Fraser Valley enjoys snowiest winter in recent years
Winter Park Resort gets 300 inches this season
Despite the patches of snow still covering the ground, one of the Fraser Valley’s coldest and snowiest winters in recent memory is coming to an end. For tourists and outdoor recreators this year’s colder months gave them plenty to enjoy, but those same conditions strained municipal maintenance.
Temperatures also remained low throughout this winter, with Fraser averaging 19 degrees from Nov. 1 to April 8, according to the National Weather Service. That makes Fraser’s winter the seventh coldest since 1989.
The NWS also reported that Grand County’s snowpack is sitting at 120 percent above normal and saw particularly high snowfall in March and April compared to the past four years.
“It’s a fair amount higher than the last four years,” said Treste Huse, hydrologist with the National Weather Service in Boulder. “It’s not near what we had in 2011, which was one of our big years in recent times.”
The heavy snow definitely benefited Winter Park Resort this year, said Steve Hurlbert, director of communications and public relations for the resort, noting that the resort saw over 300 inches so far this season.
“It was a huge increase over last year and it was one of those things from a snowfall perspective where it started early and just kept on coming,” Hurlbert said. “The conditions have been great and consistent and that’s what you’re looking for.”
Consistent conditions allowed the resort to keep its Mary Jane territory open until May 12, the second latest closing date in the resort’s history. It also attracted plenty of skiers and riders, with visitation being up 5 percent this year, Hurlbert said.
Alpine skiers and riders weren’t the only recreators to benefit this winter though, with the Headwaters Trails Alliances reporting their longest grooming season yet.
“March is always hit or miss and oftentimes we stop grooming towards the beginning of March and I believe, in good years, we’ve maybe made it to the second week in March,” said Meara McQuain, executive director for the Headwaters Trails Alliance. “We probably groomed three to four weeks longer this year than we have any previous season.”
McQuain explained that grooming is the top priority in the winter, with HTA grooming around 35 miles of trails twice a week. With the snow this season, HTA was able to groom the Fraser River Trail more frequently and, in partnership with the town of Winter Park, groomed extra mileage in the Leland Creek area.
Fraser Town Manager Jeff Durbin noted the good conditions definitely attracted plenty of visitors to town.
“Anecdotally, I think that with the great snow we’ve had this year, there’s been phenomenal visitation and I think businesses are reaping the benefits of that,” Durbin said.
However, winter wasn’t all fun and recreation, with the cold and snow wreaking havoc on roads and freezing service lines.
Durbin said there were around five service line freezes this season, which is an increase compared to previous years. The town also put down over 17,000 pounds of asphalt to cover the high numbers of potholes littering town roads.
Mostly Fraser’s Public Works Department was kept busy with snow removal this year, Durbin said.
“We spent a lot more time and effort hauling snow away to remote locations and the locations we had all filled up, so we had to look for additional locations,” he said.
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Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect the national Trout Unlimited group received the funding and to clarify exactly what the money will pay for.