A series of winter storms that blew into the Yampa Valley from Utah beginning late last week piled up an unofficial 21.5 inches at the Steamboat Ski Area and sent Nordic skiers scrambling for their waxing tools.
The Steamboat Ski Area received 8 inches of snow at mid-mountain Friday, ski area spokeswoman Heidi Thomsen said. That storm was followed Saturday with 4.5 inches. By Sunday morning, there was another 2 inches and by Monday morning, another 8 inches of snow had fallen.
Taylor Fletcher, a Nordic combined skier with the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club, said the groomed skiing on Bruce's Trail on Rabbit Ears Pass was up to winter conditions.
"There weren't very many dirty spots. Maybe just one," Fletcher said. "It was just like down here (at Howelsen Hill) in mid-December."
Bruce's Trail was designed to offer early season cross-country skate skiing and is groomed by volunteers using a snowmobile and corduroy attachment.
As quickly as the storm clouds cleared Monday morning, the National Weather Service in Grand Junction began predicting ideal conditions for making artificial snow. The forecast low overnight Monday was 3 degrees, and temperatures are not expected to get out of the 30s today.
The low tonight will get down to 9 degrees, followed by a slight warmup to 15 degrees overnight Wednesday, then back into single digits Thursday night. Temperatures in the teens will allow snowmaking crews on Mount Werner and Howelsen Hill to get the most out of their guns.
The Steamboat Ski Area is scheduled to open Nov. 24, but it's already ski season on Rabbit Ears Pass, where parking lots at the West Summit and further east along U.S. Highway 40 at Bruce's Trail were crowded during the weekend.
The Steamboat Ski Area doesn't officially begin counting snowfall until November. However, resort officials can't resist tracking surprise autumn snowstorms. Steamboat received 3 inches of snow in October 2003 and 16 in October 2002. The largest October snow total since the mid-1990s was the 26.5 inches that fell in 1996. For the succeeding four years after that, Steamboat did not record October snow.
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