Local snowpack nears record

Vacationers flock to enjoy prime conditions

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— Andy Wirth couldn't resist showing off in front of an audience of airline executives gathered in the Steamboat Grand Resort Hotel ballroom this week.

"This is a big day. We surpassed 300 inches of snowfall for the season this morning," Wirth, Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp.'s vice president of marketing, told the executives.

"That's 25 feet of snow. I meant to use this measuring tape to mark 25 feet on the wall of the ballroom. But then I realized the ceiling in here isn't 25 feet high," Wirth cracked.

More than 80 sets of eyes gazed up at the ceiling and realized just how much snow 300 inches is.

Of course, the settled snow depth on Mount Werner doesn't measure 300 inches -- that figure represents the total amount of snowfall since late October.

The settled snow depth at the summit of Storm Peak was 95 inches Thursday afternoon. The National Weather Service in Grand Junction was forecasting the base at Steamboat to exceed 100 inches this morning -- if gusty winds don't blow the latest accumulation into North Park. Overnight accumulations of 8 to 14 inches were expected.

Steamboat's 300 inches of snow continues to lure vacationing skiers -- the resort reported that 1,079 passengers were booked on flights arriving at Yampa Valley Regional Airport on Thursday. The total capacity of arriving aircraft was 1,080.

The 308 inches of total snowfall reported by Steamboat Ski Area on Thursday morning brought the resort to within two feet of the average annual snowfall for the past 25 years.

There still are 66 days remaining in the ski season -- the ski area is scheduled to close April 9. The all-time ski area record of 447.75 inches at mid-mountain was set during the winter of 1996-97.

-- To reach Tom Ross, call 871-4205

or e-mail tross@steamboatpilot.com

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