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 that walloped 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. The resorts will promote the fresh snow and get 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. He is 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. It is an industry group that represents 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. Portions of resorts that are at risk are closed.
 
"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.
 
"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. Federal monitors said 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. 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 (99)
  • irisp-ste
    1/24/2017 - 08:53 a.m.

    At first it sounds rather ironic that a ski resort would have too much snow. I did not consider the fact avalanches and how much damage they could bring to the ski slopes and visitors of the attraction. I am actually surprised that this does not happen more often.

  • kimberlyk-pla
    1/24/2017 - 09:50 a.m.

    A few ski resorts in Colorado and Nevada have been shut down due to too much snow. Although it sounds strange that too much snow would cause this problem, the excess snow causes many safety risks. The possibility of avalanches was too large for public officials to ignore. I really connected with this article because it definitely ties into my introduction speech as I compare myself to the state of Colorado. I also like to go skiing and I have never heard of a ski hill closing because of too much snow so I had to read the article to find out why. As far as civic engagement goes, I think that public officials made the right decision. They were tasked with the responsibility of making sure everyone in their communities stayed safe, so they had to make a hard call. They collected the data and made an informed decision, so you can't ask for much more than that.

  • scarletts-jen
    1/24/2017 - 10:26 a.m.

    a person might git rid of snow to make it more SAFE!!!

  • ivoner-goa
    1/24/2017 - 10:32 a.m.

    Explosives used to promote safety because the floor to ski has a lot of snow and they there is 5 feet of snow in Colorado today and they might trip over the snow. According to the text, in paragraph 7, it says, " Heavy snow typically does not affect resort operations. But it often creates problems on the roads leading to the slopes, said Chris Linsmyer, a spokesman for Colorado Ski Country USA. It is a industry group that represents more than 20 resorts". This sentence means that the snow is getting really heavy and the skiers may hurt or/and injured themselves.

  • calebc1-jen
    1/24/2017 - 10:37 a.m.

    Avalanches pose problems, more so on roads than at the resorts. Ski patrollers use explosives to mitigate slides every day. Portions of resorts that are at risk are closed.

  • holdenj-orv
    1/24/2017 - 11:07 a.m.

    I Don,t Know if to Much Snow is a Actual Problem. It Seems........Oh, I Dunno. Stupid? Moronic?

  • mirakler-orv
    1/24/2017 - 11:17 a.m.

    The explosives are used to promote safety because it tells if the mountain is very dangerous and the roads. the explosives prevent avalanches.

  • jackiek-orv
    1/24/2017 - 01:08 p.m.

    Of course a ski resort have too much snow. too much snow + aloud noise = an avalanche.

  • hayleec1-atk
    1/24/2017 - 01:13 p.m.

    1-Avalanches and getting up the mountain are two reasons too much snow can be a problem.
    2-Ski resorts usually never close. A man who was been skiing his whole life says it has never happened to him.
    3-Explosions are used to take to the unstable snow off the mountain, so it makes it safe to ski on.

  • hopes1-atk
    1/24/2017 - 01:15 p.m.

    The explosives are used because if all the snow can withhold an explosion, then it will most likely be stable enough to hold a large amount of people. Without causing an avalanche.

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