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Snow totals climbing, Vail's China Bowl opening, Telluride backcountry controversy, moose shooting
China Bowl opens for the season Thursday, and parts of Tea Cup, Siberia Bowl and Blue Sky Basin will open by Saturday, bringing Vail's total skiable acreage to more than 4,000.
Vail Resorts photo by Jack Affleck 

Snow totals climbing, Vail's China Bowl opening, Telluride backcountry controversy, moose shooting

By David O. Williams

December 10, 2008 —  All right, seriously, I’ll stop with the predictions (and leave them to the Powder Predictor). I called for six inches of new snow overnight Monday into Tuesday and we wound up with a measly three. We being Vail. Beaver Creek did check in with a respectable five new.

But whatever you do, don’t look at the statewide Colorado Ski Country snow report on the left side of the page. There you’ll notice that Telluride tipped the yardstick at 14 inches new, Snowmass piled on with 17, and the state’s big winner was Silverton with 18 new and now a settled base of just under 50 inches. Whoa.

Speaking of big snow totals, Alyeska ski resort in Alaska recently passed the 200-inch mark on the young season. Granted, it’s a firm coastal snowpack no one will mistake for Colorado champagne, but two-hundy is two-hundy. And I just got a 50-percent-off offer from H20 Guide heli-skiing in Valdez. I don’t even know how they can afford to fly for that price, so give ’em a call if that’s ever been your dream. They’re wheeling and dealing in AK, and trust me, it's insane up there (see my story in Real Travel).

Meanwhile, here in the lower 48, the three new we got at Vail was enough to get a lot more terrain open in time for next weekend. China Bowl, celebrating its 20th anniversary, opens Thursday at 9 a.m., the Riva Bahn (Chair 6) out of Golden Peak opens Friday (finally), and by the weekend Vail will have more than 4,000 acres open and 25 lifts. By Saturday, look for parts of Tea Cup, Siberia Bowl and Blue Sky Basin to open, all in time for yet another storm later in the week (sorry, no predictions here).

As for Telluride getting pounded Monday, that will likely send the backcountry crowd into the super-sketchy Upper Bear Creek Basin, which was in the news in the T-Ride papers on Tuesday. The politics of powder could polarize the place if — as opponents suggest — the ski resort uses a proposed snow study to move forward with expansion plans in the slide-prone and deadly drainage off the ski area’s back side.

At a Monday meeting so big they had to use the firehouse, according to the Telluride Daily Planet, U.S. Forest Service officials agreed to delay a final decision on the snow study in order to take more comments on the topic and to give San Miguel county commissioners more time to mull it over.

County commissioner Art Goodtimes said he wanted more time to study the study, which would close the popular backcountry area to out-of-bounds skiers until 10 a.m. each day so ski patrollers could dig snow pits and throw bombs to trigger avalanches.

The Upper Bear Creek area has claimed several lives in deadly slides over the years, including as recently as 2002. Studying the avalanche patterns on the steep Forest Service land makes sense, some opponents said, but not if it’s the first step to putting a chairlift up the precipitous terrain.

“I’m having a difficult time understanding why you’re having such a quick comment period on this,” Goodtimes told Forest Service officials. “I think another couple of weeks wouldn’t hurt to think it over.”

In other high country news, there’s one less moose on the loose in Colorado’s high country after someone illegally blasted a Bullwinkle near Williams Fork Reservoir about 15 miles north of Silverthorne last weekend. Colorado Division of Wildlife officers are offering a $1,000 reward for information about the incident.

Many people are unaware that Colorado even has a moose population, but since they were first introduced to North Park (near Walden and Gould) in 1978, the huge ruminants have thrived in our relatively arid high-alpine environs.

There are literally thousands of moose now, ranging from Winter Park in the east to nearly Grand Junction in the west, where a small herd of just under 100 moose was introduced on the nearby Grand Mesa over the last several years.

Colorado Division of Wildlife (CDOW) spokesman Randy Hampton said the moose shot Saturday night was a young bull, and that investigators want to talk to the driver and passengers of a white four-door sedan spotted in the area around the time of the shooting.

It is legal to hunt moose with a proper tag during the correct season, but they are not currently in season. Most moose are accidentally shot by elk hunters, some of whom don’t even know the animals are part of the state’s wildlife population. One sure sign is that, unlike elk, moose typically do not run from humans.

Call the CDOW’s Hot Sulphur Springs’ office at (970) 725-6200 with any information, or make an anonymous report at Operation Game Thief at (877) 265-6648.



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