The Outsider: Dispatches from April 2017, the season of the snowstorm
It’s snowing. Again.
Here we are, the evening of April 1, 2017, and the forecast is calling for another foot (or more) of the fresh stuff. My legs are beat and my powder board is begging for a day off, but chances are we’ll head out again tomorrow morning for more snorkel-deep turns at Breckenridge. And love it. I’ve been jonesing to hit up Tucker Mountain at Copper again — late February there was insane — but CDOT is strongly urging motorists to avoid travel on Interstate 70.
It’s been that way for at least two or three days and truckers are getting antsy, but hey, at least they’ve got company credit cards. A bartender friend of mine at Ruby Tuesday’s in Dillon is raking in the dough. Same over at Dillon Dam, and that’s even without spring break crowds. When the roads shut down for the first time around Christmas — our present this year was a whopping three feet between Dec. 23 and Dec. 24 — you could almost hear the muffled cheers from Wellington and Tenderfoot and two-bed units all across Summit County. The goods were ours and ours alone, at least for a few days until the plows broke through. But damn, it was a good holiday.
Hard to believe it’s only been a few months since Thanksgiving weekend, when every day was a bluebird day and the runs were painfully bare. We thought winter would never arrive, instead doomed to spend the season playing gaper slalom on white ribbons of death. Facebook was moaning and groaning about the lack of terrain, even though lift lines remained slammed.
Also hard to believe how even then — when October became November became the holidays in a blur of candy, cranberries and polar bear Coke ads — skiers and boarders were excited just to be back on the snow. It’s why the lifts were always slammed: Sure, those four or five open runs were icy, and chances are we spent more time sunbathing on patios than playing in powder, but spirits were high. First chair is first chair, after all.
The mood completely changed the week before Christmas, when it first started to snow and just. Wouldn’t. Stop. Now, the mountains have more snow than they know what to do with. Some folks are talking about the record-breaking season of 2010-11, others are telling them to lay off the hyperbole, still others just haven’t stopped talking about the Big Snow of 1898, when even a snowplow mounted on a steam engine couldn’t barrel through the snowdrifts. Plows have come a long way since then — everything has come a long way since then, back when The Brown was still a brothel and parking on Main Street was free — but, for a few days in early March, the insane conditions brought even Breck to a standstill, and that town has snow removal down to a science. City Market was a ghost town.
Like most news in the past few months — the presidential election, the New Zealand earthquakes, the Cubs historic World Series win — once the snow started falling, people forgot about the winter that almost never was. In just a few short weeks, it became the winter that is: headlines about low snow totals and global warming disappeared, replaced by headlines about fast-moving blizzards and stranded motorists and avalanche danger. (Driving was a b****, but skinning through the woods in search of fresh was mandatory.) Resort officials wiped their brows — the season’s bottom line looked disastrous in November predictions — and we wiped blower snow from our goggles. The world kept spinning like a bottle top.
When I wrote about the future in November, I tried not to worry about jinxing the season. This place needed a snow dance and I tango better with keyboards than people. Consider this my dance.
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