Ski terrain

The Telluride Ski Resort has received 125 inches of snow this season. On Friday, the resort opened Black Iron Bowl (pictured above), hike-to terrain accessible via the Prospect Lift. (Photo courtesy of @slay_the_gnar at Telluride Ski Resort)

The big storms have long since exited the box canyon, and so have many holiday visitors. What could be better for guests at the Telluride Ski Resort?

An additional helping of fresh powder, that’s what. As Scott Pittenger, Telski’s director of mountain operations, put it: “We’ll certainly always take more moisture.”

Alas, that is likely not in the cards — at least for the next few days. Erin Walter, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service’s Grand Junction Office, says there is a  “high-pressure ridge building over the Great Basin,” which “usually means dry weather.”

“There’s a system that wants to drive south of Colorado into the desert southwest,” Walter added, bringing “the potential for some of that moisture to reach Telluride sometime between Wednesday and the end of the week. It would be 24 hours’ worth of moisture,” if it came.

“The caveat is, some other models place this system south of Colorado, moving into the Plains. Which reduces the amount of moisture available to us.”

The Climate Prediction Center’s 6-10 Day Outlook, 8-14 Day Outlook and 30-day forecast are all similar: The shorter-term forecasts “call for above-normal temperatures and below-normal moisture in Southwest Colorado. Longer-term, the odds of below-normal moisture “are at 50-50,” Walter said. “This is the typical pattern of La Nina,” favored to continue throughout the Northern Hemisphere this winter.

Yet that only takes us 30 days out — barely into February. Colorado’s snowiest month of the year is still ahead. That’s March (and April is number two). “The winter isn’t over,” Walter said. “It’s just started. Don’t give up hope.”

At the ski resort, mountain-operations employees haven’t given up hope by any stretch: instead, they’ve been busy opening new terrain. “It’s cold,” Pittenger said, “and we’re continuing to make snow. We have a few more runs on our checklist: Butterfly and Kid’s Hill. We’re working on the Sheridan Headwall. Milk Run is always our last ski run of the year to make; we’re just starting to move into that, and that’s where we’ll end our snowmaking season in a couple of weeks. We always save the best for last: it’s a very difficult run to make snow on, and a good one to work up to.”

“We’re getting really close to opening Revelation Bowl,” Pittenger added. “We’re putting the final touches on it and hope to have it open in the next few days.”

“And that will essentially round out all our lift-served terrain,” Pittenger said with satisfaction. “Once we have Revelation open, we’ll be essentially completely open” as far as lift-served terrain goes. “Apart from the runs that we’re making snow on, and maybe two or three others, everything’s open. Telluride is about as open as you can get,” except for hike-to terrain.

On Friday, the resort announced that some of that — specifically Black Iron Bowl, reached via Lift 12 and a short hike up Prospect Ridge — had opened. Access to prized 13,320-foot Palmyra Peak, with 2,000 feet of vertical, remains closed for now: “We had some pretty big avalanches as a result of our mitigation, including on Palmyra, which was probably the most affected” by control-induced sloughs. “The majority of the snowpack avalanched off the face of the mountain,” Pittenger explained, which was, in a sense, both good and bad.” It was unfortunate to lose that amount of snow, “but great that we got it to move without anybody on it. It wasn’t entirely unexpected, given the snowpack we were dealing with,” he added. “We knew we’d be faced with” the possibility of detonating a large amount of snow to keep skiers safe.

“We had a persistent slab hanging up there; we’ll feel a lot more comfortable” going forward without it.

While advanced skiers await access to Palmyra — “considered some of the most spectacular in-bounds terrain in the country,” according to Telski’s website — an increasing number of expertly groomed runs lie just below. “These are fantastic days to be on the mountain,” Pittenger said. With the holidays over, and lines abating, “everybody’s heading straight back to the lifts. We have some sunshine. For those of us who’ve been working” in blizzard conditions throughout the storm cycle, “it’s beautiful.”