Ski area staff keeps hopeful eyes on the sky

When Sarah Allen looks out the window of her office at Powderhorn Resort, all she can see is bare, snowless ground.

“I don’t know that there is ‘normal’ anymore for this time of year,” said Allen, the resort’s marketing director. “We were almost in this exact same situation this time last year.”

Comforting the resort’s staff ahead of its planned Dec. 11 opening date, Allen said, is the fact that its snow machines are expected to start working on a regular basis soon and the season for snowstorms is upon us.

“We delayed our opening two days (last year), from a Thursday to a Saturday because, honestly, we were still looking at weeds,” she said. “Then we had a storm that brought in three feet of snow, and we had the best opening day we’ve ever had.

“We’re taking comfort in that right now.”

Allen said as long as the resort has an 18-inch base by Dec. 11, opening day should go on as planned.

According to the Natural Resource Conservation Service, which tracks snowpack across the region, the Powderhorn Basin, with snowpack ranging from three to four inches, is lagging behind its average snow depth for this time of year.

The basin, based on sensors at the Park Reservoir and at Mesa Lakes, is at 66 percent of its average depth as of Thursday.

The basin’s average snowpack is based on snowfall between 1971 and 2000.

Jim Pringle, forecaster with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction, said he and his colleagues are optimistic Grand Mesa should see snowfall once December comes.

“The latest we have, as of today, is odds favoring normal precipitation for this area in the winter,” he said.

Klaus Wolter, a climatologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Boulder, said Colorado’s mountains are expected to have a snowy winter.

Wolter said he is “guardedly optimistic” the central mountains will receive enough snow to make up for the dry fall in the high country.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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