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December 11, 2007

Storm of the Week

Monarch_pow_turn_2 I've been waiting for the right time to unleash the periodic feature "Storm of the Week," where I'll highlight the North American mountain that got hit the hardest during the previous few days and do my best to get a feel for how people there are handling/reveling in the snow.

And as many Vermonters who keep up on the conditions in the West to plan vacations, stay connected with friends or just salivate every once in a while know, the numbers that came out of the central Rockies over the weekend were absolutely off the charts.

In a sweet brush of serendipity, the big winner out of Colorado's ridiculous Dec. 6-9 blizzard that brought some areas from closed to nearly 100 percent open in one long weekend was Monarch Mountain.

Why is this serendipitous? Well, because I spent the past three winters tearing that little gem of a mountain to shreds (see photo above, taken after a slightly smaller storm). I know Monarch like I hope to soon know Jay Peak, and I have reliable contacts there who can relate the particulars of the four-day storm that was clipping at least an inch an hour (can we retire the word "puking" for snowstorms yet? Please?) for the entire weekend and two days. The result: 76 new inches atop Monarch Pass.

I let the snow settle before I called my former editor at The Mountain Mail, the newspaper that covers the town on the east side of Monarch Pass (Salida). You know how things go after a storm of that magnitude - people tend to lose their minds temporarily, kind of like a big group acid trip. Incidentally, my entire Colorado Experience included probably four comparable situations. The most memorable was the five-day, 8-foot blizzard at Wolf Creek in March of 2006. I know this: There is such a thing as too much snow.

Last weekend's 6-foot dump started like that. Allow editor Chris K. to explain.

It was just too heavy to ski yesterday (Saturday) ... You'd pick the steepest line possible, go straight and get stuck.

Is this what last year's now legendary St. Valentine's Day Massacre was like? Seriously, I wasn't here. Someone let me know.

Chris continued, talking about Sunday when the air cooled and the snow dried out and it turned into light fluff on top of a thick plastering of mashed potatoes. And that, brothers and sisters, is a climax experience.

The snow settled and it was nothing but powder, man. No stumps, no rocks. It was pretty damn incredible.

So that's "Storm of the Week." I'd add a picture from the storm but Monarch is behind the times when it comes to up-to-date visual documentation of conditions. They're still betting all their Internet marbles on  a web cam, which half the time is pitch black and the other half shows a group of skiers and snowboarders milling about the base area. This is another thing that needs to be retired. Web cams may be great for porn sites and doggie day cares, but for ski areas they don't work. Photos of the day are the way to go.

But before we get to the Photo of the Day Roundup from another sweet weekend of Vermont skiing and riding, I must dole out Storm of the Week honorable mention to The Big Island of Hawaii's own Mauna Kea - that 13,800-foot volcanic cone that sees snow every winter. Seven Days' Lisa Crean alerted us to the fact that a National Weather Service blizzard warning was in effect for the peak late last week. Have I mentioned it's in Hawaii?

Here's a photo from the top when the storm cleared on Sunday. Mauna_kea_2 Tough to tell what's new and what's old, but it's pretty cool to see some white up there. Off in the distance is Mauna Lao. Measured from the ocean floor, they are the tallest peaks in the world.

On to the promised Vermont Photo of the Day Roundup:

And the sun comes out at Jay!

The Mount Snow halfpipe in its embryonic state.

This is some tight skiing at Mad River, and I mean that in the way my college roommate used to say it: Tigheeeet!

More snow on the way. Probable small hits throughout the week; possible coastal reformation on the horizon. 

December 11, 2007 at 07:24 AM | Permalink


Jason: Absolutely awesome photo of the Maunas--Loa from Kea! Wow. Now I'm homesick. Unfortunately, the storms wreaked havoc on the rest of the isles, but the aftermath sure looks pretty from on high.

Posted by: Lisa Crean | Dec 12, 2007 5:25:34 PM

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