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Spring skiing? More like January

Janet Urquhart
Aspen, CO Colorado
A sudden drop in temperature along with five inches of new snow on Vail Mountain Tuesday gave Vail resident Annemarie Wall a chance test out her new Mantra powder skis in winter-like conditions. (Dominique Taylor/Vail Daily)
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ASPEN ” Local slopes picked up 5 to 7 inches of new snow over the past 24 hours, but a winter storm could bring up to a foot of additional snow to the mountains surrounding Aspen/Snowmass, according to the National Weather Service.

A winter storm watch for the west central mountains of Colorado is in effect from Wednesday evening through Thursday night.

Already, snow and much colder temperatures have brought spring to an abrupt halt in Colorado, giving skiers and snowboarders what may be the final powder shots of the season at the ski resorts that still remain open.

Aspen/Snowmass came up short, compared to the snow accumulations being reported early Wednesday at most other resorts, though Snowmass has picked up 7 inches since Tuesday and 8 inches in the past 48 hours. Aspen Mountain reported 5 inches over the past 24 hours and 6 in the past 48.

Skiers and boarders on the slopes Wednesday may find much deeper pockets of snow than the official measurements suggest, thanks to Tuesday’s gusty winds. The wind forced operators to shut down the gondola on Aspen Mountain shortly before noon Tuesday; the buckets were taken inside overnight Tuesday as a precaution.

Elsewhere around western Colorado, Vail has picked up 9 inches since early Tuesday and 14 inches over the past 48 hours. Breckenridge reported 10 and 14 inches, respectively, while Keystone has received 6 inches since Tuesday morning and 11 inches over the past 48 hours.

To the north, Steamboat Springs reported no new snow overnight, but 5 inches in the past 48 hours. Telluride, Crested Butte, Powderhorn and Sunlight Mountain Resort are among the ski areas that have already called it quits for the season. In Aspen, Buttermilk and Aspen Highlands have also closed, while the last day of the season at Snowmass and Aspen Mountain is Sunday.

On Tuesday morning, Aspen and Snowmass were reporting just an inch of new snow, while other ski areas were boasting greater accumulations, but one online reader of The Aspen Times posted this assessment: “Knee deep in some spots. Never trust the snow report.”

The observation prompted a reply from someone at Vail: “It was knee deep everywhere in the Back Bowls of Vail today. They can’t measure here either.”

Reported an Aspen Times staffer who hit the slopes on Aspen Mountain at midday Tuesday: “The new snow made for good midwinter conditions on many of the high runs. Summit, Red’s Run and the Back of Bell were all sweet.”

Wednesday’s break in the weather won’t last long, according to the National Weather Service. The next Pacific storm will affect southwest Colorado Wednesday night with snow developing in the San Juan Mountains. The snow will spread north to the Elk Mountains of west central Colorado, surrounding Aspen, and has the potential to produce up to a foot of snow, according to the weather service.

Snow will continue Thursday and Thursday night, and may be heavy at times, the weather service predicts.

A winter storm watch means there is a potential for significant accumulations that may impact travel.

Snow and high winds on Tuesday made for difficult travel conditions on Interstate 70 through the mountains. On Wednesday morning, chain laws for commercial vehicles remained in effect on I-70 westbound at the Eisenhower Tunnel and in both directions over Vail Pass.

In the Grand Valley of far western Colorado, fruit growers are watching the thermometer nervously. A freeze warning was in effect in the Fruita/Palisade area Tuesday night, but it expired Wednesday morning when temperatures rose.


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