Spring skiing options abound with one of best snow seasons in recent memory | PostIndependent.com

Spring skiing options abound with one of best snow seasons in recent memory

Skiers and snowboarders enjoy a balmy spring day on the slopes at Sunlight Mountain Resort on Wednesday.
Taylor Cramer/Post Independent

The time has come for skiers and snowboarders to prepare themselves for what is expected to be one of the more snow-packed years of spring skiing for resorts and backcountry terrain across Colorado’s mountains. 

With Sunlight Mountain set to close this weekend after a successful season, Roaring Fork Valley residents will have to long for new destinations to strap up and hit the slopes for lift access. 

Before doing so, Sunlight looks to cap off its season with a weekend full of festivities, hosting live music Friday, Saturday, and Sunday and a “Party Animal” costume contest at 2 p.m. on Sunday, with a batch of prizes set to be gifted for the three best costumes, including a season pass for next year as the top prize.

As the weekend is supposed to carry with it a mix of heavy snow along with strong wind gusts, those looking to participate in Sunlight’s end of the year festivities should be prepared for another frosty weekend.

Sunlight Mountain provides ski-school lessons through Friday.
Taylor Cramer/Post Independent

After Sunlight’s Sunday closing date, skiers and boarders can look toward the possibility of other mountains across the state pushing their closing dates back. 

According to Colorado’s SNOwpack TELemetry (SNOTEL) readings, which is used by the United States Department of Agriculture to measure snowpack readings throughout the Western U.S, Colorado’s 2022-23 ski season has been one for the record books. A monitoring system that was implemented in the 1970s, Cloudnine CEO and Meteorologist Sam Collentine says this year takes the cake in terms of snowpack. 

“SNOTEL readings are at their deepest level around the Roaring Fork Valley that we’ve seen in a 40- to 50-year period,” he said. “So from the snowpack perspective, it’s as healthy as ever in the Roaring Fork Valley. And Sunlight there, it’s at the highest level they’ve ever been, looking at 170% of average.”

There’s also the option to make the drive to one of the many resorts located within an hour of Glenwood Springs, especially for Ikon and Epic pass holders alike. Here’s a list of mountains that plan to stay open through mid-April and beyond.

Closing dates for Colorado resorts

Beaver Creek: April 16

Snowmass: April 16

Aspen Highlands: April 16

Aspen Mountain: April 23

Vail: April 30

Copper Mountain: May 7

Loveland: May 8

Winter Park: May 21

Breckenridge: May 28

Arapahoe Basin: June 4

Backcountry treks will also be an option for ski junkies for the duration of this year’s spring season. However, he says backcountry enthusiasts should be careful when choosing their destinations. 

“The snowpack right now is still in very much a winter environment, meaning that the entire snowpack hasn’t solidified into the classic spring snowpack that you see later in the spring,” he said. “I would just say be patient for now with more snow and cold temperatures in the forecast.”

As the snowpack is still very much looking in winter form, Collentine expects the backcountry season to last longer than usual. With a slate of mountains throughout the state currently scheduled to close in mid-April, he expects the backcountry season to be one that’s available well into the summer months.

“We can expect very solid spring skiing and folks being able to enjoy spring skiing in the higher elevations well into June at least.” he said. “If we can stay relatively cool and have a few more high elevation snow events through the end of May, we can expect to see people spring skiing into early July for a lot of locations across Colorado.”

Short sleeve T-shirts were everywhere during Sunlight’s last week open.
Taylor Cramer/Post Independent

For those looking to occupy their spring hitting the backcountry slopes, co-owner of Summit Canyon Mountaineering, Matt Cook, says to take all the necessary precautions to stay safe, especially taking an American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education (AIARE) course.

“Here we tell people that you have to take an AIARE course, and even after that, you want to make sure you have the correct gear and go with others who are also trained,” he said. “You have to know that the only thing you can count on is your ability to correctly diagnose the snowpack. It’s a very dangerous activity to participate in.”

Even with the proper training, he says anyone unfamiliar with backcountry areas should always go with someone who has more experience in the Rocky Mountains.

“Someone who isn’t local or doesn’t know their spots, I wouldn’t even recommend going to the backcountry,” he said. “Anyone who is just getting into the backcountry, I would recommend learning the processes at a ski resort. After that, you have to find someone who is familiar with skiing the backcountry and who will be able to teach you about certain areas.”

Post Independent reporter Taylor Cramer can be reached at 970-384-9108 tcramer@postindependent.com.

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