Aspen rejoices in a foot of new snow |

Aspen rejoices in a foot of new snow

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado

ASPEN – For the first time this season, Aspen skiers and riders on Tuesday found a foot or more of new snow in the morning report, and on the slopes.

The Aspen/Snowmass ski areas boasted some of the best snow totals in the state from the storm that parked over the area Monday. Snowmass and Buttermilk each picked up 14 inches in 24 hours, according to the early Tuesday report. Aspen Mountain and Aspen Highlands both had a foot of new snow.

Snowmass saw a couple of November storms that produced a foot of snow, but not since the ski season began, according to Jeff Hanle, Aspen Skiing Co. spokesman.

“This is the first foot-plus storm since we’ve been running lifts,” he said.

Local skiers and riders found powder, cold temperatures and windy conditions on the upper slopes.

Elsewhere around Colorado, Silverton in the southwest part of the state reported 19 inches. Crested Butte reported a foot of new snow, Steamboat picked up 11 inches and Vail and Wolf Creek both reported 10 inches. Other ski areas were reporting lesser amounts. Sunlight Mountain Resort outside Glenwood Springs picked up 7 inches, Copper Mountain and Keystone had 4 inches, and Powderhorn reported 2 inches.

The snows bumped up avalanche danger considerably in the Aspen area, both above and below treeline, according to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.

“Natural avalanches are possible and triggered avalanches probably on many steep slopes,” the center said Tuesday.

Avalanche danger was rated high on some aspects above treeline in the northern San Juan Mountains in southwest Colorado and jumped from a low or moderate rating to considerable in most other zones around the state.

And, more snow could be in store.

The weather pattern that had left the central Rockies high and dry appears to be changing, according to Jim Daniels, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction. A ridge of high pressure sitting to the west, which had been pushing storms to the north, south or both, has given way, allowing moist flows from the west and northwest to flow over the Colorado mountains.

“Things started kind of changing over this past weekend and will continue in a pattern that’s a little more typical of La Nina, at least for the next seven days,” Daniels said.

But relatively balmy temperatures, starting Thursday, will likely bring rain to some areas of the Roaring Fork Valley by the weekend, he added.

“What that means for Aspen, I don’t know,” Daniels said.

With January snowfall at Snowmass already eclipsing December’s totals, Hanle said theories about the change in local snowfall fortunes abound: It snows for the Winter X Games (starting next week), it snows for Aspen Gay Ski Week (this week) or it snows when “low-pressure Carl” comes to town (a former local who brings snow when he visits).

“There are a thousand different reasons. I don’t care what works, so long as it works,” Hanle said.

Snowmass has seen 24 inches of snow so far in January, compared to 19 inches for all of December. Aspen Mountain isn’t far behind, with roughly 22 inches so far this month, according to Hanle.

Wednesday’s forecast calls for wind chills as low as 15 below in the morning and a 30 percent chance of snow Wednesday night, according to the National Weather Service. On Tuesday, was calling for an inch or two Wednesday night and one to three inches Thursday.

The local weather bloggers had this to say about the coming weekend: “The good news is this weekend is not a weekend where we’ll have to worry about dry weather. It’s going to rain and snow and some of it could be rather heavy. Of course above 9,000 feet, life will probably be good with decent snow.”

Road conditions in the upper Roaring Fork Valley were especially bad Monday night during the storm, with visibility slowing motorists.

The Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office is in the early stages of having deputies pace cars to lead traffic at a safe speed – similar to what the Colorado State Patrol does on Interstate 70 in the Glenwood Canyon and Eisenhower Tunnel – through the Snowmass Canyon and Shale Bluffs on Highway 82.

“It isn’t to cite anybody, it’s to minimize accidents,” said Undersheriff Ron Ryan.

The program isn’t officially under way, but some deputies are trying it out on an individual basis, Ryan said.

“The limitations we have are when the roads are busy we have a lot of accidents that our deputies are handling,” he said.

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