Summit Daily News – January 30, 2014
Warning. The Summit Weather Service (sounds official, doesn’t it?) has issued a high-powder watch for all areas of the county.
Area forecasters (aka, ski resorts) are strongly encouraging local residents to get out of their houses and make it to higher ground as soon as possible. Lift services have been activated for high-ground access throughout the county.
Conditions are expected to intensify through the day Friday and into early Saturday. Reports from one media outlet Thursday described a potential for snow conditions at area resorts to escalate from “ridiculous” to “full-on sick” by sometime early Friday morning.
The Summit Daily was not able to confirm that report, but one local field correspondent did say that conditions may already have reached near-epic proportions as early as Thursday afternoon. It has also been confirmed that the “no friends on a powder day” rule has gone into effect county-wide. Local officials have suggested that anyone venturing outdoors carry a snorkel.
Those lucky enough to make it to the slopes Thursday — braving treacherous road conditions and some closures — were treated to up to 18 inches of fresh powder with tracks continuing to fill in throughout the day.
“It was probably one of the best days I’ve had in the last 10 years,” longtime resident Matti Wade said. “It was every bit of 18 inches.”
Wade and a small group of lucky skiers were treated to first tracks in Copper Mountain’s Spaulding Bowl at around 11:30 a.m., after patrol was able to perform avalanche mitigation work and open the terrain.
Those who missed the Thursday’s fresh snow will likely have plenty of opportunities to chase down fresh lines all weekend long. Saturday may be the earliest opportunity for area resorts to reopen much of their upper mountain terrain due to substantial snowfall and avalanche risk.
With heavy snow continuing into Saturday — as much as 1 to 2 inches per hour at times — area skiers can expect a lot of terrain to have delayed openings throughout the weekend in order for ski patrol to ensure safe conditions and perform avalanche work.
Forecasters are calling for up to 30 inches of new snow between Thursday and Saturday, making delayed terrain openings likely.
But for the savvy powderhound that may mean lucky breaks on fresh lines throughout the weekend as terrain reopens.
“We’re not trying to save snow for ourselves.” Breckenridge Ski Resort spokeswoman Kristen Petitt Stuart said. “If it’s closed, it’s closed because it’s a safety concern. Patrol will be working hard to get as much open as soon as we can, as safely and as possible.”
Outside of the resorts, backcountry avalanche risk is extremely high. The Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC) has issued an avalanche warning through much of Friday with the potential for it to extend into Saturday. Both natural and human-triggered slides are listed as likely, and CAIC has raised its avalanche danger level to four on its five-point scale. The CAIC recommends backcountry travelers “stay well clear” of all avalanche terrain.
While the warning pertains in part to near- or above-tree-line terrain, below-tree-line danger is also listed as considerable.
Note: The Summit Weather Service is not a real forecasting agency. (What?) However, readers should exercise caution on potentially dangerous roads and watch for genuine weather warnings. Avalanche concerns are very real in the backcountry and warnings should not be taken lightly.