Where to Ski This Weekend

Sunday is the day, at least for those willing to skip Sunday’s NFL conference championship games.

Snow is expected to fall in the far southern and western mountains starting late Friday, then migrate across the rest of Colorado on Saturday, said OpenSnow forecaster Joel Gratz.

The heaviest snow will drop overnight Saturday, gifting fresh turns to first chair riders Sunday.

The chance is high for at least 6 inches of snow in the mountains, with areas

further west and north likely to receive at least 12 inches.

The snow will help fill in recently opened terrain, like Breckenridge’s Peak 6 and Imperial Express lift and Vail’s Back Bowls.

Regardless of where you decide to ski, the post-holiday lull and NFL playoffs should keep the crowds away and powder abundant Sunday.

On Monday, head over to Monarch, where skiers can ski free with a canned food or cash donation. All food donations go to the Salida Grainery, and all cash donations will go to the Boys and Girls Club of Chaffee County.

Colorado Skier Numbers Down

Despite the recent snow, this unseasonably dry winter has left Colorado with only 59 percent of its usual snowpack as of Jan. 16 and resorts with up to 13 percent fewer visitors.

As of Jan. 7, Vail Resorts’ North American mountain resorts had 10.8 percent fewer skier visits, while skier visits at Colorado Ski Country USA’s 23 member resorts were down 13 percent.

Fewer skiers on the hill means a smaller revenue stream across the board. At Vail Resorts' mountains, ski school and dining revenue were down 4.5 percent and 8.7 percent compared to the prior year, while retail and rental revenue was down 11.5 percent.

When snowpack is at its lowest level recorded in over 30 years -- as it was in November and December in Vail, Beaver Creek and Park City -- resorts can’t expect much else.

The success of multimountain passes like the Epic Pass, though, have salvaged lift ticket revenue this year. Vail Resorts reported a 1.6 percent increase in lift ticket revenue, which the company’s chief executive officer, Rob Katz, attributed to “the stability provided by our season pass program and the investments we have made in our resorts.”

Colorado Backcountry Winter Users Up

Ski trends are not all negative, though. Another recently released study showed that human-powered snowsports -- backcountry skiing, alpine touring, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing -- are the fastest growing segment of

winter recreation.

Between the 2015/2016 and 2016/2017 seasons, people participating in backcountry skiing and splitboarding increased 15 percent, reaching a total of nearly seven million people, according to the report released by Winter Wildlands Alliance.

Additionally, of all the forms of active outdoor recreation studied, backcountry skiing had the eighth-highest rate of growth.

Retailers are reaping the benefits from the explosion of the human-powered winter sports scene. During the 2015/2016 winter season, sales of backcountry ski and snowshoe gear across the country surpassed $50 million in the U.S., continuing an upward trend.

Forecast

Gratz anticipates light snowfall through the rest of next week, a consistency Colorado has yet to experience this season.

He expects three of the five weekdays to see snow, although the models are not clear as to where the snow will favor.

“While any one of these days may not bring deep snow accumulations, light-to-moderate accumulations over many days can lead to surprisingly fun powder,” Gratz wrote.

After a short break between Jan. 27 and 29, another storm is likely to pass through at the end of the month.

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