There used to be a chicken ranch out in east Boulder. Egg wranglers by the looks of their outbuildings. The place was nasty to ride by on a hot summer day, but in the winter I loved catching the aroma of defecating poultry. The cloying scent meant a moist wind from the east was brewing. An upslope was on the way. A Front Range powder producer.
Meteorologists call these storms Panhandle Hookers, which is only a slightly more appetizing term than, say, a Chicken Shit Clipper. They occur when a low pressure sets up on the Panhandle and then backs into Colorado and New Mexico, pumping moisture like a firehouse into our cold elevated air.
Just one such storm hit Colorado last week. Well, the Front Range anyway. I picked up 24 inches in the microclimate that is my back yard (our neighbor’s 50-foot blue spruce pulls extra flake out of passing clouds; there is no scientific basis for this). Eldora was blanketed (comforted? duveted?) in 31 inches over two days. All that snow and not a breath of wind to scour it.
The crew from Mountain made it up after passing three ditched buses in the canyon. It was as good as you’re imagining it. The following Saturday was the busiest day in Eldora’s history. Overwhelmed by skiers traveling from Fort Collins south to Colorado Springs and west to Summit County, the resort actually ran out of parking. Desperate college kids were driving back down the canyon so they could ride up in public buses. Every scrap of powder was consumed. “Imagine all the bars in the state having no Champagne for New Year’s Eve—except your local pub up the street,” says Eldora’s Rob Linde. “This season, Eldora has been the lucky winner in terms of snow. All the renowned Eldora glades, like Salto and Moose, are open. Upslope has been a mantra here for a long time. Heck, they even named a beer after it.”
Two of my half dozen true powder days this year have gone down in similar fashion. In Utah, after their three-foot-storm last month, crowds thronged Solitude, parking down the road and setting a single-day record for skier visits. Maybe it’s because we all bought rockered skis in the past two years. Or maybe skiing powder is just that good. Yes that’s it. “The lust for powder has always been there,” says Linde. “The sensation of floating through the untracked snow, having it billow over your head without choking on it takes a certain amount of skill whether you’re on Miller Softs or the new Salomon Rockers. But I still choke on the snow because I can’t stop laughing.” —Marc Peruzzi