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Blizzard buries Aspen

Ullr, the Norse god of skiing, seems to have taken a special liking to Aspen this winter.

Or, maybe it’s just that the high pressure ” which has consistently sunk its big, dry claws into the intermountain West over the past few winters ” has moved on to plague other parts of the country.

Either way, the upper valley is wallowing in one of its best winters in years. The most recent storm cycle dumped up to 40 inches of snow on the resorts in the past week ” 33 inches fell on Snowmass during one 48-hour period ” adding a massive fresh layer to an already soft, deep base.



According to Aspen Skiing Co. spokesman Jeff Hanle, this past storm brought Aspen to within 10 inches of the monthly average for January, and it’s only five days old.

And it’s not like the resorts were suffering. Snowfall in November was double the monthly average, and December was about 50 percent above average, Hanle said.



Aspen Highlands now has a 71-inch base at the top, and according to reports, Highland Bowl is choked with extremely deep snow. Snowmass is close behind with a 70-inch base at the top, with 54- and 44-inch bases atop Aspen Mountain and Buttermilk, respectively.

Chris Cuoco, a senior forecaster with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction, said the movement of the high pressure is largely responsible for the deluge of winter storms.

“What happened is this year the high was suppressed more to the south and east, and that has allowed the jet [stream] to drop lower over the western half of the United States than it has been in the past few years,” he said. “Basically what we got in this last storm was a steady, strong moist flow out of the west.”

And, as Hanle said, with all of the visitors in town for the holidays, the timing of this past storm couldn’t have been better.

“Everyone who was here will go home after the holidays and say, ‘This is the best snow in years in Aspen, you gotta go check it out,'” Hanle said. “The momentum it will stir up for all the people here over the holidays is such a good thing.”

While exact numbers on skier visits are not yet available, Hanle said the turnout for the holidays was the best in three to five years.

“It’s one of those years, we couldn’t be happier,” he said.

But not everybody was jumping for joy during the past storm.

Pitkin County Sheriff’s Deputy Ann Stephenson said Highway 82 and streets in Aspen turned ugly for motorists Friday night and Saturday.

“A number of cars went off the roadway, and there were numbers of disabled cars and quite a number of accidents,” she said.

One of the worst accidents occurred on Brush Creek Road when a car rolled over, but there were no fatalities, and one officer suffered a minor concussion after slipping on ice while responding to an accident, Stephenson said.

The National Weather Service is calling for a slight chance of snow today through Wednesday, with somewhat of a dry trend developing for the weekend.

Steve Benson’s e-mail address is sbenson@aspentimes.com


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