The Western United States is Getting Buried in Snow

by Kirsten Dobroth | January 12, 2017

The western United States is getting buried in snow. So much snow, in fact, that two Colorado resorts closed, along with a handful of others in California at various points this week. At some mountains, like Mammoth, the lifts are still spinning, but only at partial capacity because of the amount of avalanche control work that needs to be done. Too much of a good thing? Maybe, but skiers and snowboarders around the control are reveling in the intensity of frequent storms that are passing through each week and leaving feet of powdery goodness in their wake.
There’s some obvious pluses and minuses to the snowy situation out west. While more snow generally means better skiing and snowboarding, the amount of snow and the volume that’s coming down during the storm cycles have left avalanche conditions dangerously high. Areas like Colorado have also seen warmer than usual temperatures, which has led to wet, heavy layers sitting precariously on top of the snowpack. Case in point, two I-70 closures disrupted traffic in ski country – and on a major east/west interstate highway – on Tuesday in the state. The first of the two avalanches occurred on Vail Pass, where it partially buried a semi-truck, and coated both east and west bound lanes with up to 15 feet of snow. Similarly, conditions off of the roadways and in the backcountry have been particularly dangerous. Slides have been reported all over the county, with skier and snowmobiler burials occurring, as well; there have also been a few fatalities this season.
And while the snowfall this season obviously has dangerous consequences, it also begs the questions what all this snow  – a.k.a. water – will do for drought-stricken areas around the region. States across the west are reporting snowpack totals thus far at over 100 percent of the season average. That in and of itself is good news, but what the weather does for the rest of the season will determine how that will affect the drought conditions in the warmer months. And then there’s the skiing and snowboarding; if anyone has been making it up on the hill over the past few weeks, it is deep, and other-worldly. Enjoy it while it lasts, and if heading out of bounds, make sure you know what you’re doing and have the right equipment.
(Above Photo: Kirkwood Ski Patrol taking in the snowfall from a closed lift on the resort).

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