On a morning when 16 inches of fresh snow has fallen in the last 48 hours, there are few things as satisfying as pulling into a ski resort parking lot just before the lifts are set to open. The excitement, the childlike anticipation — short of being on top of a ridge deep in the backcountry or hopping out of a helicopter in some Alaskan or British Canadian mountain range — there’s nothing like it. But that excitement can turn into sheer frustration in a heartbeat with the discovery that — in a rush to leave the house that morning— two left-footed boots ended up in the back of the Jeep. Still, the moral of this story isn’t to double-check gear, although that is generally a pretty solid policy. If karma is on your side, you just might find yourself at the top of a hill two hours later as the rope is dropping to open a bowl for the day. Turns out, some days it is good to start the day with two left-footed boots.
With the recent storm and another in the forecast for the weekend, expect a lot of ropes to be dropping at area resorts if they haven’t already. While backcountry avalanche risk remains high, the snow continues to be welcome news for inbounds terrain. Current snowpack is being reported at near or slightly above average for this time of year, but well beyond what it has been in recent winters.
“This is what we would like to call a normal season,” Breckenridge spokeswoman Kristen Petitt Stewart said Thursday. “Definitely compared to seasons past, people are going to be very impressed by our current conditions. We’re thrilled.”
Copper Mountain’s communications manager Austyn Williams told the Daily that this time last year they had recorded only 47 inches of snow, after this last storm they reported 116 total inches for the season.
Starting Friday, temperatures are expected to drop as a new system rolls in. Opensnow.com is calling for as much as 9 new inches by Sunday morning.
Here’s a look across the county at terrain availability headed into the weekend.
After receiving a reported 16 inches in the last 48 hours, Breckenridge now has 70 percent of their terrain open — 2,102 of 2,908 acres. Most closed terrain is above-treeline expert skiing. All 33 lifts are currently running, including two lifts on their new Peak 6 expansion.
After avalanche mitigation work, ski patrol and mountain operations were able to open the Mountain Chief chair — which accesses the backside terrain in the Copper Bowl and around Union Peak — for the first time this season. Mitigation work will continue in an effort to open more backside terrain through the weekend. Spalding Bowl was closed for avalanche control work and is expected to reopen Friday. Union Bowl opened at midday Thursday. Copper is currently running all 22 lifts with close to three quarters of their terrain open.
A-Basin has good coverage but remains limited to front side terrain. The Montezuma Bowl on the backside and East Wall have yet to open for the season. “Montezuma is close, but it’s not ready yet,” A-Basin communications manager Adrienne Saia Isaac said Thursday. Mountain operations reported the backside terrain will need some additional snowfall before it can open for the year. It is unlikely to open this weekend. The ski area currently has 425 of its 960 acres open.
New terrain in Keystone’s Outback area was opened this week, including portions of the Independence Bowl, which opened for the first time this season. They are now reporting that 2,014 of their 3,148 acres are open. Resort officials said they are scheduled to start snowcat operations in the Independence Bowl Monday, Jan. 6.
Eight of 10 lifts are currently operating at Loveland Ski Area, accessing 1,084 of the mountain’s 1,800 acres.