Mount Werner bombarded with snow

Ski area official unsure of terrain that will be opened Friday

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— The snow situation has turned around so dramatically on Mount Werner that Steamboat Ski Area officials say they'll wait until Wednesday or possibly Thursday to decide just how much terrain they'll open Friday.

Opening day was originally planned for Nov. 21, then delayed until Nov. 30 because of a lack of snow. Now, the good news is that the snow on Mount Werner is so deep it's impeding the ability of crews to install padding on chairlift towers, make the lifts ready and install safety fencing. For that reason, ski area spokeswoman Cathy Wiedemer said, mountain managers are hesitant to say just how many lifts and ski trails will be available to skiers on the opening day of the season.

"I can't believe how much snow there is at mid-mountain," Wiedemer said.

With 35 inches of natural snow falling at the top of Thunderhead during a four-day stretch from Friday through Monday, and a forecast of more on the way, the ski area's opening on Friday is assured.

"This is the most snow the mountain crews have had to deal with for an opening day in years," Director of Mountain Operations Doug Allen said.

Just one week ago, the lower slopes were brown and temperatures weren't cold enough to make artificial snow.

Mid-mountain new snow measurements taken daily at 5 a.m. included: Friday, 11 inches; Saturday, 8 inches; Sunday, 4 inches; and Monday, 12 inches. Even more snow fell at Storm Peak, where the accumulated base is now more than 40 inches.

Rabbit Ears Pass received 24 inches.

Steamboat announced Nov. 16, when the afternoon high reached 58 degrees, it would delay its originally scheduled opening date. That decision was necessitated by an almost complete lack of natural snow on the runs below 9,000 feet and daily high/low temperatures that rendered snowmaking ineffective.

Ski Corp. Vice President of Marketing Andy Wirth said the original decision to delay opening day was motivated by a desire to provide a high-quality product beginning with the first day of the season.

The recent natural snowfall isn't the only factor influencing Friday's trail openings.

"Our snowmaking operations have been very productive," Wirth said.

Forecasted high temperatures on Monday weren't expected to get out of the 20s. Overnight temperatures Monday were forecast to struggle to get out of single digits, creating ideal conditions for snowmaking.

Opening day will be the traditional "scholarship day" with the proceeds from $15 lift tickets benefiting the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club's competitive skiing programs for youngsters. Other ski passes will not be honored on opening day.

The arrival of the snow also takes some of the pressure off crews preparing to host a World Cup freestyle mogul skiing event on the Voo Doo trail, Dec. 13, two weeks after the mountain opens.

Elsewhere, other ski resorts reported similar snowfall. Vail Mountain got 21 inches.

In southern Colorado, Red Mountain Pass received 18 inches and Coal Bank Pass got 17 inches. Blizzard conditions were still reported in northeast Colorado on Monday. U.S. 34 from Akron to Yuma was closed because of drifting snow.

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