Colorado Ski Conditions Check-in: Central Rockies Colorado

Matt Samelson of Boulder, Colorado, brings us this update on Colorado ski conditions and the general stoke in the Central Rockies. Though Matt resides some 1,500 miles away from our brick-and-mortar store at Lake Tahoe, the former Couloir magazine editor is a loyal online TMS customer. Look for his series of Colorado Ski Conditions Check-ins on our blog this winter, and look for him on the Colorado slopes in his new TwentyTwo Designs Axl bindings.


I woke up on the morning of the winter solstice to an email from a close friend who lives in Gunnison.

“Sorry to be such a douche, but this is gold. This is language from a professional forecaster: Confidence remains high that this storm is an epic . . . The snow will continue to pound the mountains and will be relentless.”

The NOAA forecaster may enjoy the adjectives, but the prognosis wasn’t that far off. As of December 21, Crested Butte had received 53 inches and the town of Gothic, just eight miles north of CB, had a storm total of 82 inches.

Now, I will gladly admit that I’m a homer. Born and raised in Colorado, I’m always excited when Colorado is in the crosshairs of the jet stream. I lived in Tahoe long enough to see what a real storm is, so when there’s a chance that Colorado could receive the crushing blizzards that Tahoe and Wasatch regularly get, I’m cheering loudly.

The Pineapple Express has been cruising through Colorado for the past 5 days. But it got a little warm yesterday, and Colorado took a turn for Tahoe:heavy, wet snow,puddles in town at 9,100 feet. Mid-December sure is sloppy. And, at least for the moment, the Pineapple Express has a distinctive Coconut Express feel to it with that hard layer on top of two feet of new snow.

Just in time for the pre-holiday rush, the roads iced up nicely. I-70 closed because a truck carrying explosive gel was rear-ended by an industrial-sized tow truck. Explosive gel. I don’t really know what that is, but it sounds sketchy. Normally such a truck would be routed over Loveland Pass, but blowing snow and wind had closed the pass… again.

So the roads suck, and the heavy snow is a foreign concept for most here. But for Colorado this is about as close as we get to the “If you can see it, you can ski it” mentality our friends on the West Coast have.

Which all leads up to some amazing resort skiing. Lines in Blue Sky Basin would fill in by the time you lapped it. Montezuma Bowl is 100-percent open. The snow in Whale’s Tail was pretty much hero snow ─ several inches on top of a solid base. All without a crowd anywhere. After the wretched ski season Colorado had last year, it’s nice to be off to reputable start this year. And so it begins. New Axl bindings are mounted, Element Belafonte skis are waxed, car is packed and it’s time to catch up with some family in Frisco and then head off to Telluride and Silverton.



I'm Tahoe Mountain Sports' web editor and a 6-year Tahoe resident. Yep, I live the life, with a lake view from my desk, lunch breaks on the beach with my dog, and morning powder runs when the snow's good. I ski, snowboard, skate ski, and cross-country ski in winter, and hike, mountain bike, backpack, and lay around on Tahoe's beaches in summer.


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