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October heat wave delays start of Colorado ski season

Snow guns silent in late October as temps run 15 degrees above average

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2014 on track to become warmest year ever.

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How will the ski industry weather global warming?

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO —Last year’s winter Olympics helped cast a spotlight on global warming and the ski industry. As the snow at Sochi’s alpine venues visibly melted during the live television coverage of the games, winter sports athletes advocated for action on climate change.

Now, just a few months later, some of those same ski racers who had planned early season training sessions at Copper Mountain, Colorado will have to wait. A run of extraordinarily warm temperatures in October all but silenced industrial snowmaking operations at several resorts, as both Copper and Keystone delayed scheduled openings because of the balmy conditions. Continue reading

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A-Basin: A family ode to opening day

The 2014-2015 Colorado ski season starts Friday, Oct. 17 at Arapahoe Basin

Dylan Berwyn charges down West Montezuma Bowl, January 2012.

Dylan Berwyn charges down West Montezuma Bowl, January 2012. bberwyn photo

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Snaky, hissing lines under Pali Chair.

By Bob Berwyn

My history with A-Basin goes way back to the early 1980s.  I remember a memorable July 4 snow storm during that era, and lots of other assorted mayhem.

OK, mayhem may be stretching it a bit, but there was the time when I was hurrying to get to the slopes and accidentally slammed my friend’s thumb in the sliding side-panel door of that old lime-green ’75 Ford Econoline.

The mishap required a quick trip down to the Snake River emergency clinic at Keystone, but we were back on the mountain by lunchtime. And despite a new hand and forearm splint, to which we promptly taped a ski pole, at the end of the day, my friend led me on my first ride through Montezuma Bowl.

Twenty years later, I was teaching my toddler to ski at A-Basin. Sure, we’d go to Keystone with Opa now and then, or trek over to Breck on a fine spring day, but we lived in Summit Cove at the time and A-Basin was always our home mountain — the “Hausberg,” as the alpine villagers of Europe call it.

It’s where you take turns sharing childcare duties with your friends, watching their kids they make a few laps, and vice-versa. The place where several generations of family have skied. Maybe you’ve even scattered the ashes of a loved one from the summit. It’s where you feel the global mountain vibe that ties all high country dwellers together regardless of national borders.

It’s where you ski with Opa and Omi.

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A local middle-schooler airs it out in the Fourth Alley.

Over the years, you get to know every crinkle of terrain. Just by watching the direction of the snow plume blowing off Pali or PHQ, you know exactly where the best blown-in powder will be, and you recognize individual trees and their sprawling branches as snow-depth indicators.

Exploring leisurely through the steep, shady spruce glades or charging down an avalanche gully on the East Wall, you build an intimate relationship with nature, which breeds respect and leads, hopefully, to a stewardship ethic.

Another decade down the road (I’m almost afraid to count up the total number of years) and my teenager mostly skis with his peers. But tomorrow, on opening day at A-Basin, we’ll head up together to celebrate the start of another ski season. It couldn’t happen in a better place!

Climate: More flooding, less snow in Vermont

August 2014 global temperatures were more than 1 degree Fahrenheit above the 20th century average. Map courtesy NASA.

August 2014 global temperatures were more than 1 degree Fahrenheit above the 20th century average. Map courtesy NASA.

Down-scaled climate modeling suggests sugar maples will probably persist for a while

Staff Report

FRISCO — New downscaled climate models for Vermont suggest that the state will probably be able to produce maple syrup in the coming decades, but the distribution of best habitat for sugar maples will shift, and average temperatures will increase by 5 degrees Fahrenheit by 2050.

By late in the century, Vermont’s average temperature will increase by 8 degrees Fahrenheit, adding 43 days to the growing season — and 10 additional days with temps above 90 degrees in Burlington, while snowfall is likely decrease by 50 percent at six major ski resorts, according to a team of scientists who recently published states-specific projections in the Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology. Continue reading

Morning photo: Colorado skiing

Got snow?

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Highlands Bowl is a Colorado hike-to classic.

FRISCO — There’s great skiing all over the world and it’s hard to single out any one spot as the best. But when the snow is good in Colorado, it’s about as good as it gets.

Continue reading

Crowdfunding push aims to cut avalanche deaths

A wet snow avalanche in Tenmile Canyon, near Frisco, Colorado.

A wet snow avalanche in Tenmile Canyon, near Frisco, Colorado. bberwyn photo.

Snowsports industry, safety agencies team up for Project Zero

Staff Report

With 25 backcountry avalanche deaths in the U.S. this winter, and eight in Colorado, mountain enthusiasts are launching a major crowdfunding push to boost the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.

The Colorado effort is part of an ambitious national push to reduce avalanche fatalities to zero by 2025. Project Zero is a collaboration between AIARE, Snowsports Industries America, Friends of the CAIC, the Utah Avalanche Center, Northwest Avalanche Center, Canadian Avalanche Centre, National Ski Areas Association and the National Ski Patrol.

Continue reading

Skiing: Breckenridge extends season by a week

It's deep at Breckenridge, Colorado. PHOTO COURTESY VAIL RESORTS.

It’s deep at Breckenridge, Colorado. PHOTO COURTESY VAIL RESORTS.

Peaks 6, 7 and 8 will stay open through April 27

Staff Report

FRISCO — Colorado skiers will get a few bonus days this year, as Breckenridge Ski Resort announced that it will extend the season by a week, keeping Peaks 6, 7 and 8 open through April 27.

The resort has tacked on extra days the past few seasons, but generally only on weekends. Due to plentiful snow and the timing of Easter, Breckenridge execs said they made the decision early this year. Continue reading

Colorado appeals court says ski areas not liable for inbounds avalanches

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Flags mark the spot where Christopher Norris died in an inbounds avalanche on open terrain at Winter Park Ski Area on January 22, 2012. Photo courtesy CAIC.

Ruling broadens ski industry immunity
 to lawsuits

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Skiers and snowboarders in Colorado may want to start carrying their avalanche gear at developed resorts, after an appeals court ruled last week that avalanches are one of the many inherent risks of skiing on lift-served terrain.

The Colorado Court of Appeals decision (announced Feb. 13) stems from a deadly January 22, 2012 avalanche at Winter Park resort, when Christopher Norris died while skiing an open, inbounds run at Winter Park known as Trestle Trees. As it stands, the ruling broadens the almost unprecedented immunity that ski resorts have from being held liable for accidents, including inbounds avalanches. Continue reading

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