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500 inches: A powder season to remember

Summit Daily/Mark Fox
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VAIL, Colorado – With 149 days on the mountain this season, almost all of which have been at Vail, Cesar Hermosillo knows how good the snow has been this year.

Wednesday was just another powder day – an April 20 powder day, that is – during a season that Hermosillo ranks as one of his best ever. Vail has totaled 502 inches so far this season.

“My season has been phenomenal,” Hermosillo said. “Overall, it’s been amazing.”



Hermosillo, 27, has lived here his whole life. He grew up in Minturn and said he can’t remember snow like this since he was a little kid.

Amazing. Epic. Insane. Memorable.



These are the words skiers and snowboarders used to describe the 2010-11 season on Wednesday.

Noah Goldmann, a Vail ski instructor, said that of his 134 days on the mountain as of Wednesday, about 40 of them were deep powder days.

“Like 6 inches-plus – face shots,” Goldmann said.

In Summit County, Breckenridge passed its 17-year record of 504 inches this week – the mountain has tallied 507 inches of snow so far this season. It left its 10-year average of 347 inches in the dust, er, powder, a while ago.

Resorts other than Keystone are still running lifts – Breckenridge and Copper wrap up this weekend, Loveland is slated to close May 8 and Arapahoe Basin is open until June 5.

The Basin saw 367 inches of snow fall this season, which breaks the 10-year average of 350 inches but falls short of the 1979-80 record season with 550 inches. The area is still 100-percent open with a 90-inch base.

Copper Mountain is neck-and-neck with Arapahoe Basin, with 378 inches of snow so far this winter. It smashed its 10-year average of 280.5 inches before the end of March, but falls short of the 1984-85 record season that saw 432 inches of snow.

On the other side of the Continental Divide, Loveland Ski Area has racked up the most snowfall all season – 510 inches of snow have fallen so far this year. The all-time record was 572 inches in 1995-1996.

Before closing, Keystone Resort had also smashed its 10-year average of 208 inches this season with 331 inches about a week before the lifts stopped. This year was also well above the resort’s yearly average of 240.

At the beginning of the season, Vail Resorts officials were keeping their fingers crossed that the snow gods would take care of Vail this year, and it’s turned out to be the best snow year since the resort starting measuring at Mid-Vail 10 year ago.

“I think we would have been fine [to make it to closing day)]with the amount of snow we had several weeks ago, but it just continues,” Vail Mountain CEO Chris Jarnot said. “This year was great early, great consistently and great even this week. It’s just been a remarkable year.”

Joel Gratz, a meteorologist who runs the website http://www.Coloradopowderforecast.com, said the La Nina weather pattern typically means good snow for Vail, but this year was exceptional.

“Historically La Nina yields perhaps 100 to 125 percent of average snow for Vail. This season was about 150 percent of average,” Gratz said. “I would chalk up the higher numbers to some luck. The storms definitely lined up well for Vail thanks to La Nina, but you need a bit of luck to place the heaviest snow bands right over Vail Mountain.”

– Janice Kurbjun contributed to this story.


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