Fresh Powderhorn powder for skiers
Storm leaves resort on Grand Mesa with 59-inch base
The brief flirtation the Grand Valley enjoyed with a midwinter warm spell ended Tuesday morning when Powderhorn Mountain Resort sent (yet another) powder alert to my inbox.
Normally doled out only when announcing 6 inches or more of new snow, Tuesday’s missive made the third in as many days, which makes an observer wonder what special mojo the neighborhood ski resort has going for itself.
As Powderhorn’s general manager Daren Cole noted in an email sent Monday, “We are finally back in the storm track. We have had 6 inches since 5 a.m., 11 in the last 24 hours, 18 in the past 48 and now have a 48-inch base, with more snow in the forecast!
“Photos to follow!”
The photos haven’t yet arrived but a trip Sunday to Grand Mesa revealed a wonderland of new snow, with at least a foot near Land’s End, according to the mushers competing in the Grand Mesa Challenge sled dog races over the weekend.
A few miles away, Coleman Bowers and some friends were taking advantage of the freshies while snowboarding the trees off the north side of Colorado Highway 65.
There are several well-packed trails leading from the highway down the steep slopes to Mesa Creek, but Bowers et al were carving up something new, the narrow slots between aspen and boulders farther up the slope that now are rideable thanks to the new snow.
The weekend storm again lifted Powderhorn into the state’s top resorts in terms of snowfall and midway base, a puzzling but much-used industry statistic that reveals less than it purports.
For example, Steamboat Tuesday reported 24 inches of new snow at midway (the resort’s web cam shows snow almost burying the lift maze at the Sunshine Express) but only 5 at the summit.
If you were a resort PR person, which would you rather report, 5 inches or 24 inches?
The 18 inches Powderhorn claimed between Monday and Tuesday boosted the resorts base to 59 inches, behind only Wolf Creek’s 73-inch base and the 60-inch base at Purgatory and Silverton.
The latter area, by the way, saw 36 inches fall Sunday, possibly the highest year-to-date 24-hour snowfall.
While the storm did well by Powderhorn, Purgatory and Silverton, it still managed to hit Steamboat (24 new, 58-inch base), Telluride (6 inches new, 44-inch base) and Crested Butte (5 new, 40 inch base).
“If you look at the current base totals in the state it is us, Wolf Creek, Durango and Silverton,” crowed Cole, with good reason.
Even when it’s raining in the valley, if it’s snowing the mountains, the skiers and riders take notice.
The storm in its initial stages trended from the southwest, which always means good things for the southern resorts, but Monday there was a change, which you might have noticed had you been outside around noon and felt the breeze against your cheeks.
“There was a wind shift that moved through on Monday between about 10 a.m. to noon and this turned the winds from the southwest to the west-southwest,” reported meteorologist Joel Gratz on his snowsports oriented website, Opensnow.com. “This was the key because this meant that the orographics (wind hitting a mountain and being forced to rise) switched from ‘bad’ to ‘OK.’
“This allowed the plentiful moisture and slow moving storm to produce good snow.”
Gratz forecast another wave of snow arriving last night (Tuesday) with a short break today and another round of snow through Thursday afternoon.
After that, things dry out for a spell, giving everyone the opportunity to catch up on their shoveling, snowplowing and dodging the unmoving aspen on Grand Mesa.