Much-needed Aspen snowstorm pleases locals, cancels flights
The Aspen Times
Ski trails, sidewalks and shuttles throughout the Aspen-Snowmass area were full of smiling faces Sunday as residents and visitors tasted superb weekend powder conditions for the first time in awhile.
The current weather pattern got underway Friday afternoon, with an estimated 2 to 5 inches hitting the ski areas before dawn Saturday. The next 24 hours, though, provided a much-needed bonus to winter-sports junkies, as 5 to 7 inches fell on Aspen Skiing Co.’s four mountains in the area before dawn Sunday. Snowmass was the lucky recipient of the most snow, with 12 inches over the 48-hour period.
Snow fell most of Sunday morning and afternoon. AspenWeather.net forecaster Cory Gates called for 6 to 10 inches from dawn Sunday to dawn today. He told subscribers to the forecasting service that the outlook is good for regular snowfall over the next 10 days because of the way the jet stream is setting up.
Fellow forecaster Ryan Boudreau said Gates predicted the late-February snowfall more than two weeks ago amid poor snowfall amounts during January and the first half of this month. Gates suggested that the ski areas would get 2 to 5 feet of snow from last week through the end of the month. The local ski mountains are on pace to get 3 feet from the current storm patterns by month’s end, Boudreau said.
“Normal snowfall on the mountains for February is about 48 inches,” Boudreau said. “I don’t think we’re going to get there.”
It should snow significantly every day this week except for Tuesday, Boudreau and Gates predicted. Saturday has the potential for a huge dumping, they said.
Boudreau explained that his references to AspenWeather.net predictions are for the ski areas, not the city of Aspen or the measuring station at the city’s water plant.
“This storm is deceiving,” Boudreau said. “There’s a lot more snow on the mountains than there is in town.”
Gates has adjusted his pre-winter season forecast of 300 inches of snow (on average) for the four ski areas to about 250 inches, Boudreau noted.
NO MORE TEARS
Residents and powder hounds who were spoiled by the massive snowfall of 2013-14 were understandably elated Sunday.
Ian Adams, a Carbondale resident who was waiting for a bus around 3:30 p.m. near the Rubey Park bus depot, was mostly pleased with the conditions Sunday after snowboarding on Aspen Mountain.
“It was good considering this season,” he said. “Not as good as last year. Conditions were definitely improved this weekend for sure. Fresh snow is always better than no snow. It’s hard to follow a record-breaking year with another record-breaking year.”
Adams said that last winter he hit the slopes about three times a week. This year, his visits have been about once or twice a week.
Though visibility wasn’t great Sunday, with snow blowing all around, Adams didn’t seem to mind.
“I’m fine in flat light,” the Illinois native said. “I’m more worried about what I can see under my feet than what I’m seeing in front of me. I’d rather have good snow than visibility. I don’t hold out for bluebird days.”
Dan McMahon, co-owner of Incline Ski and Board Shop, said the recent snow has gotten area residents excited.
“My employees are pretty pumped up,” he said.
But the powder conditions aren’t as meaningful to visitors, McMahon said. They would rather ski on bluebird days with on-mountain temperatures in the 40s and 50s, he said.
The January near-drought, oddly enough, was good for Incline’s repair business, he said. Skiers and snowboarders hit more rough patches than usual due to low snowfall, which translated into gear damage.
He said there is a delayed effect following a powder weekend, in which business is enhanced a few days later but not during the event.
While tourists may not be as enamored of powder as locals are, they do enjoy the winter scenery following a big snow, when the streets of Aspen and Snowmass Village are covered in white, McMahon added.
Bill Tomcich, president of reservations firm Stay Aspen Snowmass and a local liaison to the airline industry, said 17 of 29 inbound commercial flights scheduled Sunday for the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport were canceled due to weather issues.
Another five were diverted to the Grand Junction airport, while seven were able to land in Aspen, Tomcich said.
The vast majority of passengers affected by the canceled flights tend to make their way into the area eventually, usually on a subsequent day’s flight, Tomcich said.
“Our guests are quite resourceful,” he said.
Out of 30 outbound flights scheduled Sunday, 12 flew out. Five of those were aircraft that arrived late Saturday, and seven were return flights from the seven inbound flights that were able to land early Sunday before the storm gained strength, Tomcich said.
Denver ABC affiliate KMGH-TV reported that Denver International Airport listed 170 flight cancellations Sunday because of winter storms in Colorado and along the East Coast.
The cancellations were about evenly split between arrivals and departures, airport officials said Sunday morning. Many were small, regional flights to mountain towns and cities around Colorado, such as Aspen, although some long-haul flights also are affected now.
DIA reported 166 flights canceled Saturday, the station reported.
Tomcich added that United Airlines issued a travel waiver Friday for anyone scheduled to fly to or through Colorado over the weekend based on the forecast, allowing them to change their flights without monetary penalty.
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