By R. Scott Rappold.
Colorado’s San Juan Mountains remain deeply buried in winter snow, but the calendar says “spring” and that meant closing day Sunday in southern Colorado.
But only for this week.
Skiers and snowboarders at Purgatory Resort, Telluride Ski Resort and Wolf Creek Ski Area all celebrated closing days with the usual festivities mixed with a twinge of sadness because such great snow will go unskied except for the hardy few who don’t mind hiking or skinning up the hill. Hesperus Ski Area west of Durango is also closed.
Purgatory, however, plans to reopen every weekend in April, from Friday through Sunday April 7-9 and 14-16. The resort will also run the lifts April 22-23 and 29-30. Hours will be 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
On the east side of the San Juans, Wolf Creek closed for the year despite having the deepest snow base of any major Colorado resort – 9 feet deep at mid-mountain. Snowfall for the year was 418 inches, also more than any other major resort. January alone saw 165 inches, a new record.
“Wolf Creek had a great year. We started a little slow but it seemed like it winter from summer to winter just like that when it finally came,” said Rosanne H. Pitcher, vice-president of marketing and sales.
Mother Nature even delivered 6 inches of snow for closing weekend. Alberta Peak, the high alpine bowls and lower tree runs were skiing as deep and soft as in mid-winter. Wolf Creek has always been about skiing rather than partying, and the mostly-local crowd celebrated they way they always have here, by skiing and snowboarding soft snow.
If the weather delivers again in April – and it always does down here – Wolf Creek could reopen on weekends, Pitcher said.
“We don’t have to close but we need more people. So if everybody was all excited about skiing right now it would be great. But we are going to open weekends in April if we get winter conditions,” she said. It would take a snowstorm near or during the weekend, with a decision likely made Thursday or Friday and announced on their website.
Said Pitcher, “We only want to open if it’s really good.”
Telluride, meanwhile, has no plans to reopen. The resort had its second-snowiest season on record, with 317 inches. The couple weeks before closing were particularly snowy, with double-digit overnight snow totals that made Telluride the snowiest spot in Colorado. Skiers celebrated the season’s end with costumes, concerts, a pond skim competition and general revelry.
“The last cycle of storms that came through came at a perfect time to refill us before closing day festivities,” said resort spokeswoman Shannon Gibbs. “All in all, it was a very successful season. Everyone had a great time, and we saw lots of smiling faces on the mountain and in all of the restaurants and hotels.”