Steamboat Resort set to open with 5 trails, 20 acres Saturday, what looks to be a bluebird day
Steamboat Resort will open Saturday with or without the help of Mother Nature, and it is looking like it will be without it.
“Considering they really weren’t able to start until Tuesday night, I think they’ve done a remarkable job putting down a lot of snow,” said Mike Weissbluth, a local meteorologist who runs the forecasting website SnowAlarm.com.
The resort will open with five trails and 20 acres of terrain, accessed via the Christy Peak Express. Trails for opening weekend include Jess’ Cut Off, Sitz, Sitz Back, Vogue and Stampede.
Abnormally low natural snowfall and warm temperatures forced the resort to push back its Opening Day, but snowmakers have been forging ahead to blanket the slopes of Mount Werner, aided by nightly temperatures getting colder this week.
“This has been a particularly dry and warm preseason,” said Dave Hunter, vice president of resort operations for Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp. “Normally this time of year, we have had more than 200 hours of snowmaking, and as of Wednesday, we have only been able to take advantage of about half that amount.”
Temperatures at Steamboat Springs Airport got down to 11 degrees early Thursday morning, and the top of the mountain reported a low of 6 degrees. While highs are expected to be above average, as the area is soaked with sun for at least the next week, overnight lows are still projected to get below freezing.
“The sunny days obviously are not great for snow, although man-made snow tends to be more resilient,” Weissbluth said. “Hopefully, they won’t lose very much of the man-made snow, and then the dry days mean cool nights. … We’ll probably get into the 20s at night, and that will allow snow to be made.”
The National Weather Service is forecasting sunny or mostly sunny days at least until Wednesday. Brianna Bealo, a meteorologist in Grand Junction, said it could stay sunny even longer as a ridge of high pressure is diverting all the storms to the north.
“It’s what we call a blocked pattern, so basically, you have a really strong ridge of high pressure, a really strong trough of low pressure that just kind of sits and forces the pattern around it,” Bealo said. “We’ve been having this ridge off the West Coast, and we’ve had this trough hanging out over the Great Lakes, and it has been forcing most of the storms to go north of Colorado.”
After a cooler high temperature below 40 degrees on Thanksgiving, the high will near 50 this weekend and likely eclipse that early next week. Still, overnight lows should still be in the low- to mid-20s.
This pattern looks like it will be in place over the area until the middle of next week, if not into the weekend, Bealo said. And it isn’t just Steamboat struggling, she said, as no part of Colorado is really standing out when it comes to snowfall so far this year.
“Pretty much everywhere is below average as far as snow right now,” Bealo said.
Resorts at higher elevations are doing better when it comes to snowfall, Weissbluth said, where Steamboat is one of the lower elevation resorts in the state.
Weissbluth said weather models have been frustrating of late because they will predict a storm toward the end of the forecast range, but as the days progress, they will back off that prediction. He is hoping for a pattern change around next weekend.
“There is hope for around that weekend or soon after that, we will see much colder weather and natural snow,” he said.
Until then, Weissbluth is hopeful it will be cold enough at night to keep building the resort’s base mechanically.
“If you see any snowmaking guys around in the big orange suits, thank them, because they are doing an awesome job, and they’re the reason we’re opening,” Weissbluth said.
To reach Dylan Anderson, call 970-871-4247 or email danderson@SteamboatPilot.com.
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