Snow base at Storm Peak exceeds 2 feet

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— Steamboat received the one-two weather punch it needed this week.

All of the snow that fell on Mount Werner over the weekend sent skiers and snowboarders scurrying to pull their gear out of the closet. However, the frigid overnight temperatures forecasted for the valley Monday through Wednesday could do more to get the Steamboat Ski Area open than 2 feet of natural snow.

The mountain is scheduled to open Nov. 23.

Already, skiers and riders were hiking the mountain over the weekend for pre-season powder runs. Ski area spokesperson Kent Kirkpatrick advised people that snowmaking crews would be working as weather conditions permit.

"Please stay off trails where snowmaking is under way," he asked.

The ski area was reporting a mid-mountain base of 18 inches on Monday morning and 26 inches at the summit, a sign that the steady overnight rain that fell in the valley on Veterans' Day fell as snow on Storm Peak. Snowfall was intensifying in the valley at late morning on Monday.

What ski area crews really need for a big opening day on Nov. 23 is sufficiently cold temperatures to allow snowmaking near the bottom of the mountain. The National Weather Service in Grand Junction was forecasting a 90 percent chance of snow Monday night combined with a low of 9 degrees -- the perfect recipe for the ski area. Partial clearing was expected Tuesday night and even colder temperatures -- 2 degrees, follow by a low of 10 degrees Wednesday night.

Friday's high could reach the mid 40s under sunny skies, but the ski area may have the base it needs for opening day all locked up by then.

Nordic skiers flocked to Rabbit Ears Pass on Sunday, both for touring at the West Summit and skate skiing at Bruce's Trail, where volunteers groom 10 kilometers of trails. The upper loop was well packed by skiers at midday on Sunday, but the longer, lower loop still had a lot of loose snow on it. Skate skiers looking for updates on when Bruce's Trail was last groomed can go to www.steamboatxcski.org for the latest information.

At the Steamboat Ski Touring Center, operators planned to wait to see how Monday night's frigid temperatures settled the base on the Fish Creek trail before making a decision about whether to groom with snowmobiles. If conditions permit, the Touring Center would like to be open by the weekend.

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