, a re-opening of the steep stuff is possible. Stay tuned.”

Independence Pass between Leadville and Aspen is slated to open May 22, weather permitting, according to Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) officials.

CDOT tries to have the pass open on the Thursday before the unofficial kickoff to summer – the Memorial Day weekend. Last year the pass that provides a key east-west link between Aspen and the rest of the state opened on May 23.

“Each year, CDOT sets a goal to get the 12,095-foot pass open on this day,” CDOT officials said in a press release Thursday. “It is always completely dependent on weather conditions and, of course, the amount of work necessary to clear the road and carry out other maintenance items.”

Crews must clear up to 12 avalanche slide paths, move concrete barriers to clear ditches, possibly blast and then haul out any rocks that have come down during the long winter, patch potholes and fix any guardrails or signs that have been damaged.

An open Independence Pass would have been a big help on Thursday after westbound Interstate 70 was closed for eight hours while the Colorado State Patrol investigated the non-fatal shooting of a state trooper in Glenwood Canyon. The suspect was shot and killed by another state trooper.

Tempers flared at various closure and detour points as aggravated motorists and truckers confronted CDOT traffic-control workers. CDOT and Eagle County Sheriff’s Department officers actively tried to keep motorists from using Cottonwood Pass, a rough road between Gypsum and El Jebel in the Roaring Fork Valley. Westbound motorists were sent north at Wolcott along two-lane Highway 131 to U.S. Highway 40 and Steamboat Springs.

It was a particularly bad winter season for closures along the I-70 corridor, with the highway shut down for much longer periods of time than in past years.

For roadway conditions and other information go to www.cotrip.org or call 511. Sign up to receive free road condition messages via e-mail or wireless devices by going to www.coloradodot.info and choosing the green phone icon in the upper right-hand corner.

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David O. Williams

Managing Editor at RealVail
David O. Williams is the editor and co-founder of RealVail.com and has had his awarding-winning work (see About Us) published in more than 75 newspapers and magazines around the world, including 5280 Magazine, American Way Magazine (American Airlines), the Anchorage Daily News (Alaska), the Anchorage Daily Press (Alaska), Aspen Daily News, Aspen Journalism, the Aspen Times, Beaver Creek Magazine, the Boulder Daily Camera, the Casper Star Tribune (Wyoming), the Chicago Tribune, Colorado Central Magazine, the Colorado Independent (formerly Colorado Confidential), Colorado Newsline, Colorado Politics (formerly the Colorado Statesman), Colorado Public News, the Colorado Springs Gazette, the Colorado Springs Independent, the Colorado Statesman (now Colorado Politics), the Colorado Times Recorder, the Cortez Journal, the Craig Daily Press, the Curry Coastal Pilot (Oregon), the Daily Trail (Vail), the Del Norte Triplicate (California), the Denver Daily News, the Denver Gazette, the Denver Post, the Durango Herald, the Eagle Valley Enterprise, the Eastside Journal (Bellevue, Washington), ESPN.com, Explore Big Sky (Mont.), the Fort Morgan Times (Colorado), the Glenwood Springs Post-Independent, the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, the Greeley Tribune, the Huffington Post, the King County Journal (Seattle, Washington), the Kingman Daily Miner (Arizona), KUNC.org (northern Colorado), LA Weekly, the Las Vegas Sun, the Leadville Herald-Democrat, the London Daily Mirror, the Moab Times Independent (Utah), the Montgomery Journal (Maryland), the Montrose Daily Press, The New York Times, the Parent’s Handbook, Peaks Magazine (now Epic Life), People Magazine, Powder Magazine, the Pueblo Chieftain, PT Magazine, the Rio Blanco Herald Times (Colorado), Rocky Mountain Golf Magazine, the Rocky Mountain News, RouteFifty.com (formerly Government Executive State and Local), the Salt Lake Tribune, SKI Magazine, Ski Area Management, SKIING Magazine, the Sky-Hi News, the Steamboat Pilot & Today, the Sterling Journal Advocate (Colorado), the Summit Daily News, United Hemispheres (United Airlines), Vail/Beaver Creek Magazine, Vail en Español, Vail Health Magazine, Vail Valley Magazine, the Vail Daily, the Vail Trail, Westword (Denver), Writers on the Range and the Wyoming Tribune Eagle. Williams is also the founder, publisher and editor of RealVail.com and RockyMountainPost.com.

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