Area ski resorts may be looking at the last days of their respective seasons, but, as the recent spring snowstorms show, Mother Nature doesn’t answer to closing dates.
Loveland Ski Area was the weekend winner, reporting a 72-hour snowfall total of 33 inches, which brings its season-to-date total up to 350 inches. Loveland typically averages about 422 inches each season, and, with a definitive closure coming Sunday, May 8, there’s still the potential for additional storms to help reach that number — even if locals consistently want more ski days.
“We always have a few requests to stay open longer,” said John Sellers, Loveland’s marketing director, “and they definitely get louder when we get a big spring storm like the one we got last week. There’s never a good time to shut down for the summer, but it has to happen at some point, and, when you evaluate staffing, demand and the snowpack, the first week in May seems to be the best time for us.”
Arapahoe Basin Ski Area noted a similar 72-hour total as Loveland by Monday morning on its website: “28 inches in the last three days. There’s really not much else that needs to be said.”
A-Basin, currently at 277 inches this season (and 37 inches for the month of April), usually sees an average of 350 inches annually. It will easily be the last ski hill to fold up shop, presently with an estimated closing date of Sunday, June 5. And there’s still a chance the spring-season favorite could be pushed even further out.
“I think we’ll definitely make June 5,” said Leigh Hierholzer, director of marketing at A-Basin, “but that will possibly be extended depending on the conditions. It’s a possibility, but nothing has been decided at this point.”
Keystone Resort largely missed out on the massive dumping Summit County received over the weekend, having already closed on Sunday, April 10. However, the area staple far outpaced its annual average snowfall of 235 inches, reporting 292 inches during the year.
Those with a Vail Resorts Epic Pass season lift ticket can still venture over to Breckenridge Ski Resort through Sunday, April 24. With forecasts for the area suggesting between 6 inches and a foot of new snow through Tuesday evening, it seems more than likely that Breck will add to its current 353 inches this season — hitting its seasonal average right on the head — before the lifts shut down for good.
Copper Mountain Resort extended its season by a weekend, maintaining closing festivities this past weekend, but will re-open Friday, April 22 through Sunday, April 24. Copper reported 21 inches (compared to Breck’s 26) from the latest storm to bring it up to 269 for the year.
With that total, Copper is down from its yearly average of 305 inches. But guests over the weekend were none the wiser given the fresh powder, and an additional weekend ahead of them to take in discounted lift tickets, free parking in all lots and the possibility of three more ski days on the season.
THERE’S ALWAYS BACKCOUNTRY
Meanwhile, in the backcountry, where the ski season doesn’t end until it can no longer be navigated, avalanche danger in Vail and Summit County is indexed as elevated, officially listed as moderate — a 2 on the 5-degree scale. From below treeline on up, the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC) warns participants to evaluate the snow and terrain — as much as 2 feet in some areas — carefully to avoid potential problems, namely with more spring snow to come.
“Although there has not been much snow in the last 24 hours,” wrote CAIC forecaster Jason Konigsberg, “it will still be possible to trigger avalanches breaking within or just beneath the storm snow on all steep slopes. Upper-elevation slopes that were loaded by easterly winds on Saturday are especially suspect and extra caution should be used in these areas.”
The good news is that avalanche observations in the area have remained low despite the substantial snowfall. A natural slide occurred in the Ten Mile Range above treeline at approximately 12,400 feet on Sunday. No one was injured. Other than that, only a handful of intentional avalanches on Sunday on Loveland Pass were reported.
Those waves of snow were triggered with explosives as a means of mitigation after the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) closed the stretch of U.S. Highway 6 for safety reasons. CDOT first invoked the passenger vehicle traction law and chain requirements for commercials Friday afternoon, following that up with full closure just a few hours later. Loveland Pass re-opened by Sunday early evening.
The other major closure over the weekend — as many commuters and resort-goers experienced — was Interstate 70 in both directions due to adverse conditions and accidents Friday afternoon. Both east- and westbound lanes re-opened around 7 p.m. under the traction and chain laws, though the highway was again closed from Golden to Idaho Springs at midnight Saturday before again opening at about 5 a.m. Finally, westbound 70 was closed about three hours early Sunday morning at Floyd Hill, re-opening just after 4 a.m.
With more snow in the forecast this week, before heading up or down, mountain travelers — many driving to the region’s resorts for their last days — are advised to check CDOT’s road closure website,www.cotrip.org, or the agency’s Twitter page: @ColoradoDOT.