They’re calling it Snowmageddon 2017. A firehose of wintry weather turned on full throttle in early January, blasting most of the western US, including Aspen Snowmass.
The wild storms and deep snow wreaked havoc in many areas. California’s Sierra bore the brunt of it — with high winds and blizzards already making travel dangerous, most of the region’s resorts closed for days when they received multiple feet of heavy snow in a short period of time. Squaw Valley saw 42 inches in 24 hours, Sierra at Tahoe had 85 inches in a week, and Mammoth’s eight-day storm total was 116 inches. Facing power outages for days, downed trees and other hazards, and buried infrastructure, the town of Truckee declared a state of local emergency. And the avalanche danger was so high that in some areas residents were urged to stay indoors.
The interior west wasn’t immune to the chaos, either. Crested Butte, just 24 miles as the crow flies from Aspen, was literally buried when more than 90 inches of new snow fell in 10 days. Snow falling at a rate of inches per hour forced the ski area to close in the middle of the day due to safety concerns. Elsewhere in Colorado, Arapahoe Basin closed one day for avalanche mitigation on the nearby pass, and Monarch ski area, southeast of Aspen, couldn’t open one day this week when avalanche control work prevented employees and deliveries from reaching the mountain. And near Silverton, a backcountry skier buried by four feet of snow when he was swept off a cliff and onto the highway was miraculously saved, uninjured.
Of course, many many resorts reaped the benefits of this snowy firehose. Some areas of Utah’s Wasatch range saw five feet of snow in a week, while Jackson Hole reported 41 inches in four days.
Here in Aspen Snowmass, skiers and riders reveled in over six feet of snow in the last 10 days.
It all began the first week of January, with back-to-back days of double-digit snowfall and a cold snap that turned it into billowing fairy dust when skied. Last weekend brought a bit of a break and one of the most magical days in recent memory, when just-so warming temperatures and a light snowfall throughout the day created the softest conditions imaginable on Sunday.
All-day rain in town on Monday discouraged many, but the few who ventured onto the slopes reported one of the best days ever: quickly deepening snow and free refills every run. Tuesday dawned with a reported 16 inches, and on Wednesday afternoon, Highland Bowl reopened after being closed for two-and-a-half days, to the uninhibited delight of the powder hounds who were lucky enough to take advantage of that one-hour window. Stellar conditions, aided by even more new snow, continued late into the week — the dense, heavy snow and high winds from earlier in the week having flattened the bumps on Ajax and obliterated hazards elsewhere, essentially resetting conditions to perfect nearly halfway through the ski season.
Locals are tired, but happy. And weather experts are expecting the snowy pattern to continue, with potentially three more storms before January is over.
A special thank you deserves to go out to Aspen Snowmass ski patrol, who’ve had their work especially cut out for them during this storm cycle. The steady boom of avalanche control explosives over the past week has been a near constant reminder of the danger they’ve been mitigating. One way to get an inside glimpse into the fascinating work ski patrollers do is with Last Tracks on Ajax, which is one of the unique experiences offered to guests of The Little Nell, Residences at Little Nell, and Limelight Hotel. Guests can join patrol on their afternoon “sweep,” making sure everyone is safely down and buttoning up the mountain for the night.
Living in the mountains, everyone made the best of Snowmageddon 2017 in their own way. Enjoy our collection of images, and come join in the fun!