Can a ski resort have too much snow? Snow Safety Patroller Ryan Evanczyk stands on the mountainside at Arapahoe Basin ski area, where he works, Thursday, Jan. 12, 2017, in Arapahoe, Colo. Evanczyk has had his hands full lately performing avalanche mitigation, given the large amount of recent snowfall. (AP Photo/P. Solomon Banda)
Can a ski resort have too much snow?
Lexile

For ski resorts in Colorado and the Sierra Nevada, it's a good problem to have: too much snow.
 
Recent storms walloping mountains across the West dropped up to 10 feet of snow, creating thrilling powdery runs. But once avalanche danger emerged on roads and at the slopes, several resorts made the unusual move of shutting down.
 
While the closures cost resorts income from lift tickets, the businesses will likely make it up in the long run by promoting the fresh snow on Twitter and getting more people excited to come up and carve powder turns.
 
"It's like you just go out and get barreled, you drop in and come up, an' pah! Drop back down. Powder everywhere in your face, you know? ... Mashed potato powder," said John Lencki, a New Hampshire native who was skiing Jan. 12 at Arapahoe Basin Ski Area.
 
It's a change from previous years beleaguered by drought. Even this season, the Colorado snowpack got off to its worst start in more than 30 years, forcing some ski areas to push back opening day this fall.
 
Here's a look at the problems - and joy - a thick blanket of snow can bring to ski resorts in the West:
 
How often do resorts close because of too much snow?
 
Heavy snow typically does not affect resort operations, but it often creates problems on the roads leading to the slopes, said Chris Linsmayer, a spokesman for Colorado Ski Country USA, an industry group representing more than 20 resorts.
 
"It's extremely rare (for snow to close a resort); I've been skiing my whole life and it's never happened to me," he said.
 
Why were the resorts in Colorado closed?
 
Avalanches pose problems, more so on roads than at the resorts. Ski patrollers use explosives to mitigate slides every day and close portions of resorts that are at risk.
 
"We have closures and we have ropes. We have gates, and we really try to steer people to specific areas of the hill to keep them out of avalanche terrain," said Ryan Evanczyk, a ski patroller at Arapahoe Basin.
 
But "the big message here is not necessarily the mountain is unsafe, but the roads to get to and from the mountain were unsafe," Linsmayer said.
 
How much snow has fallen?
 
The three Colorado resorts that closed received 3 to 5 feet over several days.
 
In the Sierra Nevada, storms dumped the most snow the mountains have seen in six years, the National Weather Service in Reno said. It helped ease the effects of California's lingering drought, with federal monitors saying that more than 40 percent of California is out of drought.
 
Why is Colorado seeing extreme avalanche danger?
 
"The simple answer is we've gotten a lot of snow in a short amount of time," said Ethan Greene, director of the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.
 
He compared the snowpack to the construction of a building, where if you build one story at a time, the foundation has a chance to adjust to the added weight.
 
"But if you plunk down a 20-story building in a couple of minutes, it's likely to break," he said. "When you have this amount of snow in a couple of days, it piles up really fast and the snowpack has a hard time adjusting to the new load.
 
"With that rapid loading - a lot of weight in a short amount of time - it becomes unstable," Greene said.

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
How are explosives used to promote safety?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (22)
  • zakrym-ste
    1/24/2017 - 12:23 p.m.

    In my opinion, it cannot. I love snow. I guess it could though because a lot of snow could get dangerous for the people on the slopes

  • braydeng-atk
    1/24/2017 - 01:19 p.m.

    Two ways that they closed the site down are (1). There was a fear of Avalanches. (2). The roads were unsafe. They use explosives to cause avalanches before the resort opens up, trying to help mitigate the chances of having an Avalanche

  • bradl-pla
    1/24/2017 - 01:34 p.m.

    Ski resorts in Colorado had to open late in the season due to low amounts of snow, but have had great amounts of snow since. Too much snow can cause problems for ski resorts if they receive more than 3 feet, but they can recuperate their losses by advertising the powder. We should know about snow fall in the west because it doesn't only affect recreational activities such as skiing. A lack of snow can lead to drought later in the year, so it can be a good idea to follow snowpack reports at ski resorts to predict droughts.

  • jacksonschwartz-dia
    1/26/2017 - 08:50 a.m.

    because they want people to wear the right clothing just in case anything happens they will be ok.

  • braydinmehrman-dia
    1/26/2017 - 08:52 a.m.

    You can blow it up to cause a avalanche to make it happen when nobody get hurt and everyone is out of the way.

  • savannaheath-dia
    1/26/2017 - 09:00 a.m.

    To help mitigate the snow, which will prevent avalanches by decreasing the snow in a certain area making it be all over the place and even it out.

  • jacindamichek-dia
    1/26/2017 - 09:02 a.m.

    try to steer people to specific areas of the hill to keep them out of avalanche terrain

  • jacksonschwartz-dia
    1/26/2017 - 09:03 a.m.

    because there's sometimes to much snow and they need to get some off so they use explosives to do that.

  • laurynhoy-dia
    1/26/2017 - 11:05 a.m.

    Not sure, but maybe they're used only for safety reasons.

  • redamounir-dia
    1/26/2017 - 11:47 a.m.

    Get rid of the snow and not cause anyone to get hurt.

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