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Spring seems to have sprung a little early in the Colorado Rockies, with temperatures approaching 50 Fahrenheit in Vail this week after a snowy and busy Presidents Day holiday last week.
The good news for snow riders is the balmy temps won’t last as a more typical and wintry weather pattern moves in this weekend and promises to persist into March. Let’s hope we have a real March in terms of it being our wettest month of the year.
“With the current weather feeling like full-on spring, it’s hard to fathom that winter will make a comeback in a few days, but yes, that is what will happen,” Opensnow.com meteorologist Joel Gratz wrote Wednesday. “From Friday through Monday, we’ll see multiple rounds of snow with totals of 8-16 inches and a few days with soft conditions and some real powder as well. Then there should be two more storms as we head into mid-March.”
More good news for local skiing fans is Mikaela Shiffrin of Edwards will be back in action this weekend after a post-Olympic break that saw her World Cup rival, Petra Vlhova of Slovakia, catch up on points in the overall chase.
The two will go head to head in Lenzerheide, Switzerland, this weekend, and it should be a fun battle over the final three weeks of the World Cup season, even though most Americans have already tuned out because, well, it’s not the Olympics.
Speaking of catching up, Vail’s foot and half or so of new snow last week made for some soft, fun turns for the first time in more than a month, but the snowpack is still lagging.
Vail is at 180 inches for the season, or about 17 feet of snow so far. All of last season, we hit a paltry 200 inches, so at least we’re closing in on that very low bar. But bear in mind that Vail typically averages well over 300 inches a season, and we only have about seven weeks of snow riding left on the calendar.
Hopefully we play a major game of catchup starting this weekend – not just for skiing but, more importantly, for water supplies and wildfire suppression.
Some more good news on the local ski front: COVID-19 numbers have dipped enough locally and nationally that Vail Resorts has dropped its indoor mask mandate for restaurants, retail spaces and gondola cars (although it’s hard to believe that last one was still in place given how unenforced it was).
Presidents Week parking was in the news after a lot of cars lined the frontage roads pretty much every day last week, but I have to say that on the hill – I went up Friday and Sunday – those parking numbers did not translate into unwieldy lift lines.
Apparently, anywhere from 300 to 600 cars per day were on the frontage roads, which is not an ideal parking situation. What’s funny about that, since I’m the institutional memory guy these days (yes, Blue Sky was billed as early-season, north-facing ski terrain), is those parking numbers are right around what Ever Vail was supposed to deliver years ago.
Remember Ever Vail, billed back in 2006 or so as the first ever LEED-certified ski area base village, with a new gondola, new DEVO parking drop-off, a hotel, workforce housing and tons more parking, both for a new hotel and shops, but also an additional 400 public parking spaces?
Don’t take my word for it: the website is still live. Of course, then came the 2008 housing collapse, brought to you by greedy bankers playing fast and loose with mortgage-back securities (see, the Big Short), and Vail Resorts wisely got out of the development game altogether.
Approval for Ever Vail has since expired and the Vail Daily recently corrected the false assertion that at least part of the land that was supposed to become Ever Vail was under contract and set to be sold.
But imagine where we’d be if at least the parking and workforce housing aspects of Ever Vail had been built (but of course the condos and hotel were meant to pay for those), and if the ski company’s other approved workforce housing project, Booth Heights, had ever turned dirt. Certainly in a better place than we are now, staffing-wise and therefore guest-service-wise.
Good to see a whole host of local entities coming together to try to form a regional transit authority that will hopefully vastly increase and improve countywide local bus service and perhaps more importantly upgrade the woeful safety situation in and around bus stops. That step is long overdue.
But the idea shouldn’t be to push all the worker housing down-valley and put in more buses. Walkable workforce housing needs to be heavily in the mix. And maybe even commuter and tourist trains in addition to buses to get people up and down valley and to and from the airport.
Because, as I’ve always said, Vail doesn’t have a parking problem, it has a car problem. And, increasing, with vehicle traffic accounting for the majority of planet-warming, ski-season-killing greenhouse gases and I-70 a godawful cluster every weekend and sometimes now on weekdays, the same can be said of Colorado and the nation as a whole. It will take vision to fix the future.