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Crews clearing snow off of U.S. 6 on Loveland Pass Friday. Photo courtesy of Arapahoe Basin.

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After two days with its lifts at a standstill, Arapahoe Basin reopened Saturday morning with a bounty of untracked powder.

The resort was forced to close after an atmospheric river dumped feet of snow on Colorado mountains during the past week and elevated avalanche danger to extraordinary levels.

Slides shut down U.S. 6 over Loveland Pass Thursday morning until 9:15 a.m. Saturday. Adverse conditions closed the pass again just before 11 a.m.

Thursday and Friday, the Colorado Department of Transportation and A Basin ski patrol were throwing bombs at slopes near the pass, at one point triggering a large avalanche that deposited "a significant amount of snow and timber" from the Widowmaker run onto the highway, A-Basin Chief Operating Officer Alan Henceroth wrote in blog post.

CDOT and A-Basin used trucks and snowcats to plow the debris off the highway and have the ski area ready to run Saturday morning.

'Nobody ... alive has seen anything like this,' avalanche expert says of slides that shut down travel in Colorado

Areas of Colorado have been buried in more than 3 feet of snow since Wednesday night. Snowmass and Breckenridge reported 48 and 42 inches respectively by Saturday morning, bringing their March totals to 6 feet. Southern Colorado collected less snow, with Silverton recording 23 inches in the same period.

Avalanche danger is rated as high for Vail & Summit County, the Front Range, Aspen, Gunnison, the Sawatch range, the San Juans and Grand Mesa. The Colorado Avalanche Information Center extended is avalanche warning for those regions through Sunday morning as forecasters continue to see avalanches run to valley floors.

"These are exceptional avalanche conditions that require extra safety measures," the avalanche center wrote.

During the past week, more than 240 avalanches have been reported to CAIC. One avalanche closed Castle Creek Road outside Aspen Saturday morning, and adverse conditions shut down U.S. 285 at U.S. 24. U.S. 550 is closed for the sixth day in a row with no estimated time of reopening.

The avalanche center advised backcountry skiers to avoid travel in, near or below all avalanche terrain until at least Sunday morning.

Skiers weren't dismayed by the avalanche risk Saturday. By about 10 a.m., Loveland Ski Area's parking lot was full, and the wait times at Breckenridge's primary lifts were at least 15 minutes.

Avalanche danger skyrocketed to extreme levels in areas of central Colorado. Historic avalanches cleared slopes of trees, buried highways and killed a backcountry ski guide near Jones Pass.

Twitter: @lizmforster

Phone: 636-0193

Liz Forster is a general assignment reporter with a focus on environment and public safety. She is a Colorado College graduate, avid hiker and skier, and sweet potato enthusiast. Liz joined The Gazette in June 2017.

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