Though he would undoubtedly welcome more of the white stuff, “We’re not holding up the white flag just yet” in the absence of fresh powder, Scott Pittenger said.
Pittenger, director of mountain operations at the Telski, is no fair-weather skier.
“We all get a little spoiled. We love skiing fresh powder and soft snow every day,” he observed. Even though Mother Nature has not complied recently, “I’m definitely having a great time out there every day,” Pittenger said, “and it seems like our guests are, too.”
The resort recently supplied additional access to different types of snow. Black Iron Bowl opened a week ago. “It’s hike-to terrain,” Pittenger said, “accessed off of Lift 12 (Prospect Lift).” (Named for an old mining claim, the terrain includes “European-style faces, open glades and steep chutes,” as Telski’s website describes it, and includes access to “expansive Mountain Quail couloir,” a 30-45 minute hike out Prospect Ridge from the top of the lift.)
More recently, “We just opened Milk Run, on the front side of the mountain, accessed from the gondola and Lift 4,” Pittenger said. “It’s primarily a manmade surface, which came out really good. It’s pretty awesome. We’re grooming it most days, as it’s one of our steep groomable runs at this point. It’s definitely a local’s favorite, and certainly one of mine.”
Look on the bright side, and there is a literal bright side: The absence of stormy weather offers gaping of the surrounding San Juan peaks, bathed in sunshine (also welcome during this still-dark time of year). More snow could soon be on the way: “The best chance for precipitation is early next week,” National Weather Service meteorologist Megan Stackhouse said, “late Monday into early Tuesday. The models are still in disagreement, but the general trend is for a low to develop over the desert southwest. It could be as far south as southern Arizona, or as far north as the Four Corners. Either way, as the system approaches, showers will increase during the day on Monday, and depending on where it cuts off, through the day on Tuesday. We’re looking at just a few inches of snow for Telluride at this point, but that could change, depending on where the storm tracks. We’re still a few days out.”
Beyond that, “models may be hinting at another disturbance off the West Coast” that could bring snow to the San Juans later next week, NWS meteorologist Scott Stearns said. And there is more good (if still somewhat distant) news: Though March and April are traditionally thought of as Colorado’s snowiest months, “the best snowfall rates actually begin around mid-February and go through early April,” which is “maybe a couple weeks earlier” than people generally surmise, Stearns said. “March is really the best time, if you had to pick one month,” but the heaviest snows “really go from mid-February to early April.” Yet this time, too, presents seasonal challenges for schussers: “As far as skiing goes, when you start to get into a March-to-April time frame, we’re looking at a transition season, which can be better” for ushering in big-moisture-producing systems into the area. “But this means more fluctuations, and possibly more winds, as air masses are clashing,” Stearns said. By mid-April in the San Juans (when the Telski is closed), “temperatures are rising, snow accumulations level off, and the snow doesn’t stay.”
Ideal conditions are never guaranteed any time, in other words. In the meantime, there are big views, expertly groomed slopes, and brilliant sunshine. Whether those will be enough is another question. “Obviously, we’d love more snow,” Pittenger said. “We’re never satiated when it comes to snowfall.”