Skiers, boarders weigh in on early snowfall, El Nino |

Skiers, boarders weigh in on early snowfall, El Nino

Lauren Glendenning
Vail Correspondent
Grand County, CO Colorado

Ask meteorologists and weather forecasters how they come up with snowfall predictions, and they’ll give you some complex scientific formula. Ask skiers and snowboarders, and you’ll get a lot of positive thinking.

It’s an El Nino year, meaning the central and eastern tropical Pacific waters are warming. Scientists can’t really tell you what that even means – reports show El Nino could equal a variety of positive or negative consequences in terms of local snowfall.

Local skiers and snowboarders don’t seem to worry much about early-season conditions, though, which currently include packed, man-made snow on one run at Vail and man-made snow on one run and a terrain park at Beaver Creek, which opens today.

There have been early-season snow conditions all across the board. As recently as 2002, Vail opened more than 2,300 acres a week before its scheduled opening day because snow was abundant.

Just a year before that, in 2001, the World Cup Birds of Prey races at Beaver Creek were canceled because there wasn’t enough snow. EJ Johnson, of Edwards, said he bases his predictions on the fact that the past tends to repeat itself. He skied Vail on Tuesday and isn’t worried that only one run is open.

“We’re on schedule,” Johnson said. “This is standard – everybody just needs to keep the faith.”

That positive attitude is what seems to get skiers and riders through the early season – that is, when it’s a dry early season. Nicole Timmerman, of Avon, has lived in the valley for 13 years and agreed that the dry early-season conditions are typical. She said last year’s early season was probably worse than it is now, and the snow eventually fell.

“It’s going to start [snowing],” Timmerman said.

The Farmers’ Almanac, a popular resource for weather predictions, shows a very cold and snowy outlook for the Rocky Mountains. While some look to the Almanac and other forecasts religiously, some don’t give them much consideration.

Mike Waganfeald, of Gypsum, doesn’t follow the weather predictions “at all,” he said. He, too, pointed out that last year began the same way and things didn’t turn out so badly.

“Hopefully, we’ll have a good season,” Waganfeald said.

Ryan Galbraith, of Denver, said he’s thinking El Nino will bring above-average snowfall to the Colorado mountains. His friend Chris Lennon, also of Denver, is taking the middle road when it comes to the predictions he has seen, which have indicated both high and low snow accumulations.

“I think it will be average [because predictions are all across the board],” Galbraith said. “But, of course, I hope it will be record-setting.”

If out-of-towners’ crystal balls are any clearer, then things are looking good. Doug Friedrichsen, of Overland Park, Kan., said he’s expecting a lot of snow this year. He’s in town this week and plans to come back to Vail for more skiing this season.

“I think we’re going to get pounded,” Friedrichsen said. “We had the early-season blast, now a little reprieve, so in December, it’s coming.”

Tim Duke, of Augusta, Ga., is in town this week and already has lodging reservations in Vail for Christmas week. He’s thinking of coming back in March, too – the early season lack of snow isn’t worrying him a bit.

“I think it’s going to be great snow,” Duke said. “I think it’ll be really, really good.”

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