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It Snowed So Much in Colorado, Skiers Couldn’t Get to the Mountains

Colorado was promised a massive storm. It delivered, just not on the slopes.

A blizzard slammed into Denver and Colorado’s Front Range cities and suburbs like a freight train early afternoon on Saturday, March 13 after taking its sweet time showing up. The original forecast, which called for the snow to start as early as Friday morning, had locals confused about whether to cancel their plans, when to cancel them, and how foolish it would be to try to make it up I-70 to enjoy some freshies.

As a skier who’s lived in Denver for the past 17 years, nothing elicits quite the same level of disappointment than the words “upslope storm.” When the meteorologist busts that one out in their weather report, skiers know that they pretty much f’-ed—in more ways than one. 

Eldora powder day
Eldora Mountain Resort, 20 miles from Boulder, always makes out nicely in an upslope storm. This one was no exception. Photo: Cullen McHale

To keep it simple, upslope storms drop copious amount of snow along the plains and the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains, stopping just short of the Continental Divide and the ski areas on the other side of it. During upslope storms, Front Rangers can be sure of a few things: 1) they will not be skiing powder, 2) they will be shoveling a crap-ton of snow off their very horizontal driveways, and 3) there will be no eggs, milk, or bread to be found at grocery stores within a 20-miles radius of their neighborhoods.

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This storm, which ended up being a doozy (the fourth biggest in Denver’s history, in fact), took its time arriving, and definitely faked some people out. Seen on my community Facebook page on after we all woke up to slightly damp roads on Saturday morning with nary a snowflake in sight: “It’s coming. The storm crossed into Colorado, stopped at a dispensary, got high, and forgot it had somewhere to be. Now it’s at In-N-Out waiting in line for a burger.”

“It’s coming. The storm crossed into Colorado, stopped at a dispensary, got high, and forgot it had somewhere to be. Now it’s at In-N-Out waiting in line for a burger.”

It came alright, depositing 19 inches on my front lawn. As expected, it was somewhat less impressive in the mountains. According to Opensnow.com, Vail, for instance, only got 6 inches, Steamboat got 8. Eldora, 20 miles up Boulder Canyon on the eastern side of the Divide, notched around 24 inches. The mountains of Southern Colorado, however, were this storm’s clear winners: Telluride got 27 inches, most of it falling Saturday night into Sunday morning. 

Eldora powder day
To the few skiers who could make it up to Eldora over the weekend: We hate you. Photo: Cullen McHale

I was supposed to go skiing at Bluebird Backcountry, outside of Steamboat, last Friday. Like many skiers with plans to head west, I was worried I either wouldn’t be able to get out of the city—or get back home. So I bailed.

Also Read: Up to 10 Feet of Snow Headed For California As Stay-At-Home Orders Lift

As it turned out, I could have gotten there and back on Friday—or even driven home on Saturday morning—with no issues. Oh well. (I did hedge my bets on when the storm would hit in earnest and drove my son to his hockey playoffs at our home rink on Saturday at noon. On the way home, with around 3-5 inches falling per hour at the start of the blizzard, we got stuck in a snowdrift 3 miles from our house and had to be pulled out by Good Samaritan and his monster truck. Nothing cancels youth hockey… nothing.)

On Monday in Denver, the sun was shining bright and the great melt-off had begun. It’s forecasted to be 60 degrees by the weekend, so this latest f-you to Front Range skiers, er, upslope storm, will be but a distant memory.

At least it will be for me. I’m going to Bluebird Backcountry on Friday.