Summit County, CO, Jan. 24--Arapahoe Basin ski area opened parts of the infamous Palivacinni Face last weekend, much to the delight of local powderhounds. Pali, as it's affectionately known, hadn't seen a single ski track all season except for patrollers doing avalanche control work.
A persistent winter storm swept into Colorado's northern and central mountains Friday, Jan. 21, bringing more than a foot of fresh to local resorts. In watering holes across the county Sunday evening, locals toasted the best conditions of the season, so far.
As the ski area prepared to open parts of Pali Saturday, the buzz in the liftline was electric. "It's going to be epic, dude," said Jackson Willett, a snowboarder from Golden. "I'm so psyched I came up today. I almost stayed home to clean out my garage," Willett said.
He would have missed some of the best conditions of the season. The storm started out wet and warm, pasting A-Basin's twisty tree shots and rock-ribbed gullies with a decent base. All in all, the winds didn't blow too hard, leaving the snow where it was needed most àƒ,à‚Ë† spread across the ski area's uppermost cirques like Betty Crocker's buttercream frosting. The prevailing westerly breezes across the ridgetops did help fill in the West Wall and Slalom, with the cornices atop the Knolls starting to shape up nicely.
By Sunday morning, temperatures dropped into the low single digits, with the cold, dry air sucking some of the juice out of the top layer of snow. Some unlucky souls with warm wax on their boards had to pole their way across the lower angled slopes.
Three of Pali's classic lines--Main Street, The Spine and Pali Face had filled in again overnight, and after the some serious snow-safety work, the ropes were lifted and cheers filled the air.
Karl Gehringer, a Boulder telemarker, traced a set of high-speed arcs down the Face, leaving a rooster tail of shivering diamond dust in his wake.
"I think I've died and gone to heaven," Gehringer hooted, pausing only for a second to clear his goggles before dropping into the fall line again.
"It's super floaty and consistent," added Francesca Vanini after snaking a tree line in the Powder Keg area. "It's not the lightest, but it's real deep in here."
The Lenawee area also harbored some tasty, freeze-dried stashes, particularly in the trees around the Cabin and Half Moon glades. "Yeah man, were into it now," yelled Steve Walters after spraying to a stop beside a gnarled pine. "This stuff skis like a dream. It's crispy-crunchy."
Similar comments were heard all around the mountain, and the mountains nearby, for that matter. Most local ski areas got a foot of snow or more from the recent storm. Breckenridge, Beaver Creek, Copper, Keystone, Vail, and Winter Park are now reporting base depths of around 40 inches. New terrain that hasn't been skied all year is opening daily.
Another storm is expected to roll into northern and central Colorado by midweek, potentially bringing another round of substantial accumulation. It's time to put away those rock skis and pull out the powder boards, hopefully for good. Winter is here!