Quandary: Skinning mountains and record snowfall to prep for ski season
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Quandary, an old and wise mountain goat, has been around Summit County for ages, and has the answers to any question about life, love and laws in the High Country. Questions? email firstname.lastname@example.org
What does it mean to skin a mountain?
Terminology like this makes a goat a little nervous, but I’m glad to explain this relatively light-hearted version of the term. Skinning a mountain is far different from skinning a goat; just because you can do one does not mean you should do the other. In fact, never do the other — goats get cold, and goats get angry when they get cold.
Skinning is actually a ski term and one of many ways to describe heading the wrong way on a mountain with skis on. It refers to putting skins — strong fabric strips — on the bottom of your skis in order to travel uphill. The skins allow you to gain enough traction to move up the mountain without sliding backward. Uphill travel has been immensely popular in Europe, but is really just coming into its own in the states.
If you’re interested in uphill travel, be aware that there are rules as to when and where you’re allowed to go vertical. Depending on conditions and snowmaking operations, uphill travel may or may not be available at all resorts. For right now, they’ve just barely got the lifts turning, so wait your turn, stay out of the way and give the crews a chance to get some snow on the ground before you even think about heading uphill. It could be a little while still, but generally all of the resorts in Summit have at least limited uphill access by mid- to late November. Still, it’s always best to check with the resort before heading to the mountain as weather conditions may cause temporary closures. Be attentive while skinning as snowmaking and grooming operations take priority over uphill travel at the resorts. You don’t want to get halfway up the mountain and find yourself staring down the barrel of a snow gun.
Once the snow gets a little bigger blanket over the peaks, you can also try heading up the mountains in the backcountry. If that’s your goal though, keep a close eye on conditions, bring the right equipment and check avalanche danger before heading out. Also, make sure you have the skills to match to your ambitions. The backcountry can be tricky to navigate at any time, and when you are just learning how to skin, you might not want to try such tricky terrain. If you’re interested in learning how to uphill ski, or want to find people to journey with, check out the Summit Ski Mountaineering Club. But for now, enjoy the groomers and give Ullr and the snow guns a chance to work their magic.
What’s the record for the largest snowfall in Summit County?
With the Basin opening up this week, everyone must really be craving some fresh stuff. This old goat can certainly appreciate the need for snow, but some of these records might stretch beyond the desirable.
According to the National Weather Service, the largest snowfall on record in Summit County is brought to us by the Green Mountain Dam weather station and totaled 30.5 inches in one day. This massive total fell on April 4, 1947. Some might be surprised that this large amount came so late in the season, but in fact, January, February and March are the snowiest months in Summit, so 30 inches in April isn’t really a stretch.
If you prefer your records a little closer to home, the Breckenridge weather station recorded its largest snowfall on Oct. 10, 2005, totaling 24.1 inches; this beat out the record of 24 inches set on Dec. 7, 1943, and matched the amount that fell on April 24, 2003. Kudos to all you locals who dug out of those messes, and to all the people who in 20 years will be telling their kids about having to walk to school, uphill in both directions, under 2 feet of snow (whether it happened or not).
Dillon’s largest snowfall on record also matched 24 inches and fell on April 9, 1944.
Now for all the Frisco residents hoping to hear tales of people in the 1800s digging themselves out with nothing but a gold pan and a stick of dynamite, I’m sorry to say you are sadly mistaken. Most of us actually saw the record high for Frisco — 19 inches, which fell on Jan. 31, 2014.
Previously, Frisco’s record was 8 inches in one day, which fell on Sept. 22, 2006; not really much to brag about when you’re talking to the Front Rangers.
Silverthorne’s record total is also 19 inches, which fell on March 3, 2008. Rounding out the county, Keystone has the lowest record total, with 18 inches falling on Jan. 31, 1996.
How all of these different towns have such wildly different records is a bit of a mystery for this old goat, but if you’ve ever ventured throughout the county on a snowy day, it’s easy to see that each area really does have its own climate. On any given day it’s very possible that snow will fall all day in Frisco, and Dillon never sees a flake, or vice versa.
Now if you’re interested in record low temperatures, the Dillon weather station has some dandies on hand. The all-time record for lowest temperature goes back to Jan. 10, 1962, at -44 degrees. The record actually tied the previous low temperature set on Jan. 22, 1940, giving Summit a whopping 74 years above -45 degrees. Not bad considering our neighbor to the north beat this record on the last day of 2014, with Daniel, Wyoming, recording a low temperature of -48 degrees, and no, that does not count the wind chill.
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