High temperatures have Steamboat Ski Area crews shifting snow
March 23, 2012
Steamboat Springs — With record high temperatures forecast this weekend, managers at Steamboat Ski Area are moving some snow around to cover bare spots in strategic locations.
"Overall, the mountain is skiing quite well," Vice President of Mountain Operations Doug Allen said Friday. "With the increased snowmaking this year, we're finding the increased density (of the snowpack) at the bottom of the mountain is holding up longer."
The ski area reported a midmountain temperature of 50 degrees at 12:55 p.m.
Art Judson, one of two National Weather Service observers in Steamboat Springs, recorded a temperature of 67.1 degrees at 5 p.m. Thursday at his recording station between downtown and the mountain. The record temperature for March 23 is 63 degrees, according to the Western Regional Climate Center, but a new record is not official until it is reported by the National Weather Service at 7 a.m. Saturday.
The record temperature for Saturday is a reading of 60 degrees recorded in 1986, according to the Climate Center. The National Weather Service is forecasting Saturday's high will reach 65, and Sunday will be even warmer, with a forecast of 67 degrees.
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Mike Johnson, who has been skiing Steamboat for 27 years, agreed that snow conditions have held up but said the number of bare spots that can't be patched is growing.
"They're doing a good job, but they can't get them all," he said. "The south and southwest facing slopes are really getting baked by the sun."
Despite the unseasonably high temperatures, Steamboat's midmountain base is 47 inches. However, the sun and heat have taken their toll on the Pioneer Ridge area on the north side of the ski area. Allen said that lift crews shut down the Pony Express chairlift early in the week and that the Pioneer Ridge area since has been closed because of the number of exposed rocky areas in the rugged terrain.
Earlier in the week, Johnson said, the snow was just beginning to soften by noon. Skiers in the know try to time their ski day when spring conditions prevail so that they catch the ski runs when the top quarter- or half-inch has softened in the sun and before slushy conditions take over.
When he skied Friday, Johnson said the snow already had softened by noon and the relative lack of wind seemed to be contributing to the trend.
The weather is expected to change Monday when the National Weather Service is calling for a 30 percent chance of rain with valley temperatures reaching the high 50s.
Allen said if skiers and riders notice the mild half-pipe on Lil' Rodeo at the bottom of the mountain getting shorter between now and closing day April 15, it's not their imaginations.
The half-pipe does double duty as stored snow for patching jobs, and grooming crews will borrow from it to keep the base area skiable.
"It's been a challenging winter, so I don't know why that should stop," Allen said.
To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com