Jan 302012
Authors: Emily Smith

Fresh powder.

It’s what every skier and snowboarder yearns for when they head up to the mountains.

However, the 2011-2012 ski season has not seen nearly as much snowfall as it did last year by this time, skiers and ski resort spokesmen said. Icy runs with dirt and rocks jutting out from the thin snow layer have been the norm since the start of this season.

“Snow is snow. We will ski on whatever we can get,” said Chelsey Fretz, senior co-captain of the CSU Alpine Ski Team. “It has certainly had an impact on our free skiing though because of the limited options of ski areas and terrain.”

According to fellow captain Kelsey Fagan, the team has also had less training opportunities due to the lack of snow. Fagan and Fretz said they have made up for this “by doing things like watching a lot of video from World Cup athletes.”

Colorado’s ski resorts have also felt the strain of less snow this season. “This year has been a little bit different; we’ve gotten off to a slower start,” said John Sellers, marketing and communications director at Loveland Ski Area.

Last year was the second-best snow season in all of Loveland’s 74 years of operation, according to Sellers. The ski area received 568 inches of snow last year, whereas their average snowfall is around 420 inches per year.

This year the snow has not been quite as plentiful early in the season.

“We haven’t had as much powder as we like. We’ve certainly seen a decrease in skier visits,” Sellers said.

Despite the lack of early major snowfall, Loveland still opened in October.

“People are still having a good time enjoying the mountains. In the ski industry, snow helps for sure,” Sellers said. “We always want more of it, but we’re always optimistic.”

And at last, new snowfall in the past week has begun to turn things around for the season.

“It seems like the weather pattern has finally shifted in our favor,” Sellers said. “We’ve started to open up a lot more terrain.”

Ski resorts all over the Rocky Mountains have benefited in the last week-and-a-half from snowfall they’ve been waiting for since opening day. According to snow.com, in the past seven days Breckenridge has received 32 inches of snow, Keystone has received 16 inches, and Beaver Creek has received 27 inches.

According to Sara Lococo at Vail Mountain Communications, Vail has received more than 28 inches of snow in the last seven days and has 2,300 acres of skiable terrain open.

“We’re offering our guests the highest quality of snow surfaces possible and the most amount of trails open as possible,” Lococo said.

“Vail’s mountain operations team has been hard at work in order to provide the best possible skiing and snowboarding experience for our guests, and ski patrol continues to evaluate and assess new terrain daily,” Lococo said.

The ski season is only about halfway over, as most resorts are open into April and even May.

As snowfall starts to look up, CSU’s Alpine Ski Team is putting their best foot forward.

“At our races, it is difficult to compete at a personal best when the option to train is gone,” Fagan said.

“But at the same time, we only need one trail open for a race, so we make the best of what we got,” Fretz said.

Sellers is also staying positive about the rest of the season.

“The lack of snowfall has certainly been disappointing, but things are changing for the better,” he said. “There’s still over three months of the ski season left, and we’re still optimistic that this season is going to turn out to be a great one.”

Collegian writer Emily Smith can be reached at news@collegian.com.

This season’s snow so far:
Loveland: 143 inches
Vail: 124 inches
Breckenridge: 122 inches
Beaver Creek: 115 inches
Winter Park: 93 inches
Copper Mountain: 88 inches
Keystone: 70 inches

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