Snow, then brrrr, in Aspen
December 10, 2009
ASPEN – It was enough to freeze the smile on a skier’s face – literally.
A two-day snowstorm moved out of the Colorado mountains Tuesday night, leaving 9 inches of fresh snow on Aspen Mountain over a two-day period, and 15 inches over two days at Snowmass. Clear skies and frigid temperatures Wednesday morning replaced Tuesday’s nonstop snowfall.
The low Tuesday night in Aspen was 9 degrees below zero, according to the city’s water department, which tracks daily precipitation and temperature data. It was still 5 below at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday.
The plunging mercury didn’t keep skiers and snowboarders off the slopes, though. New terrain opened at Aspen Mountain and Snowmass, and more is expected by the weekend, according to Jeff Hanle, Aspen Skiing Co. spokesman.
Most of the runs on Sam’s Knob at Snowmass debuted Wednesday, as did the Sheer Bliss run and lift, he said. The Alpine Springs and High Alpine chairs will crank up Saturday, according to the Skico.
On Aspen Mountain, Sunrise/Sunset and Back of Bell No. 2 opened on the Ridge of Bell during Tuesday’s storm, as did Red’s Run, Percy and the FIS trail on the Ruthie’s side of the mountain. Snow was sliding in the Dump runs, Hanle said. They have yet to open.
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Crews plan to fire up the FIS, Ruthie’s and Lift 1A chairs on Saturday, according to Hanle.
Aspen Highlands and Buttermilk open for the season on Saturday.
“I would say look for an above-average opening on both mountains,” Hanle hinted, though he couldn’t yet say what terrain would open.
Highlands received 2 feet of new snow over the prior seven days, according to the Wednesday morning snow report, including 15 inches from the storm that began Monday and continued through most of Tuesday.
The snowstorm also gave a boost to area cross-country trails. The Aspen High School and golf course loops were being groomed for nordic skiing Wednesday, and the Rio Grande Trail was to be packed upvalley of Basalt High School, according to the nordic report.
Parts of the state were still cleaning up from the storm on Wednesday. Plow crews hadn’t yet hit all of the roads in rural Garfield County, where some areas received up to 2 feet of snow and white-out conditions on Tuesday forced the suspension of plowing operations in western portions of the county.
Garfield County’s administration offices and courts were closed Tuesday due to the difficult travel conditions. Garfield County schools in the Re-2 district were also closed, as were Basalt, Carbondale and Glenwood Springs schools. Aspen schools remained open.
The snow also closed the Eagle County Airport on Monday evening. Crews cleared a foot of snow from the runway before it reopened at 1 p.m. Tuesday.
Roaring Fork Transportation Authority buses were packed with riders during Tuesday’s storm and again on Wednesday. Buses were running anywhere from a half-hour to an hour late starting on Monday night and continuing through much of Tuesday, said Kent Blackmer, RFTA operations director.
Occasionally, buses ran into more serious difficulty, such as the four that got high-centered on Main Street in Carbondale Tuesday after city crews plowed the accumulation into a central windrow. The buses had to be pulled free by RFTA’s sanding truck.
The lower Roaring Fork Valley saw heavier snowfall than did Aspen and Snowmass, as evidenced by the snow report at Sunlight Mountain Resort outside of Glenwood Springs. Sunlight reported 13 inches over the past 24 hours on Wednesday morning, and 16 inches over the prior 48-hour period.
Elsewhere around the state, Crested Butte Mountain Resort picked up 28 inches over the two-day period. Ski resorts in southwestern Colorado were also measuring their snowfall in feet. More than 3 feet fell at both Silverton Mountain and Wolf Creek in the two-day stretch, and Durango Mountain Resort saw nearly as much.
Resorts along the Interstate 70 corridor received lesser amounts of snow – 9 inches in two days at Vail and 8 inches at Beaver Creek, according to the Wednesday morning snow reports. Breckenridge, Keystone and Loveland reported 2 inches from the two-day storm.
With the new snow, avalanche danger in the backcountry surrounding Aspen remained considerable, the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC) said Wednesday.
“Natural avalanche activity peaked during the storm. Now, slopes that did not run or reloaded are just waiting for a person to tip the balance,” the CAIC warned.
Though clear skies dawned over Aspen Wednesday, more snow is in the forecast. So is a continued deep freeze. Wednesday brought the coldest morning of the year so far in northern Colorado.
The National Weather Service said wind chills reached around minus 50 overnight on Berthoud and Loveland passes. It was minus 7 in Denver just before sunrise on Wednesday, but when the wind blew, it felt more like minus 32.
Aspen’s forecast called for mostly cloudy skies Thursday, with a 20 percent chance of snow and highs of 5 to 15. West winds of 10 to 20 mph will bring wind-chill readings of 25 to 35 below in the morning, the weather service said.
The wind chill will mean continued bitter cold on Friday, according to the weather service. Highs in the 20s are expected Saturday, and snow is likely. Sunday’s forecast called for a 50 percent chance of snow and highs in the 20s.