Spring Wonderland: Mountain Passes Are Still Packed

May 2011

Despite Denver's temperatures hovering in the mid-'80s, there's plenty of snow piled up in the high country. "I've been skiing Berthoud Pass since 1987, and I've never experienced it like this," says one local, although Berthoud's snowpack, sitting at 194 percent of last year's total at this time, is dwarfed by those on Cameron (226), McClure (290), and Rabbit Ears (309) passes. Places such as Creede in the San Juan Mountains and Aspen are still running Sno-Cat tours, which, for the right price, will transport you to a hill where you can pretend it's mid-January (Denver Post).

Conditions may be ideal for riders with proper training, but avalanches are still occurring frequently and anticipated storms could make them even more dangerous (Colorado Avalanche Information Center). "Depending on the weather conditions in May and June, avalanches could be larger than we have seen in 30-100 years," CAIC warns. "Avalanches may occur in paths that have not run in decades, and avalanches in existing paths may run farther than they have in recent memory." Staying inbounds is a safer option, and the lingering precipitation is apparently keeping the slopes worth riding at Arapahoe Basin.