Summit gets slammed
SUMMIT COUNTY – A winter storm with wind gusts up to 80 mph dumped more than a foot of snow on area peaks Wednesday night and Thursday, and will allow resorts to open more terrain for the weekend.Another 8 inches was expected to fall Thursday night, with high winds continuing through the weekend.The snow had ski resort officials smiling. The resorts throughout the county have had to rely on snowmaking as little natural snow has fallen in the past few weeks.Breckenridge Ski Resort reported 13 inches of powder overnight and another five throughout the day Thursday. Keystone called in with 8 inches and Arapahoe Basin received 6 inches.
Scores of skiers and boarders lined up to take the lifts up the mountain where zero visibility – but long-awaited powder – awaited them.”Can you believe it?” said Emily Jacob, spokeswoman for the Breckenridge Ski Resort. “We’re grinning from ear to ear. I think people are so excited about the powder, they’re braving the cold and wind.”The resort plans to open Peak 8 and the Freeway Superpipe today. With the addition of Peak 8, Breckenridge boasts 590 acres of terrain, nine lifts and 36 trails.”It’s always great to receive nearly a foot of snow,” said Jamie Wilson of Copper Mountain Resort. “People are smiling and happy to be in it. The timing is perfect for the upcoming holiday season.”
That resort reported 9 inches as of 5 a.m. Thursday and a foot by noon. Sixteen inches of snow had fallen by 4 p.m., at a rate of about an inch an hour, said Kaitlin Hill, public relations coordinator for the resort. The resort plans to open another 130 acres today.Lisha Burnett, spokeswoman for Keystone Resort, said the snow allows them to open additional terrain. As of Thursday, 1,100 acres were open. This weekend, the resort will begin snowcat shuttles to the Outback, open the Mountain House and begin weekend night skiing.High winds, however, forced ski area officials to periodically close lifts throughout the day.The Beaver Run and Mercury ski lifts at Breckenridge closed due to high winds.”The wind’s a little tougher (than electrical outages, which periodically plagued the Upper Blue Valley Wednesday and Thursday),” Jacob said. “We just have to work with Mother Nature. But right now, we’ll take it. We’ve gotten so much snow.”
Copper Mountain had all its upper lifts – the Flyer, Excelerator and Super B – on a “wind hold” as winds at the top of the mountain were clocked at 60 mph. Lift officials re-evaluate the weather conditions every hour to see if they can be reopened.The high winds also forced Colorado Avalanche Information Center officials to update their avalanche forecasts throughout the day.Forecaster Nick Logan issued an avalanche warning for the northern mountains, including Summit County, after snow and high winds combined to raise the danger to “high.””Winds are stronger than forecast, and they don’t look like they will slow down until tonight,” he said Thursday.
The backcountry avalanche danger near and above timberline was rated high, he said, and unstable snow slab slides will be probable in avalanche terrain. Natural, large, deep avalanches are possible and human-triggered ones are probable.Well below timberline, the danger is rated moderate, meaning natural avalanches are unlikely but human-triggered ones are possible.Logan advised backcountry travelers to avoid going in or below avalanche terrain and to use extra caution on slopes of 30 degrees or steeper.Jane Stebbins can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 228, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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