Lots of snow led to lift lines that were “the worst I’ve ever seen” as way more snow is on its way

Five Colorado ski resorts received two feet of snow or more from last week’s storms and several more weren’t far behind, unleashing pent-up demand that caused long lift lines following weeks of dismal snow totals.

Vail reported 29 inches and Winter Park checked in with 28 inches from Thursday through Sunday. Steamboat reported 25.5 inches, Breckenridge 25 and Beaver Creek 24. Copper Mountain and Cooper both reported 22.

At one point, the lift line for the gondola at Steamboat extended through the lift line maze and around the administration building, according to Denver skier Nick Green. He decided to avoid that wait and access the upper mountain by the Thunderhead lift instead — but it was bad, too.

“That’s the worst I’ve ever seen Steamboat,” Green said. “At least from my point of view, it was a combination of people’s frustration with COVID plus the excitement of new snow, since there’s been almost none this season, and the fact that Steamboat doesn’t have a reservation system. I feel like people who didn’t have reservations at other places decided that Steamboat was going to be their best shot at a powder day.”

Green said he had to wait 30 minutes at the Thunderhead lift.

“But I was in the singles line,” Green said. “Someone commented on my post that it took around an hour in the regular line. When you got a little further up the mountain, the crowds did somewhat spread out, but it still was pretty bad and frustrating to say the least.”

A combination of factors created the crowding, according to Steamboat spokeswoman Loryn Duke.

“This past Saturday was a perfect storm (literally),” Duke wrote in an email. “It was the biggest snow storm of the season, with much pent-up demand after little snowfall in December and January, combined with (being) a Saturday.”

Winter Park had to close down some lifts due to high winds, which exceeded 115 mph at the top of the mountain, according to spokeswoman Jen Miller. Vail also had to close down China Bowl and Blue Sky Basin.

As a result, Vail skier Joe Patierno got stuck for more than an hour in a line at the High Noon chair on Sunday. But the experience didn’t dampen his spirits.

“We were very patient,” Patierno said. “The rest of the day, all the lines were below 20 minutes. We stopped for lunch in Vail Village and checked the app to see how long the gondola would be. It said 12 minutes and I bet it took less than 10. Maybe that’s when everybody left for the Super Bowl, but even in the morning, we were out there for first chair, and we never waited in line for more than 15 minutes.”

More snow is coming this week. Steamboat can expect another 29 inches over the next five days, according to OpenSnow meteorologist Joel Gratz. Crested Butte is expected to receive 18 inches and Snowmass 14. Another 17 resorts are expected to receive 8-11 inches.

“Snow will begin on Tuesday early morning between midnight and sunrise as a surge of moisture pushes from west to east into the central and northern mountains,” Gratz wrote in his daily Colorado report. “Snow will continue all day Tuesday, potentially fall more steadily on Tuesday night and begin to shift south, and then the snow will slowly wind down (but maybe not stop) on Wednesday.”

Another mountain storm is due Friday.

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