Snow by the hundreds |

Snow by the hundreds

Ski Area records three straight months with 100+ inches of snow

Brandon Gee

With snow and ice frozen in his beard, Ed Urbanski checks the snow conditions on the High Noon trail at the Steamboat Ski Area on Tuesday afternoon. The ski area recorded 399 inches of snow at mid-mountain as of 5 a.m. Tuesday morning.

— Routt County’s snowfall late Monday and early Tuesday has the Steamboat Ski Area teetering at the brink of a 400-inch season and made for record-breaking measurements.

For the first time on record, the Steamboat Ski Area has seen three straight months – December, January and February – with at least 100 inches of snow. Ski Corp. spokeswoman Heidi Thomsen said the resort’s current records go back to the winter of 1979-80. The resort’s current total snowfall is 399 inches at mid-mountain.

“This is a really big winter,” Thomsen said. “I actually don’t remember skiing through this much snow, ever.”

Riding up the Morningside lift Tuesday afternoon, Jane Watson of Sacramento, Calif., wasn’t surprised to hear the numbers associated with Steamboat’s memorable season.

“It shows,” Watson said. “You’re still finding little spots of fresh powder in there. I don’t think anybody’s having a bad day.”

With 40 days left before the resort’s April 6 closing, this season already is Steamboat’s sixth-snowiest. The resort needs just less than 50 inches of snow for the snowiest winter on record at Mount Werner. Thomsen said the chances are good.

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“That’s a lot of days left,” she said. “In the past few years, we’ve gotten a fair amount of snow in March. Not 100 inches, but 50 to 60 inches.”

Steamboat’s season of big snow wasn’t expected and didn’t start early. Citing warm and dry conditions, Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. delayed its Nov. 21 opening nine days to allow more time for snowmaking. And for months, federal climate experts have predicted a milder and drier winter due to a moderate La Niña effect in the Pacific. Those predictions finally took hold in recent weeks, as Steamboat saw little snow, many sunny days and several daily high temperatures above freezing. Similar conditions returned Tuesday afternoon and are expected to continue until this weekend, when another snowstorm is expected to hit the area.

“It looks like a decent storm this weekend,” said Mike Chamberlain, a forecaster with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction. “And it looks like it’s going to favor the northern mountains.”

But looking ahead, local skiers and snowboarders can expect more conditions similar to the past two weeks. Chamberlain said the forecast for the rest of the season shows a 40 to 50 percent chance of above-normal temperatures and a 33 percent chance of below-normal precipitation.

While waiting for a friend on the Flying Z Gulch run Tuesday afternoon, Sam Adkins of Washington, D.C., and Scott Zarecor of Iowa said they originally had planned a trip to Summit County but were more than happy with their diversion to Steamboat.

“We had three powder days in Jackson Hole last month,” Zarecor said. “Today, we’re pretty stoked.”

Adkins was making his first trip to Steamboat since graduating from The Lowell Whiteman School in 1993.

Steamboat is not alone in enjoying a record-breaking season. On Tuesday, Colorado Ski Country USA reported the season’s 60th powder day, on which at least one resort received five or more inches of snow. Southwest Colorado has been particularly blanketed in powder this winter. While Steamboat sits at the precipice of 400 inches, resorts such as the Wolf Creek Ski Area are flirting with the 500-inch mark.

– To reach Brandon Gee, call 871-4210

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On the books

Steamboat’s biggest seasons in the past 29 years

Season Snowfall (inches)

1996-97 447.75

1983-84 447.5

1995-96 441.25

2005-06 432

1992-93 415.5

2007-08 399 (and counting)

By the numbers

Monthly snowfall this season

Month Snowfall (inches)

October 17

November 23

December 126

January 129

February 104 (and counting)