Lousy winds blowing snow straight to Vail
“It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.”
If ever a tale of two cities needed to be told, it’s the one that is unfolding about Aspen and Vail.
Since New Year’s Day, the Aspen area has had to scrape by on less than 10 inches of new snow, while archrival Vail has been feasting on storms rolling in daily. With more than 30 inches of new snow already in 1999, Vail opened its back bowls last weekend.
Vail Resorts communications manager Kelly Ladyga said Vail Mountain has recorded 32.5 inches of new snow since Jan. 1. Beaver Creek has had 21.5 inches fall since New Year’s Day, Breckenridge, 34 inches and Keystone, 24.5.
Snowmass Mountain, meanwhile, has received a miserly 7.5 inches this year, and only 8 inches since Christmas.
“There seems to be a finger dipping down from the north and centering over Summit County,” Ladyga said. Days have been mostly cloudy in Vail, she reported, with daytime snow flurries turning into overnight snowstorms.
Meteorologist Greg Berman said that Vail and other ski areas in north central Colorado are benefiting from small storms that are being driven by northwesterly winds. For Aspen to see the kind of snowfall Vail has enjoyed, the winds would have to shift to a more westerly pattern, he said.
But Berman, whose Western Weather Service predicts weather for several newspapers and radio stations in Colorado, believes the long-term outlook for Aspen is quite good. He said that the mountains should feel the brunt of more sustained, organized storms by the end of this month, perhaps as soon as this weekend.
Berman’s prognostication defies the National Weather Service’s prediction of drier days and warmer temperatures for the next 90 days. “Right now,” he said, “spring skiing looks really good.”
For the Aspen Skiing Co., a change in the weather can’t come soon enough, as word about where to ski and where not to ski is getting out. A Denver television station reported this week that the state’s northern ski areas are sitting fat, while areas in the central and southern Colorado Rockies are drying up and withering away.
Snowmass Mountain general manager Doug Mackenzie said that he is not making any new snow right now, mostly because the areas where he can make snow already have enough. He pointed out that the 41-inch base atop Snowmass makes for some good skiing, and the warm weather makes for pleasant days on the hill.
“It’s part of doing business,” said Mackenzie. “You just keep up on customer service and do the best with what you have.”
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Friends of Colorado Avalanche Information Center has contributed to the state’s avalanche center for several years to help with forecasting for backcountry visitors. It cannot hold in-person fundraisers this year so its asking supporters to sign up for an annual membership.