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Low snow levels could force Steamboat Resort to delay Opening Day

Steamboat Resort
John F. Russell/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Saturday, Nov. 20, is Opening Day at Steamboat Resort, but low snow levels could force the resort to push that date back.

Erin Walter, meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Grand Junction, said the service’s station, located northeast of downtown Steamboat Springs, has recorded only 8.4 inches of snow so far for the 2021-22 winter season.

By comparison, Walter said Steamboat normally has about 20 inches of snow by mid-November. In 2020, the city received just 12.4 inches, which Walter said was “significantly below average.“



“We are quite a bit lower than where we usually are,” Walter said.

Because Steamboat Resort sits higher up than the weather station, Walter expected the mountain to have received more snow. This week, Walter said the high peaks of the northern Rockies are expected to receive 2 to 4 inches of snow.



The resort keeps its own weather tracker, but the tracker has not been updated since April, so it does not reflect how much snow sits on the mountain currently.

“We all know what Mother Nature is bringing to our community right now, and it’s not a lot of snow,” said Loryn Duke, Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp. director of communications.

Still, Duke said the resort’s snowmaking team has worked around the clock to blow snow whenever possible, which has only been in short durations when temperatures have been cold enough.

“Our snowmaking team is beyond phenomenal, and they were able to turn on some guns earlier this week and take advantage of a very small window of sort of decent snowmaking temperature,” Duke said. “They’re bringing out their superhero cape and trying to do as much as they can with as little cooperation from Mother Nature.”

Because Steamboat has seen much warmer temperatures and lower snowfall than what is usual for this time of year, Duke said snowmaking crews have had to utilize specific guns and techniques to make snow in hopes it does not melt days later.

As for what will happen next Saturday, Duke said Ski Corp. plans to wait out the weekend and announce a decision midweek about whether Opening Day will be postponed.

“We look at all the options and weigh them, and this year will be the same,” Duke said.

Howelsen Hill Ski & Rodeo Supervisor Robbie Shine said the city-operated ski area is facing the same dilemma as the resort with Opening Day planned for Nov. 27 and almost no snow on the hill.

“We’re still shooting for our Opening Day,” Shine said. “We’re tying our hardest, but temperatures are not great, and the forecast is not favorable.”

Shine said the city has had a few 24-hour snowmaking windows it has been able to take advantage of, but in a normal year, the entire hill is covered in snow by this time of year.

Still, Shine said the city is trying to remain optimistic and hopes temperatures drop below 30 degrees next week, which is the highest temperature necessary for snowmaking.

“Some things we can control, and the weather we can’t,” Shine said. “I wouldn’t say I’m stressed yet.”

Walter said most of the snow Steamboat will receive this week will likely come between Tuesday and Wednesday, as a system traveling north will land in Steamboat Tuesday evening bringing precipitation through the night and possibly into Wednesday.

Though she emphasized it may be too soon to definitively say, Walter said the weekend could also bring more snow, as another system traveling from the south is expected to bring snow to much of the Western Slope.

Steamboat Resort pushed back its opening day in 2020 due to COVID-19, but Duke believed the last time the resort postponed due to weather was in 2016.

Though IKON passes are nonrefundable, Duke said Ski Corp. is still discussing what to do about single-day lift tickets and lessons already purchased if the resort has to postpone Opening Day.

“Always our approach to Opening Day is what is the best product that we can provide for our guests and for our staff,” Duke said.


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