In The Spotlight
Mother Nature has begun to smile upon on the West, particularly the northern and central Rockies where significant amounts fell on resorts from Alberta to southern Colorado.
This latest storm system has focused on mountains in Alberta, Montana and Idaho, but it also dipped its tentacles down into Colorado. The Front Range resorts got the best of it, with Loveland, Arapahoe Basin and Copper welcoming 5-7 inches. Interior southern Rockies also saw snow fly at Aspen, Telluride, and Steamboat.
This snowfall comes on the heels of the season's first dumps in the northern Rockies. Some two feet fell in Alberta and Montana mountains, with significant amounts at Idaho's Schweitzer and Wyoming.
However, OpenSnow reports that the next week or so will be dry in the Rockies, with spotty accumulations in many sports. A smaller system is expected to put down a couple of inches in the Pacific Northwest. Mt. Hood Meadows could get as much as seven inches during the week of Oct. 14, with the same predicted for 49 Degrees North.
Next significant storms are expected to roll into the West at the end of the week, according to OpenSnow's Joel Gratz.
“We will see dry weather from Friday, October 11 through about Thursday, October 17,” Gratz said. “Temperatures will be cold on Friday then slowly warm back toward average readings for next week. Temperatures will continue to be cold enough for higher-elevation mountains to make snow.”
In Colorado, snowfall typically comes first to the highest slopes, prompting a congenial yet competitive contest among ski and snowboard resorts in the #racetoopen for a new season before all the rest.
Over the years, Loveland Basin and Arapahoe Basin have had the race all to themselves, because of their location on the Continental Divide. But recently Keystone has joined in – primarily because of its proximity to the Divide and devotion to snowmaking.
All three originally listed “Mid-October” as their opening dates, but A-Basin jumped ahead by opening Friday, Oct. 11 for two hours. Keystone announced a solid Oct. 12 opening date. The 25 remaining Colorado ski and snowboard resorts have specific opening dates for the 2019-20 season.
True to form, all began snowmaking in early October. A-Basin won the preliminary round by cranking up the snow guns on Oct. 2. Loveland followed on Oct. 3, and Keystone started shortly thereafter after touting a summer-long effort to upgrade its artificial snow-making capacity beyond any in the industry.
Snowmaking most always begins on runs just above the base area, so elevation means a lot. Loveland has the highest base elevation in Colorado at 10,800 feet above sea level. A-Basin is close behind at 10,780 feet, and Keystone is 9,280 feet.
Copper Mountain, just up the road with a base elevation of 9,712 feet and a location tucked into a snow pocket off the Divide, has puts it horse the race – publishing photos of snowmaking – but still tagging Nov. 8 for its opening unless Mother Nature blesses them between now and then. High-elevation powder stash Wolf Creek (10,300) often gets natural snow first but has limited snowmaking; its opening is set for Nov. 1.
A sidelight to this informal competition is the fact that A-Basin left the Vail-owned Epic Pass last season for the unusual reason that Epic Pass holders clogged parking lots and lift lines, and Keystone is one of Vail Resorts prime locales. Loveland is one of a few Colorado resorts that has remained independent of the Epic-Ikon pass wars.
Whitecap Mountains is tucked next to Weber Lake in northern Wisconsin’s rugged Ponokee Mountain range. The resort’s day lodge with the clock tower and Swiss motif went up in flames last January, but they were able to stay open.
The resort has been busy rebuilding and will be fully functional this season with a new rental and ticket building, and the hotel has a new dining and bar area to serve patrons. Look for more improvements over the next few years as Whitecap continues to rebuild under the new ownership that had just taken over last season. The future looks bright.
The hotel has a new cafe and lounge. Don’t miss a stop at the Wine Hut, an 1880’s logger’s cabin at the bottom of Thunderhead Mountain on Weber Lake. Off property check out in nearby Hurley the popular Liberty Bell Chalet for Italian and Iron Nugget for steak.
The Whitecap Mountain Hotel has an indoor swimming pool, hydro spa, multilevel suites, and micro-kitchen units. There are also mountain chalets and condos available.
Over 40 trails spill off three mountain peaks, some to the edge of scenic Weber Lake. Whitecap Mountain’s front side offers novice and intermediate slopes. The backside trails connect to the rest of the ski area. Three sides of Thunderhead Mountain offer a nice collection of trails. Tree-lined cruisers twist and turn down to Weber Lake and the south face is home to a huge expanse of beginner terrain. New this season on Thunderhead’s north face will be glade runs heading down to Weber Lake. Eagle’s Nest Mountain offers the toughest runs; western-like, boulder-laden, mostly black and double-black narrow runs. An easier mile-long run around the outer portion of Eagle Nest offers a great cruising run with some nice S turns.
The $275 Decimal Pass Premium is a 10 punch card with no blackout dates. Each punch is good for a daily lift ticket, and the card is transferable.
Take a stroll down Hurley’s historic Silver Street, once the hangout for notorious gangsters like Al Capone, Baby Face Nelson, and Dillinger. It’s best at night, still somewhat notorious but safe to stroll.
Here we go again! The second strong, early-winter storm has moved across the Rocky Mountain range in the western United States and Canada.
As of this writing, snow has already piled up across Canada, Montana, and Wyoming and will include Colorado, the Dakotas and Minnesota before it’s done. This will give resorts a natural snow covering and base to help open trails soon. Resorts we like are Red Lodge, Sun Valley, Grand Targhee and Eldora which will get 6-12 inches.
Bitter cold will arrive across the western/central U.S. states and Canada through Saturday. Snow making opportunities will open up in these chilly areas!
A weaker, smaller winter weather system will bring light snow to British Columbia and Alberta Saturday and Sunday. What are the opening dates? Keep an eye out! Visit SnoCountry’s Snow Reports by Region to see when your nearby mountain plans to open.
Meanwhile in the eastern U.S. and Canada we have had a couple opportunities for making snow in early October. The next window for snow making will be Sunday, Oct. 13 and the next several days thereafter as the pattern turns cooler. Speaking of patterns, this upcoming winter season will be less clear than usual. That’s because we’re in a “neutral” pattern with no strong La Niña or El Niño in the Pacific Ocean. In these scenarios, winter can more easily swing one way or another. What may occur, is wildly-swinging week-to-week weather of cold/snow followed by brief thaws. For now, areas closer to the Canadian border appear to be in the best position for a good winter.