Skiers and snowboarders head down for their first run on the High Noon run past a long line of skiers and snowboarders waiting to get on the Black Mountain Express on opening day at Arapahoe Basin ski area October 13, 2017. (Andy Cross, The Denver Post)
Disregard for a moment the depressing snow reports you’ve been seeing — perhaps we should call them lack-of-snow reports — and consider the fun longtime Breckenridge local C.J. Mueller found on Peak 9 this morning.
“They opened up the Beaver Run chair today,” Mueller said from The Overlook high on the mountain at 11,274 feet. “They have one run down with man-made snow, and actually it’s some of the best man-made snow I’ve ever skied. The snow is really good.”
Yes, many resorts are scuffling along with a small fraction of their lifts in operation (Breckenridge is reporting eight of 34 lifts operating according to Vail Resorts). Yes, Vail has received only 27 inches of snow while Wyoming’s Jackson Hole has received 147. But Mueller has lived in Breckenridge since 1969, and the former speed-skiing world record holder (137 mph) says there’s no reason to panic.
“This is my 48th year up here,” Mueller said. “I think it’s about a 50-50 deal this time of year that you’re going to have plenty of natural snow. I don’t think this is unusual at all … There was only about a 25 percent chance, based on the years that I’ve observed, that there is going to be a whole lot of snow in early December.”
Snowfall has been a little better in the northern mountains, and the southern mountains have had the least.
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“We’ve had high pressure over the western United States, deflecting Pacific storm systems away from Colorado,” said Nick Barlow, a forecaster for the Colorado Avalanche Information Center. “At least for the next few days, it looks to stay dry due to that ridge of high pressure.”
When will it change?
“It’s anybody’s bet at this point,” Barlow said. “We’re looking for that large ridge of high pressure to either flatten or re-position itself in some way that allows Pacific moisture to penetrate into the interior West.”
Warm spells haven’t helped — Denver did have a record high November temperature of 81 degrees four days after Thanksgiving — but there have been a lot of cold nights, too. That has allowed for good snowmaking conditions. Mueller said the reason today’s skiing was so good is because four or five inches of natural snow fell Monday, mixing with the man-made base already in place. That same storm dumped about a foot of snow in the Park Range north of Steamboat Springs.
“The last few mornings, it’s been in the single digits,” Mueller said. “They’re really pumping out the man-made snow, so that’s a good thing.”
Mueller and Colorado Ski Country USA public affairs director Chris Linsmayer both noted the similarity of this year’s early December conditions to last year. Abundant snow began falling toward the end of December last year and made for good conditions the rest of the season. Arapahoe Basin, remember, was able to stay open into June.
“We were talking about 60-degree temperatures in the middle of November up in the high country last year,” Linsmayer said. “That’s not uncommon early in the season. I would say look at last year, when we did have a warmer fall, and a longer fall, but still ended up having a great season. When the storms come, our resorts are going to be able to get terrain open quickly.”