Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Spring Snow Storm

It happens pretty much every year. Our weather starts to get warm through March and then BAMMM - mid-April arrives with a spring snow storm. It happened again this year.

This year, Front Rangers were lulled into a false sense of security with a dry and warm winter. Folks were getting used to riding their bikes in shorts. Trails were snow, ice and mud free. We hadn't seen any precipitation in months. And everyone thought it would continue that way into summer.

Not so fast! A massive weather system developed that would bring significant quantities of precip to the Rocky Mountains on Friday, April 17th - these storms always seem to hit on the weekend. NOAA forecast up to 50 inches of snow in the Front Range, although the exact elevation at which the weather would be snow vs, rain was questionable. In the end, a mix of rain, snow, hail and sleet bore down on Boulder for 3 days. Up just a tad higher near Ward and Nederland, they got more than 2 feet of heavy snow. Best of all, Winter Park got 36 inches of the white stuff from Thursday through Sunday morning.

For obvious reasons, Jesper and I decided to ski Winter Park on Saturday. It was the resort's last weekend to be open this season, along with most of the other major ski resorts. Winter Park had gotten the most snow in this mid-April storm, which mirrored last year's storm that allowed us a fantastic last day at Vail on the Saturday of their last weekend in 08. All day Friday the storm raged on and our plans for getting up to Winter Park, or any resort for that matter, went out the window. Pretty much all the main roads up through the mountains, I-70 and US40, were closed due to the weather, accidents and avy danger.

Plan B: We opted to go snowshoeing with Strelka on Saturday up in Peaceful Valley. The snow was deep and heavy, not the light fluffy stuff we are accustomed to. The trail had only seen one set of cross country ski track on it, so we were essentially breaking trail, Jesper going first to pack the snow down for Strelka and me following up. We tried having me break trail, but I couldn't pack it down enough for Strelka to avoid serious post holing. I guess I don't weigh enough!!

Strelka struggling while I tried to break trail

We didn't end up going very far in our almost 2 hour outing, but we sure worked up a sweat and an appetite. Strelka was such a trooper, uncertain at first about sinking into the snow. She slept well in the car afterward while we enjoyed a nice late lunch and beers at Mountain Sun.

On Sunday, we were not to be denied! We got up early for a relatively easy drive to Winter Park; the storm had blown out and the roads were all open. All the while during the storm, the resort did not open the Panoramic Express Lift, which provides service to the Parsenn Bowl. On Sunday morning, this entire terrain lay waiting for us with 3 feet of untouched snow! Jesper and I did a few laps under the Sunnyside Lift until the Pano opened. As we rode up the Pano, we saw skier after snow boarder and after skier flailing around in the deep snow. It was hysterical! Despite how excited they were to ski in all the new snow, a lot of people were clearly unprepared for the strength and skill level skiing in really deep snow takes.

Jesper and I fared better on our first run, but it was very challenging, especially in the completely untracked sections and on less steep pitches. Each run got easier, as portions of the slopes saw more traffic. We still found huge areas of untracked snow, but we tried to hit them only where the slope was steep enough to maintain speed. After a run or two, the entire area cleared out (all the skiers in over their head went somewhere more groomed) and we skied almost by ourselves.

I am desperately trying to insert another photo, but darn blogger has refused to let me do this for TWO DAYS - what the heck is up with them? For now, you'll just have to imagine what all that snow looked like!

All that heavy, chunky snow wore us out and I especially began to feel it in my feet (I have Plantar Fasciitis - ugh!), so we ended the day early and sat outside for an apres ski beer and some live music courtesy of 5-Toed Bob and the Stragglers. It was a fantastic way to end the ski season!

When we returned to Boulder Sunday night, all the snow had melted in the warm spring temps. Good Bye Winter!

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