Ski areas’ snowfall lagged behind averages

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado

ASPEN – Aspen Mountain and Snowmass accumulated less snowfall than average during the 2012-13 season but considerably more than the winter before, according to Aspen Skiing Co. records.

Snowmass picked up 235 inches of snow from Nov. 1 through April 14, according to data Skico spokesman Jeff Hanle provided. That is 88 percent of the ski area’s ski season average of 268 inches of snow, Skico said.

Aspen Mountain picked up 207 inches of snow, or 82 percent of its 251-inch average.

Both ski areas closed for the season Sunday.

This winter came on strong at the end to ease memories of mediocre season through February and a poor prior winter. Aspen Mountain received 174 inches of snow in 2011-12; Snowmass collected 188 inches in winter 2011-12.

Not only was the quantity of snow better this year, but anyone who hit the slopes realized that the quality was better as well, thanks to preservation from low temperatures in January and lack of super warm weather in March.

“We really caught and passed last year in March and April,” Hanle said of snowfall totals. “December snowfall this year was significantly above last (season) and also above average. Temperatures stayed cold, and we got more terrain open sooner.”

Having more terrain and a good base encouraged more locals to get out on the slopes even though it didn’t snow much in January, Hanle said.

“We did not fall off the cliff, snow-wise, like we did last March, so pass use remained strong and even surged at the end of the year,” Hanle said.

No numbers on comparison of pass use between the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons were available immediately.

Roaring Fork Valley residents still are showing up strong for powder days. Aspen Highlands received nine inches of powder Monday and Monday night and 13 inches over a 48-hour period. Powder pigs flocked to the ski area early Tuesday. Traffic on Maroon Creek Road was backed up to the roundabout on Highway 82 by 9:15 a.m. if not before, one commuter noted. Skico offered free parking so the Highlands garage was full before 10:15 a.m. Skiers and snowboarders are encouraged to take a bus to Highlands. Commuters can park at Buttermilk and take a free shuttle. The shuttle leaves Buttermilk on the hour and half-hour. It leaves Highlands at 15 and 45 minutes after the hour.

The Colorado Avalanche Information Center issued an avalanche warning for mountain ranges in Eagle and Summit counties, including the Ten Mile Range, Gore Range, Williams Fork Mountains, Medicine Bow Mountains, Never Summer Mountains and the Front Range. The warning was issued after 2 feet of snow fell between Saturday and Tuesday.

The information center’s website on Tuesday rated the avalanche danger as “considerable” in the Aspen zone. The center will issue zone forecasts through Saturday and then just issue statewide avalanche statements Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays until May 27.

“In the terrain surrounding Independence Pass, Ashcroft, and the Castle and Maroon Creek valleys, as well as other areas to the north and east within the Aspen zone, deep persistent slabs are a significant concern again,” the information center reported. A natural slide took place overnight Monday in Maroon Bowl. The deep-slab snowpack slid down to the ground in many places.

Winter isn’t easing its grip on the Aspen area. Snow is likely Wednesday and Wednesday night and possible Thursday, according to the National Weather Service.