Skiers, boarders revel in blizzard bonanza

Jeremiah Swartzendruber was a little bummed earlier this month, when it seemed snow would never blanket his beloved ski slopes.

But an abundance of snowfall around the state in recent days nearly made up for winter’s slow start, said the 17-year-old, who swooshed in the powdery conditions Friday at Powderhorn Ski Resort.

“After the storm we just had, I’d say the snow’s going to be better, (as the season continues)” said Swartzendruber, a senior at Grand Junction High School who rides his snowboard just about every weekend during the ski season. “I think it’s a really good sign there’s more to come in January and February.”

A massive winter storm that dumped up to 7 feet of snow in the high country earlier this week boosted snowpack levels at area ski resorts, jump-starting the ski season with open terrain and lifts. But that same weather system made for treacherous driving conditions and prompted authorities to close down roads in some avalanche-prone areas, temporarily keeping snowseekers at bay.

On the heels of the storm Saturday, the first bluebird day of the season, skiers and snowboarders arrived in droves at Powderhorn to swish in the 5 inches of new snow reported Friday. The mountain reports a 39-inch base.

Motorists entering the resort were diverted to overflow parking as early as 9 a.m. Some waited in line for nearly an hour to rent equipment, and as the resort ran out, staff scrambled to find more rentals in storage. Lines for some lifts were up to 15 minutes — a comparatively long wait for the small resort with four lifts.

Despite the influx of skiers and boarders, the sun’s appearance made the crowds manageable, skiers and riders said.

“It was gorgeous the whole day,” one snowboarder enthused.

A 20 percent chance of snow is expected today with cloudy skies and a high of about 19 degrees, according to the National Weather Service in Grand Junction. 

Ski resorts around the state are reporting similarly fantastic, powdery conditions on ski slopes. Silverton Mountain was expected to hit 200 inches of snow by Saturday, “the best December in history,” according to the resort’s Web site.

U.S. Highway 550 from Ouray opened Saturday to motorists with 4-wheel-drive, chains or snow tires, according to the Colorado Department of Transportation.

U.S. Highway 160 over Wolf Creek Pass also opened after two weeks of heavy snowfall, for a total of 152 inches of snow.

“Wolf Creek’s base depth has broken the coveted 100-inch mark, a feat that some ski resorts won’t accomplish all year,” according to a news release from the Wolf Creek Ski Area. “Trail conditions are phenomenal and we’re expecting great weather through the new year.”


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